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Study Says Divorce Can Fuel Fear of Abandonment in Children

New research indicates children who see their parents go through a difficult divorce involving lots of arguing and contention are more likely to develop a fear of abandonment in the aftermath of that divorce. This is true even if children feel close to one or both parents.

Researchers interviewed 560 children between nine and 18 years old. They asked children about the frequency and intensity with which their parents fought, whether they ever felt like they were caught in the middle of those arguments, and if their parents had ever said bad things about each other in their presence.

They found that children who were exposed to more conflict were more likely to have a fear of abandonment. In addition, children who reported higher fears of abandonment were also more likely to report additional mental health problems within the year that followed, including general anxiety or fear, or bottled-up distress.

Protecting your children during divorce

Sometimes conflict in divorce cannot be avoided. What can be avoided, however, is exposing your children to that conflict. Both parents in a divorce must make it a point to set “rules of engagement” for these conflicts, which should include never having arguments in front of children, or badmouthing each other in front of the kids.

This sort of behavior can be damaging to children’s psyche, and also lead to them feeling responsible for the state of their parents’ relationship. Both parents need to show a united front in supporting and reassuring their children, and must act maturely and cordially with each other in the presence of the kids. Otherwise, children are much more likely to suffer mental health issues moving forward.

For more information about how to protect children from some of the nastier ramifications of divorce, contact an experienced Minnesota divorce lawyer at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.

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