Popular psychology literature tells readers that divorce often causes a serious emotional toll on children. In 2000, Time magazine featured a story that explained what divorce does to children, and this story was sparked by a 25 year study that Judith Wallerstein did of 60 different families.
This article reported that the effects on children from divorce are enduring and worse than what parents think. It explained that many years later, children of divorced parents had difficulties with establishing career goals and stable romantic relationships; however, there was one problem with this study. Wallerstein did not include a control group of families in which one or both of the parents had been separated from their kids for reasons other than divorce (i.e. accidental death). From her findings, we cannot conclude whether the effects on the children are a reflection of divorce, or if they are a reflection of stressful disruption in the family.
Better designed studies have shown that the majority of children survive their parents' divorce without long-term emotional damage; however, it has been proven that there is a relationship between the severity of conflict between the parents before the divorce and the effects on the children. If parents experience mild conflict before the divorce, there are actually more severe effects on the children compared to parents that have intense conflict before the divorce. Although a majority of children are fine after divorce, some children seem to produce negative effects. For example, a study was done where researchers compared the children of identical twins, only one of whom had been divorced. Children of identical twins who'd divorced had higher levels of depression, substance abuse, and poorer school performance, compared to the children of identical twins who had not divorced. Overall, all of these findings suggest that although divorce does not have a long term effect on most children, there is still a chance that it could exert negative effects on some children.