Facts and figures

2009      Year study published

4 to 7     Age range of children in study: Average age 5.4

41            Number of children included in study: 22 boys and 19 girls

24%       Children made a family picture with parents drawn together

34%       Children that revealed ‘conflict damage’ in responses and drawings

41%       Children expressed a ‘reunion fantasy’ of their parents


Purpose of study

To gain insight into the 4-7 year-olds understanding of parental divorce.

Children were asked FIVE questions about divorce and the divorce process.

Each child was invited to draw a family picture.



Question #1.  What is 'divorce'?  What does ‘divorce’ mean?

“When parents don’t live together any more”

“They don’t like each other”

“Divorce has lots of anger and it causes hurt”

“Somebody gets married and not married anymore”

“Yelling together at each other”

“It starts with love, then you don’t live together, then you get unmarried, then you love other people, go back and back and back and forth” as the child stated the last phrase, he picked up a slinky from his own toy box and slowly stretch it, gesturing toward the playhouses on either side of him. Extended slinky “and then…you break” lets Slinky snap close and crash to the floor between the two houses.


Question #2.  What is a lawyer? What do they do?

“A lawyer is your boss. He tells you stuff you have to do. If not, he’ll fire you.”

“The judge is who decides who you really will live with. The attorney doesn’t know.”

“Lawyers help moms and dads get away from each other.”

“Judges and lawyers try to help parents get back together.


3.  What is a judge? What do they do?



Question #4.  What do you want lawyers or judges to know, to makedivorce easier or better for families and children?

“If mom and dad lived next to each other we could just walk over.”

“Say this to moms and dads: ‘Do you love each other?’ And then they have to say yes, and then give them some chances (not to divorce).”

“Please make it so they could try to get along.”

“Tell mom and dad to marry someone else. Two divorced people should’ve married someone else from the beginning.”

“I wish there was a law that judges could make so parents could get back together after they ‘get over it.’ Can divorce ever get undone?”


5.  If you were the judge, what would you say to your parents?

“I wish there was a law that judges could make so parents could get back together after they ‘get over it.’ Can divorce ever get undone?”

“If I were the judge. I would pick the mom?”




What do you want lawyers or judges to know, to make divorce easier or better for families and children?


Play themes

Play themes revealing thoughts and emotions

4.5 year-old boy created a drawing of his house with a magic treasure chest where all the family members popped out and were seated together around a table.

5-year-old boy stalled in drawing his picture because he felt he had to choose one parent. The picture he did draw included his dad and the child stated, “I’m smiling because I’m with my dad.”

5-year-old boy: Resided with his father and expressed “more time with mama”. In his play arranged all doll furniture in mom’s doll house and nothing for the father’s doll house.

6-year-old girl in drawing her picture of a family, she added her dad (to the picture ) and shouted ”I miss him so much!” she began hugging herself and saying over and over “I love you! I love you!”

6.5-year-old boy pushed the houses together and stated, “I wish my houses were like that (touching).” Then rearranged by putting one house of top of the other.

Play themes addressing traveling between homes

5-year-old girl used a toy Band-Aid to help the dolls “figure out where they belonged” “this “ [Band-Aid] tell you if you’re in the right house.”

“Back-and-forth makes me sick. I want to throw up-both ways.”

One stated a mantra during the play session: “too long a drive, too long a drive.”

One child focused on the travel process and took time to stuffing each play item in the toy vehicle and her pockets, and then “driving” all over the house-that as soon as the dolls arrived at “dads house,” it was time to go back to ”moms.”


Play themes showing aggression and violence

4- year-old female: arranged her houses and furniture then had an avalanche strike, killing everyone.

4-year-old child: revealed a fight between two daddy dolls and both were taken to jail by a policeman.

7-year-old girl stated “I never want to see my father again, except if he’s back with my mom. Then I won’t be angry at all.” When playing with the house and doll figures, she made efforts to “squishing” the dad to death.


“GET OVER IT”: PERSPECTIVES ON DIVORCE FROM YOUNG CHILDREN†Article first published online: 4 SEP 2009DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-1617.2009.01280.x

Post divorce living arrangements, parent conflict, and long-term physical health correlates for children of divorce

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2007...............Year study published

266...................Number of students from Arizona State University 

16......................Minimum age of student when parents divorced (to participate in study) 

3.........................Number of times in 5-year period that students were asked about parents' divorce 

.............................1st: at time of divorce     2nd: two years after divorce     3rd: five years after divorce 

28%....................Fathers with approximately equal time in living arrangements 

 

Why was this study done?

1.  To find how parental conflict may impact the child's physical and emotional health.

2.  To evaluate the impact of father’s involvement in their child’s life during and after divorce.

 

What did they do?

Students in introductory psychology classes were given questionnaires.  Those who experienced parental divorce before the age of 16 answered additional questions.  

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Questions asked about:

Living arrangements

Time spent with each parent during the week, weekends and vacations 

Parental conflict: Before the separation, during the divorce, two years post divorce and five years post divorce

Feelings about the divorce

Quality of the father-child relationship

Physical health outcomes

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What did this study reveal:

~Children exposed to parental conflict during the divorce or after the separation are more likely to experience health issues.  Children who have exposure to parental conflict may develop: 

-diagnoses contributing to heart disease, hypertension, infectious diseases and other illnesses

-feelings of self-blame and responsibility for the divorce

-more distress about their parents' divorce when the child becomes a young adult in high conflict divorces (and for five years after)

~Conflict between the parents is offset by father/child time:

This study shows that:

-a child can benefit from father/child time

-father-child time can help when there is little conflict between the parents 

-father-child time can be beneficial when there is high conflict between the parents from the time of the divorce to 5 years after

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~This research reveals the importance of fathers spending time with their child. The father spending time with their child can offset negative effects of parental conflict. This is true:

-during the divorce process

-following the divorce process

-and, up to 5 years after the divorce!

In essence, this study shows that a father can be an asset in a child’s life!

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Considerations about this study:

~Study looked at only the impact of father involvement in the child’s life. Results indicate the importance of the child maintaining a relationship with the father during and after the divorce.  Notably, the authors acknowledge that most likely these findings could be generalized to the mother’s role in the child’s life. 

~Study involved only college students. Expanding this study to evaluate varying age groups and settings could provide valuable information.

~Students were asked questions about their parents' divorce that may have occurred several years earlier. Their memory of experiences may be less accurate than recall from a recent event.  Responses may reflect the emotions of the young adult rather than actual occurrence of events

~Results from this study could be used to develop education/intervention programs for parents undergoing a divorce.  Information could emphasize the importance of the role of both parents to the "positive-long-term health outcomes for the child."

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Title of study: Post divorce living arrangements, parent conflict, and long-term physical health correlates for children of divorce

Citation: Fabricius, W. V. & Luecken, L.J. (2007).  Post divorce living arrangements, parent conflict, and long-term physical health correlates for children of divorce.  Journal of Family Psychology, 21 195-205. doi

Take 5!

1  Facts & Figures

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2   Why

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3   What

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4   How

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