Social Science Update: What are the trajectories of internalizing, externalizing, and grades for children who have and have not experienced their parent’s divorce or separation?

In 2006, social scientists conducted a study that looked at 97 children who experienced divorce between the ages of kindergarten through grade 10. The scientists conducted in depth interviews with the mothers in their homes and looked at the children’s grades.

This study found that the earlier timing of divorce was related to mother reported internalizing and teacher reported externalizing of problems and grades. These results were significant on all internalizing and externalizing problems reported by mothers and teachers in comparison to groups that were not divorced.

Children whose parents divorced earlier (kindergarten through grade 5) had more internalizing and externalizing problems that continued three years after the divorce.

Divorce showed a significant impact on grades for children whose parents divorced later.

Overall, the findings of this study suggest that the psychological effects of divorce are greater for younger children who have more difficulty understanding the reasons for divorce and may feel more anxious about abandonment.

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