Divorce Hurts Kids' Math Grades, Research Shows

Filed under: In The News

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Study shows children of divorce may suffer in math. Credit: Getty Images

You might want to stay married. Think of the children.

Research shows divorce makes children feel lonely and sad. They experience depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.

And worst of all? Their math grades suffer.

Researcher Hyun Sik Kim, a doctoral candidate in the sociology department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, actually looked into the dreadful damage divorce exacts on math grades.

According to U.S. News & World Report, he found the harm is not readily apparent -- it doesn't show up during the most volatile periods of a break up.

"Somewhat surprisingly, children of divorce do not experience detrimental setbacks in the pre-divorce period," he tells the magazine. "From the divorce stage onward, however, children of divorce lag behind in math test scores and interpersonal social skills."

Parents and other adults usually counsel children that things will get better. Nope. Not really.

"There is no sign that children of divorce catch up with their counterparts, either," Kim tells U.S. News.

What happens is kids become stressed out by ongoing parental finger-pointing and custody conflicts, Kim explains. This is worsened by being shuttled between two households or having to move to a different part of the country (thus losing contact with one parent and a network of friends).

Kim tells the magazine he saw dramatic changes in family locations, suggesting that children of divorce were more likely to change schools. Decreased family incomes could be bumming out children of divorce, as well, he adds.

For his research, he analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study on 3,600 children who entered kindergarten in 2008.

The children were tracked through fifth grade, U.S. News reports. Over that time, he compared children whose parents had gotten divorced while the child was in the first, second or third grade with the children of intact marriages.

The news isn't all bad. While Kim found divorce hurts math scores, reading scores appeared unaffected. And children of divorce, while depressed, generally don't seem to take out their feelings by beating people up or getting angry and argumentative.

Kim tells U.S. News his research is somewhat limited, only following children for two years after a divorce.

Still, he tells the magazine, there are lessons to be learned here.

"One implication of the study is that we need to intervene as soon as possible when we observe a child experiencing a parental divorce because my findings suggest that once children of divorce [have gone] through detrimental impacts, it is hard to make them catch up with children from intact families," he tells the magazine.

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