A study among adolescents

Maykel Verkuyten and Ruut Veenhoven,Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Published in Dutch in: Tijdschrift voor Sociale Gezondheidszorg (TSG), 1988, vol 66 pp 128-133

The breaking-up of a family is generally believed to harm children psychologically, in particular breaks due to divorce. This belief is checked in a study of 2734 adolescents in the Netherlands, 312 of which living in a broken family. The focus is on two aspects of psychological well-being: happiness and self-esteem. Happiness is measured by both life-satisfaction and hedonic level of affect. Self-esteem by an overal: self-rating and by various aspect appraisals (looks, academic ability, popularity).
Differences between children from intact and broken families are in the predicted direction, but very small. Children of divorce appear not worse off than children who had lost a parent by death. The differences are greatest among girls and young children. Children of divorce who live with their father report slightly higher well-being. Working of the mother makes no difference. Children of divorce do not feel less appreciated by the parent who has left the house. Remarcably, their self-esteem is more closely related to what they think the absent parent thinks of them, than to the appraisal they attribute to the parent with which they live.

Full text in Dutch