Children 'can develop behavioural problems' after parents divorce

Date: Aug 25, 2015

A marriage breakup is a difficult time for everyone involved, but children often find the process particularly troubling. In fact, the separation or divorce of parents can lead to behavioural problems, according to the University of South Australia (UniSA).

Researchers at the institution are exploring the impact parents splitting up has on children, with poor academic achievement and relationship problems sometimes occurring if the situation is handled poorly.

The UniSA is launching a study in conjunction with the universities of Queensland and Western Australia in an effort to develop online interventions to aid parents as they move through the family law divorce process.

Dr Helen Stallman, co-director of the research and program director for UniSA's Graduate Certificate in Mediation, said emotions are often running high when couples separate. This means it can be difficult for parents to stay calm and in control.

"When their world feels topsy-turvy and out of perspective, it is really important for families to have access to evidence-based information and preventative interventions," she explained. 

"The aim of our study is to better understand the issues that parents have to deal with after divorce, and how parents and children cope at different times and in different ways across the period of separation and beyond."

Separation and divorce in NSW

There are very specific requirements for securing a divorce in New South Wales, with spouses needing to show they have been separated for 12 months or more.

People must also make every attempt to reconcile their differences through mediation and other forms of dispute resolution. Unfortunately, if these measures prove unsuccessful, partners may need to contact a family law specialist to decide on the best way to proceed.

Dr Stallman invited parents to take part in the UniSA study, adding that researchers are keen to gain further insight into personality development in children when parents separate.

"Ultimately our goal is to develop a range of helpful interventions for parents, who are likely to experience increased depression, anxiety and stress during a separation, so that they can better manage this challenging time and limit the impact of these feelings on their longer term well-being and those of their children," she said.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed the number of divorces decreased 4.6 per cent in 2013, which is the most recent year data has been collected.