adjustment and the father’s visiting.50 It is accepted that the quality of the access will be influenced by the quality of their pre-divorce relationship. So, if that relationship was good, the child will suffer more distress at the loss of the father than otherwise. The divorce process may also produce an increased interest in parenting by fathers who were not so involved before.51
Long term harm caused by divorce
1.33Between 26-40% boys and 15-25% of girls of divorced parents were found by Wallerstein and Blakeslee to have developed a history of delinquent behaviour.52 Also, children of divorced parents were less internally well-adjusted than those who did not have that experience. Their intellectual and academic functioning could be less.53 Benjamin and Irving agreed with other researchers that “a substantial minority of children suffer long term harm as a direct consequence of their parents’ divorce”.54
1.34Wallerstein and Blakeslee found that younger children are more acutely affected by the divorce at the time. They did better in terms of long term adjustment than the older children, who were more likely to have taken a position on one parent’s side.55 They noted that anger and hostility towards the former spouse by the custodial parent could result in the custodial spouse seeking to damage the relationship between the non-custodial spouse, normally the father, and the children, particular boys.56 Once that relationship deteriorated then it was more likely that child support for college education would be refused. They also found that children had some difficulty adjusting to a custodial parent marrying again. This could result in conflict with the step-father, who was seen as a threat to the relationship between the children and the biological father.
1.35Rutter’s57 findings suggested that it was not the disruption of the bond with a parent that was of greatest significance but the distortion of family relationships. The fear of separation in the intact home was replaced by an experience of actual separation from one or other parent which could result in long term insecurity in relationships.58 A review of the effects of separation and divorce on child development by Richards and Dyson59 estimated that between 20-50% of
50 Kline et al, “Children’s adjustment in joint and sole physical custody families”, Developmental Psychology (1989), 25, 430-438.
51 Hetherington, Cox and Cox, “Effects of divorce on parents and children”. In Lamb Nontraditional families; Parenting and child development, (1982) Irving and Benjamin, supra at 67.
52 Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989), supra.
53In Wallerstein and Blakeslee’s study, 50% of the boys went to college compared to 85% of their friends. See Irving and Benjamin, supra at 81.
54 Ibid at 83.
56 Ibid at 86.
57 Rutter, “Parent Child Separation: Psychological Effects on Children”, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 12 at 233-60 (1971); and Helping Troubled Children, (1975).
58 Richards, “Children and the Divorce Courts”, One-Parent Families, 7; 2-5; (1984) “Separation, Divorce and Remarriage: the experiences of children”. In Guy (ed) Relating to Marriage, National Marriage Guidance Council.
59 Richards and Dyson, Separation, Divorce and the Development of Children: A Review, Child Care and Development Group, University of Cambridge, (1982).