In our last post, we discussed a few tips for divorcing parents and how they can help their children finish the school year strongly. The unfortunate reality is that many students suffer some academic setbacks in these situations; understanding that and adjusting behaviors during a divorce can allow parents to make the transition easier on their children.

That being said, some children are at a greater risk of academic declines in the wake of parental divorce than others. 

Expected vs. unexpected divorce

A recent study suggests that children can experience greater academic disruption when their parent’s divorce is unexpected. When a divorce is unexpected, it can lower a child’s educational attainment.

Children whose parents divorced unexpectedly were reportedly 6 percent less likely to graduate high school and 15 percent less likely to graduate college than children of non-divorced parents.

There was little or no impact on children with parents who had a high likelihood of divorcing.

Factors that affect expectations

The study suggests that numerous factors can indicate whether a divorce is expected or not. Broadly speaking, the research suggests that the following types of parents are less likely to divorce:

  • Wealthy
  • Well-educated
  • Those in well-planned marriages or family units

On the other hand, divorce may be more expected among parents:

  • In high-conflict marriages
  • Struggling with depression (especially maternal depression)
  • Experiencing more socioeconomic disadvantages

In other words, children from seemingly more stable families can be at risk for greater disruption in and outside of school.

Important parental takeaways 

Whether a divorce is expected or not expected, it can affect children in a myriad ways. As such, it is crucial for parents to pay attention to their child’s reactions and responses in the wake of a divorce. This includes academic performance, mental health and social behaviors.

To help a child cope with this difficult transition, parents would be wise to avoid unnecessary legal complications, prioritize their child’s best interests and keep communication lines with children open and honest. While it may not be possible to shield a child from every consequence of parental divorce, it can be possible to minimize those that can be particularly painful and detrimental to his or her future.