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Honey, Let's Get Divorced

Divorce may be good or bad for children, depending on the circumstances. Low-conflict divorce is especially harmful.

Trick question: Is divorce good or bad for children? Answer: It depends onwhat happened in the marriage be fore the divorce.

"If there has been lots of conflict in the marriage, the children actually do better if there is a divorce, reports University of Nebraska sociologist Paul Amato, Ph.D., who has followed 2,000 families for nearly two decades. He has seen the offspring of these families into their own young adulthood, and found that the kids of high-conflict divorce are just as happy and do just as well as peers who grew up In intact homes.

Those hardest hit by divorce, he says, are the chidren of marriages in which there were not high levels of hostility before a break-up. The husband and wife just drift along and the kids don't notice anything's missing.

"The dissolution of a home that they thought was stable is an unwelcome and disturbing event in the lives of these offspring," Amato reports in A Generation at Risk (Harvard).

Low -conflict divorce under mines kids' sense of trust and causes them great psychological distress as they grow grower, says Amato. They have trouble forming relationships of their own, and are "particularly unhappy' as adults.

Making the leap out of a stressful household beats being jolted out of a pleasant one.

PHOTO (COLOR): A family