The Long Arm of Divorce

Most people worry about how divorce will affect the kids. Researchers say they may have to worry about the grandkids, too—even those who haven't yet been born.

Paul R. Amato and Jacob Cheadle, two Pennsylvania State University sociologists, sifted through 20 years of information on divorced families. The data show that the grandchildren of divorced couples end up with less education, more turbulent marriages and more distant relationships with their parents. These troubles occurred most often when the middle generation suffered similar divorce-related consequences.

Although other studies have shown that marital problems tend to run in families, few studies have probed these links beyond two generations. Divorce may set off a chain reaction, the researchers conclude, with problems for one generation contributing to problems for the next.

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The good news? Divorce isn't uniformly harmful to children, nor does it necessarily result in long-term psychological distress. Studies show most children whose parents divorce go on to develop into well-adjusted adults. Counseling may also deflect trouble. The results appeared in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

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