When parents decide to end their marriage, they do so understanding that the decision will greatly impact their children. Parents may initially be more concerned about the impact of divorce on older children, who have a greater understanding of what is taking place. However, recent research indicates that when it comes to protecting parent-child relationships, parents need to pay greater attention to the impact of divorce on younger children.
Perhaps in part because older children can better understand what is occurring and why, it is younger children's relationships with their parents that suffer the most when parents split. According to experts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, children aged three to five are most likely to suffer insecurities in their relationships with parents in the wake of divorce. The full study can be viewed online and later in September in print form in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
These insecurities may not manifest right away but rather will likely manifest later in life. As a result, it may be particularly difficult for children whose parents divorced when they were aged three to five to be close to those parents later on. These trust issues likely develop because children at this age cannot understand why their parents are changing their lives in this way and they are not so young that they can adjust to the change with relative ease.
This is not to say that parents of children in this age range should fail to seek a divorce if they need to. Rather, parents should remain aware of these findings and research ways to establish trust and intimacy with their children both at this time and in the future.
Source: Huffington Post, "Children Of Divorce: Study Finds Younger Children Feel Lasting Effects Of Divorce," July 1, 2013