Friends Help Kids Heal From Divorce

Are you worried about how your divorce will affect your child? A recent study shows that children fare better if peers, neighbors, and schools are involved with the healing process (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2002, vol. 64).

An estimated 1 million children experience divorce each year. Kathleen Boyce Rodgers, PhD, and Hilary A. Rose, PhD, both of Washington State University, surveyed adolescent boys and girls in grades seven, nine, and 11, and found that the teens from divorced families were more likely to resort to violence; use tobacco, alcohol, and drugs; become depressed and suicidal; and suffer from low self-esteem than the teens from intact families. However, the adolescents who leaned on friends, neighbors, and schools made it through this difficult time with fewer problems.

"Parent-child relationships are important to adolescent well-being," says Rodgers, "but this study points out the importance of friends, neighbors, and schools as additional support systems for teens." Teens who came from divorced single-parent families felt better and were less likely to be sad when they had friends they trusted and could rely on. "Having a neighbor to talk with about personal issues helped teens in stepfamilies," adds Rodgers, "especially when they believed their parents were not supportive of them."

—Emily Rosenblum