Longitudinal studies of effects of divorce on children in Great Britain and the United States

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  07 Jun 1991:
Vol. 252, Issue 5011, pp. 1386-1389
DOI: 10.1126/science.2047851


National, longitudinal surveys from Great Britain and the United States were used to investigate the effects of divorce on children. In both studies, a subsample of children who were in two-parent families during the initial interview (at age 7 in the British data and at ages 7 to 11 in the U.S. data) were followed through the next interview (at age 11 and ages 11 to 16, respectively). At both time points in the British data, parents and teachers independently rated the children's behavior problems, and the children were given reading and mathematics achievement tests. At both time points in the U.S. data, parents rated the children's behavior problems. Children whose parents divorced or separated between the two time points were compared to children whose families remained intact. For boys, the apparent effect of separation or divorce on behavior problems and achievement at the later time point was sharply reduced by considering behavior problems, achievement levels, and family difficulties that were present at the earlier time point, before any of the families had broken up. For girls, the reduction in the apparent effect of divorce occurred to a lesser but still noticeable extent once preexisting conditions were considered.