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Feature Article


Divorce Adjustment Influenced by Child's Temperament and Mother's Parenting Style

Mary Gosche, Human Development Specialist, Cape Girardeau County and Southeast Region, University of Missouri Extension

A child's likelihood of experiencing adjustment problems following a divorce depends upon the child's temperament and the quality of the mother's parenting style, according to a new study by University of Washington and Arizona State University psychologists. "We know divorce creates more stress for children because kids move, change schools and have an increase in short-term problems with their parents. This means children in divorced families are a greater risk of developing adjustment problems," said Liliana Lengua, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington and lead author of the study.

The study also found that children who exhibit what's called "high positive emotionality" (a measure of cheerfulness, laughing and smiling) were better able to handle a distracted mother. These children may have more positive interactions and relationships with other people that soften the impact of maternal rejection. The goal of the study was to identify children at risk and to prevent problems with their parents while promoting positive qualities in children.

What do children of divorce need from their mom and dad?


  • Children need both of you to stay involved with their life.
  • Stop fighting and work hard to get along with each other.
  • Allow the child to enjoy the time that they spend with each of you.
  • Communicate directly with each other so that the child does not have to send messages back and forth.
  • When talking about my other parent, please say only nice things, or don't say anything at all.
  • Please remember that your child wants both of you to be part of their life.

Divorce is a difficult adjustment for children and parents. All family members must deal with a wide variety of emotions and make changes in the way they live. However, despite their own struggles in the divorce process, parents still have an obligation to provide their children with love, nurturing and sense of stability. With time, patience and creativity, children and parents can work through the adjustment process.

For more information on divorce, contact your local extension office and ask for guidesheets GH6600 Helping Children Understand Divorce and GH6602 Activities for Helping Children Deal with Divorce.

Source: Chances of children experiencing problems after divorce depend on mother's parenting style, child's temperament.



Last Updated 05/12/2009


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