services,28 though this may not be applicable to Hong Kong where there is still possibly greater resistance to going outside the family for therapeutic support in a time of crisis. Researchers conclude that the consequences for children of divorce are more likely to be influenced by their gender, age, parent-child relationship and social class, than by the fact that the parents have divorced per se.29 Pre-adolescent boys show more distress than girls30 while adolescent girls are more affected than boys.
1.25Younger children are more vulnerable to negative consequences than older children. This may be because younger children are more likely than older children to blame their own behaviour for their parent’s divorce.31
1.26Benjamin and Irving suggested32 from their analysis of the research literature that a child’s adjustment to divorce is dependent on a number of interacting processes:
(a)the reciprocal adjustment of the custodial parent and the child living with her or him;
(b)the quality of the relationship between the custodial parent and the child;
(c)gender congruence between the custodial parent and the child; and
(d)the degree of involvement of the non-custodial parent.
1.27Their disturbing conclusion is that “under the intense stress of the divorcing process, a substantial proportion of previously adequate parents become increasingly insensitive to the children’s needs33 or completely abandon their parenting responsibilities34 with devastating consequences for child adjustment”.35
1.28The older research literature supported the belief that the more bitter and prolonged the conflict was between the parents, the more damage there was done to child adjustment.36 Kelly suggested that conflict does not produce a consistent outcome in children. Difficulties with adjustment are more likely where children feel caught in the middle of the conflict as distinct from those who are not so involved.37 Hodges found that high parental conflict can undermine or disrupt the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the children.38 Conversely, a friendly parental relationship positively influences child adjustment and self esteem.39 The research
28 Dawson, “Family structure and children’s health and well-being; Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey of Child Health,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, (1991), 53, 573-584.
29 Irving and Benjamin, Family Mediation - Contemporary Issues (1995), at 61.
30 Plunkett, Schaefer, Kalter, Okla & Schrier, “Perceptions of quality of life following divorce; a study of children’s prognostic thinking,” Psychiatry, 49, (1986) 1-12.
31 Grynch and Fincham, “Marital conflict and children’s adjustment; A cognitive-contextual framework”, Psychological Bulletin, (1990), 108, 267-290.
32 Supra at 63.
33 Appel, America’s changing families; A guide for educators (1985).
34 Isaacs et al, (1986) supra.
35 Irving and Benjamin, supra at 64.
36 Booth et al, “The impact of parental divorce on courtship”, Journal of Marriage and the Family, (1984), 65(4), 85-94. Irving and Benjamin, supra at 67.
37“Current research on children’s postdivorce adjustment; No simple answers”, Family & Conciliation Courts Review, (1993), 31(1), 29-49, Irving and Benjamin, supra at 68.
38 “Problems of visitation post divorce” in Witlin & Hinds (eds) The child custody handbook, quoted by Irving and Benjamin.
39 Ambert, “Relationship between ex-spouses; Individual and dyadic perspectives”, Journal of Social & Personal Relations, 5, (1988), 327-346