The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University put out a fascinating study debunking The Top Ten Myths of Divorce.
Perhaps the most interesting portions of the study, address the issues of divorce and children. The study shows, not surprisingly, that divorce has deep, long lasting emotional effects on children, and increases the likelihood that their future marriages will end in divorce. The report concludes that except for in the case of high conflict homes, children are better of living in a home with unhappy parents than seeing their parents divorce.
I have excerpted the relevant portions here:
Divorce increases the risk of interpersonal problems in children. There is evidence, both from small qualitative studies and from large-scale, long-term empirical studies, that many of these problems are long lasting. In fact, they may even become worse in adulthood.
Marriages of the children of divorce actually have a much higher rate of divorce than the marriages of children from intact families. A major reason for this, according to a recent study, is that children learn about marital commitment or permanence by observing their parents. In the children of divorce, the sense of commitment to a lifelong marriage has been undermined.
A recent large-scale, long-term study suggests otherwise. While it found that parents’ marital unhappiness and discord have a broad negative impact on virtually every dimension of their children’s well-being, so does the fact of going through a divorce. In examining the negative impacts on children more closely, the study discovered that it was only the children in very high conflict homes who benefited from the conflict removal that divorce may bring. In lower-conflict marriages that end in divorce—and the study found that perhaps as many as two thirds of the divorces were of this type—the situation of the children was made much worse following a divorce. Based on the findings of this study, therefore, except in the minority of high-conflict marriages it is better for the children if their parents stay together and work out their problems then if they divorce.