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North Carolina family lawyers present new study: For children, divorce lesser evil to fighting

/// 08/13/2010


When it comes to feuding parents, the phrase “staying together for the kids”  is an often used rationale for maintaining an intact family – but one that is fractured by parental fighting ranging from physical violence to emotional and mental abuse to cold indifference and visible lack of love and affection. The fear that divorce may emotionally scar a child overrides the desire to separate and leads to unhappy couples, and their children suffering through a miserable marriage. A recent article from Live Science cited by MSN and Fox News, highlights a study that claims exposing children to conflict is more detrimental than divorce.


Children exposed to constantly fighting parents experience more conflict in their own adult relationships than those whose parents divorced, according to a recent study led by Dr. Constance Gager at Montclair State University. While the research was presented at the Annual Meetings of the Population Association of America, the study, “Effects of Parental Marital Discord on Adult Child Outcomes,” awaits publication, according to Live Science writer Rachael Rettner.


A press release from Montclair State University announcing Gager’s grant for the study explains Gager’s research, “investigate[s] whether marital conflict is transmitted across generations by examining if children who were exposed to continued and high levels of conflict and low marital quality are more likely to have conflict ridden, unhappy relationships as adults than children whose parents divorced or who remained in low conflict marriages.”


Gager explains to Live Science, “Don’t stay together for the sake of the children if you’re in a high conflict marriage.”


To prove the point, Gager and her team of researchers analyzed the results of a national survey of nearly 7,000 married couples and their children within the United States. The survey began in 1987. Participant couples were asked to gauge the level of conflict surrounding money, household tasks, in-laws and other argument-inducing topics.


The survey revisited the families between 1992 and 1993 and questioned both parents and children, if aged to at least 10 years. Researchers conducting the survey assessed the change in conflict between the parents and whether or not they divorced.


The third phase of the survey took place between 2001 and 2002. The children, now adults aged between 18 and 34, were the focus. For those who were married or cohabitating, questions about levels of happiness and conflict within their current relationships were asked and the responses assessed.


According to Rettner’s article, children who were raised by feuding parents experienced better adult relationships if their parents divorced. Gager backs up the conclusion, stating, “There is research to show in the short-term, kids go through a one-to two-year crisis period when their parents divorce, but that they are resilient, and they come back from that divorce.” Gager adds to the argument, “if [children are] constantly exposed to conflict, and the parents stay together, that means there’s many more years they’re exposed to conflict by their parents…Whereas if their parents get divorced, at least there’s a chance the parents will have less conflict after the divorce.”


As is explained on the release declaring Gager’s research goals, “Although some level of conflict is inherent in all relationships, persistent, destructive conflict has real and pervasive negative consequences.”


If fighting is a constant occurrence within your marriage and children are exposed to the negativity on a regular basis, seeking a divorce may be in the best interest of your children. North Carolina divorce lawyers Gailor, Wallis and Hunt, have dedicated their lives to helping men and women work through the divorce process  through successful settlements achieved in mediation or arbitration or, if necessary, through litigation in the courts


Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, the family law firm of Gailor, Wallis & Hunt has a combined 80 years of experience in all aspects of divorce.  To contact any of the lawyers at Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, call them at 866-362-7586, or visit their website at


Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, PLLC

Divorce is Tough – So Are We



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