Study Examines Effect of Income on Divorce

A recent study suggests that children from higher-income families are hit harder by divorce than those from lower-income families. Research from the University of Chicago and Georgetown University used data collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth. In 1986, the children of some of the women that responded to the survey were studied from birth to the age of twelve. The study ran from 1986 to 2008.

Why are children in high-income families more impacted?

The results were determined by looking at two different categories of behaviors: internal and external. External behaviors include actions like defiance and bullying, while internal behaviors were associated with sadness and low self-esteem.

Researchers broke children up into low, middle, and high income families and determined that children in high-income families were the only ones significantly impacted. A high-income family is one that lives 300% above the federal poverty line.

Two reasons were suggested for why these children may suffer more than others:

  1. Fathers were more likely to leave in high-income divorce cases and are also the primary breadwinner in 60% of United States families, meaning that the child also has to experience a significant income drop in combination with the separation of their parents.
  2. Separation and divorce are less common in households having a higher-income so there is less social support available for children whose parents do split up.

This suggests that income stability and social support are major factors that can help a child handle divorce.

Stepparents Can Positively Affect Behavior

The study also observed that children in any income bracket that had a parent re-marry experienced a positive shift in behavior. Stepparents may help a child for a few reasons. A stepparent can cause happiness for the child's parent, greatly affecting how the child feels. They may also bring additional income to the family's financial situation and allow the child another outlet for social and emotional support.

Higher-income children that were hit hard by divorce seemed to experience a drastic shift in behavior when a stepparent was included in the family. It is suggested that the return to a perceived normalcy is more important for these children than others.

No matter what, every family situation is unique, and general trends cannot explain how a child will be affected by a divorce. Families experiencing a divorce should look at its effects on the children and determine how parents can ease some of the tensions these children will be facing as the process continues.