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February 18, 2020
by Patricia Tomasi

How Does Divorce Affect Adolescents' Ability To Communicate With Their Parents?

February 18, 2020 08:00 by Patricia Tomasi  [About the Author]

Marriage is common and so is divorce. Over two million marriages occur in the U.S. per year. By the time a person turns 50 years of age, over 90 per cent of people in the U.S. have tied the knot. According to the American Psychological Association, a happy home gives a child the chance to be a healthier adult in all ways - mentally, physically, and emotionally. So what happens to teens whose parents’ divorce? Is it possible to create a happy home post-divorce?

A recent Norwegian study published in the Journal of Public Health aimed to answer that question particularly when it came to divorce and conversational difficulties with parents and the effects on adolescent health and self-esteem.

“We examined during two years’ observation time how divorce impacted the confidence adolescents had in communication with their parents,” study author Eivind Meland told us. “We wanted to reveal how both parents impacted their health and their self-confidence during the early teenage years.”

Research has found that teens can become extremely angry at one or both parents following a divorce. This anger can either result in the teen either yelling at the parent they’re angry with or shutting down and not speaking to the parent. Studies have shown that the mental effects of divorce on teens can last into adulthood.

“Many theories underpin the importance of social support and trustful relations,” Meland told us. “The importance of being able to talk with parents about bothersome topics has been documented in many cross-sectional studies, but few longitudinal studies. Therefore, this study made us able to establish causal relations with greater confidence.”

It’s a well know fact that fifty per cent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Those that remarry have a higher divorce rate. Recently, however, researchers have found the divorce rate in the U.S. to be falling and actually started falling in the early 90s. There were 4.8 divorces per 1000 in 1992 versus 3.2 divorces per 1000 in 2016. A new attitude to marriage adopted by the millenial generation could be the reason why as more and more adults decide to marry an at older age than their parents’ did and when their education is completed and they have a steady job.

“Our research group has studied adolescent subjective health and health behaviour during many years,” Meland told us. “In a former cross sectional study, we revealed that divorce in itself had rather negligle relation with health impairment, while divorce and concomitant loss of paternal contact had a very strong association.”

According to a study published in World Psychiatry, 60 per cent of children live with their married parents in the U.S. According to the Pew Research Center, about 40 per cent of new marriages had one spouse who was married previously and both spouses had previously been married in 20 per cent of new marriages in the U.S. According to Very Well Family, advice for parents who have gone through a divorce includes vowing to co-parent peacefully, don’t put kids in the middle, maintain a healthy relationship with your child, use consistent discipline, monitor adolescents closely, and empower your child.

Meland found the results of his current study in line with current research except for one element.

“Divorce only impacted the confidence with fathers,” Meland told us. “Girls more than boys reported conversational difficulties with their fathers. Conversational quality with both parents impacted the health and self-esteem status after two years. Only fathers impacted the change of the outcomes during two years’ observation. The last result was surprising but the other results confirmed what was known from cross sectional studies. However, it is of great importance to have the longitudinal evidence that we gained from this study.”

Meland and fellow researchers of the current study hope that the results will promote mutual and shared parenting time and responsibility after divorce and separation in legislation, in court decisions and in family counselling.

“We certainly also hope it will impact how couples handle dissolution of their marriages and co-habitation when children are involved,” Meland told us. “They need the love and care from both their parents.”


About the Author

Patricia Tomasi

Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog:

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