NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Children of Divorce May be at Risk

July 9, 2003

Children of divorce whose parents don't live near each other may be at risk for long-term problems, among them greater hostility, less financial support for college and perhaps poorer health, new research suggests.

The study, by scientists at Arizona State University, provides an unprecedented snapshot of the impact of a broken home with far-flung pieces versus one in which the parents stay geographically close.

Researchers focused on 602 Arizona State students whose parents were divorced, comparing those whose parents stayed near the family home with those who had at least one parent who at some point moved more than an hour away, with or without the student. Sixty-one percent of the students moved or had a parent move such a distance.

The researchers found:

  • In general, those with a geographically distant parent fared worse on 11 of 14 measures of well-being, report the scientists.
  • On average, those with a distant parent received almost $1,800 less per year in parental college support when they moved with their mother and almost $1,000 less when their father moved away.
  • These students also worried more about college expenses, particularly when it was their father who had moved, the research found.

Students with a distant parent also tended to be more hostile, more distressed by the divorce and have more difficulty adjusting. Measures such as hostility have been associated with health problems in later life, the study noted. The troubles with adjustment -- as well as a generally lower satisfaction with life -- traced mainly to the most infrequent situations, those where the child either stayed with or moved with the father, the scientists found.

Source: Karen Patterson, "Parent's move after split called harmful," Dallas Morning News, June 26, 2003; based on Sanford L. Braver et al., " Relocation of Children After Divorce and Children's Best Interests: New Evidence and Legal Considerations," Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2003, American Psychological Association.


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