Divorce may widen distance between teens, fathers

January 9, 2008

The typical distancing from parents by adolescents is exacerbated by divorce for fathers, but not for mothers, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

"Historically, teens distance themselves from parents and increase involvement with peers," says co-author Dr. Alan Booth, distinguished professor of sociology, human development and demography at Penn State. "Coupled with divorce, this distancing may result in further declines in father-child closeness."

Although research demonstrates that fathers' involvement with children has increased in recent decades, mothers continue to do the majority of childcare while fathers are the less involved parent.

Parental divorce creates an immense pressure to decrease father-child closeness, supplemented by the many barriers created by a father's physical separation from the children. Fathers, who often are the less involved parent before divorce, would have to increase their investment in the relationship just to maintain pre-divorce levels of closeness, which the vast majority of fathers do not do, according to the study.

"Therefore, fathers are at a disadvantage in closeness to start, and then divorce makes it even more challenging to be close," say the researchers.

The team comprising Mindy Scott of Child Trends and Booth, Valarie King and David Johnson, all faculty at Penn State, examined information reported by high school students participating in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent health.

A sub-sample of youth, drawn from a nationally representative sample, was interviewed at the beginning and the end of a five-year period. Reports from youth whose parents remained married were compared with reports from youth whose parents were divorced by end of the period.

Prior to divorce, 71 percent of youth reported being very close to their mothers, while 57 percent reported being very close to their fathers.

The teens' withdrawal from fathers was much more severe among those youths with divorced parents (56 percent) than among those with non-divorced parents (28 percent), the study says.

The proportion of youths who reported a consistently close relationship with their father was much higher among those with still-married parents (48 percent) than among those with divorced parents (25 percent).

There was no significant difference in the change in closeness to mothers reported by youths in either group.

"Those teens who maintained a close relationship with their father had a stronger mother-child bond and a greater sense of well-being, defined as feelings about relationship qualities and perception's of their own qualities and abilities," Booth notes.

He adds, "Future research may look at information directly from the fathers about their evaluation of father-child closeness and his views of opportunities and constraints affecting before and after-divorce closeness with their children."

Source: Penn State

Explore further: Young people with shared residency have fewer mental problems

Related Stories

Young people with shared residency have fewer mental problems

January 16, 2018
Young people with shared residency after their parents' divorce have fewer mental problems than young people with other residency arrangements.

Understanding filicide will help prevent it

November 2, 2017
Filicide, the killing of a child by their parent or caregiver, is estimated to account for 18 to 25% of family homicide cases in Australia. Filicide often involves multiple victims and has a devastating effect on both families ...

Is he really that into you?

November 2, 2017
Women who grow up without a caring father, or who even are reminded of painful and disappointing experiences with their father, see more sexual intent in men.

Parents of teenage daughters more likely to divorce, says study

September 27, 2017
Sullen exchanges and broken curfews are part of life for parents of teenagers, but could this period also be a stress-test for parents' marriages?

To help divorced parents, programs should address financial and parenting barriers

October 25, 2016
Prior research has shown that cooperative co-parenting after divorce is often best for children's well-being. To promote this, more than half of America's courts require some type of education for divorcing parents to help ...

Note to dads: Good parenting makes a difference

June 14, 2011
Father's Day this Sunday is a chance to recognize dads for putting up with all manner of nonsense that kids manage to cook up on the way to adulthood.

Recommended for you

Short-course treatment for combat-related PTSD offers expedited path to recovery

January 23, 2018
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be debilitating and standard treatment can take months, often leaving those affected unable to work or care for their families. But, a new study demonstrated that many ...

Priming can negate stressful aspects of negative sporting environments, study finds

January 23, 2018
The scene is ubiquitous in sports: A coach yells at players, creating an environment where winning is the sole focus and mistakes are punished. New research from the University of Kansas shows that when participants find ...

Social and emotional skills linked to better student learning

January 23, 2018
Students with well-developed and adaptive social and emotional behaviours are most likely to excel in school, according to UNSW researchers in educational psychology.

Study of learning and memory problems in OCD helps young people unlock potential at school

January 22, 2018
Adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have widespread learning and memory problems, according to research published today. The findings have already been used to assist adolescents with OCD obtain the help ...

People with prosthetic arms less affected by common illusion

January 22, 2018
People with prosthetic arms or hands do not experience the "size-weight illusion" as strongly as other people, new research shows.

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.