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The likelihood of a child experiencing problems adjusting after his or her parents’ divorce depends on the parents’ parenting style, found a new study by Arizona State University and University of Washington psychologists. The study appears in the Journal of Clinical Child Psychology.
“We know divorce creates more stress for children because kids move, change schools and have an increase in short-term problems with their parents. This means children in divorced families are at greater risk of developing adjustment problems,” said the study’s lead author and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington, Liliana Lengua.
Children whose parents have divorced tend to have more adjustment problems than children whose
parents have stayed together, said Lengua. The study showed that impulsive children are the ones who tend to have the most adjustment problems.
Parenting techniques can influence a child’s impulsiveness, especially if the parent applies discipline and enforces rules inconsistently.
“Impulsive kids need parents to create boundaries and enforce limits because they have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviors on their own,” said Lengua.
The study also determined that children who laugh and smile a lot seem to handle maternal rejection better. Maternal rejection, as defined by the study, is when the child feels unloved because the mother either showed a lack of affection, or gave the child the impression that he or she is not important.
“This research is important because it can help parents work with their children and help us design interventions to work with children we know are at risk for developing problems,” Lengua said. “It will help us identify children at greater risk for developing problems when they are under stress. If we know a parent is going through a divorce we can ask about a child’s temperament before the child has a problem.
“The end goal is preventing problems and promoting positive adaptive qualities in children such as self-esteem and coping skills.”
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