Reduced Psychological, Socio-Emotional and Cognitive Well-Being, and Poorer Physical Health

There is growing body of overseas research showing the emotional damage to children produced by divorce (Guidabaldi & Perry 1985; Allison & Furstenberg 1989; Amato & Keith 1991b). "The Exeter Family Study published in 1994 for example, showed children from divorced families are five times more likely than children from intact families to experience problems at school, medically, in relationships and with self esteem (Crocket & Tripp 1994).  Little notice however, has been paid to local research, which supports the overseas data––namely, the West Australian Child Health Survey involving a random sample of more than 2700 children in 1994. Conducted by the Perth-based Research Institute For Child Health, it produced solid evidence destroying the modern tenet that conflicted marriages are worse than divorce and that it is in the best interests of children to end troubled marriages. Significantly, it shows that children in intact two-parent homes present notably fewer mental-health problems than children in single parent or blended families, even if the marital relationship is poor" (Arndt 1995 citing Zubrick & Silburn 1994).

More recent national data indicates the proportion of children with mental health problems––including behavioural, affective (mood), and attention deficit disorders––is lowest in intact families. The highest proportion of children with problems occurs in single parent households, but boys are most likely to suffer from mental health problems in step/blended households (Sawyer et al 2000).


Arndt B (Tuesday, 3 August 1995). The Changing Face of Keating’s Family Values: The Evidence Suggests A Good Divorce Is Not Better For Children Than A Bad Marriage. The Australian, p 13


Guidabaldi J., & Perry J. D (1985). Divorce and Mental Health Sequelae for Children: A Two-Year Follow-up of a Nationwide Sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry 24:531-537.


Allison P. D., & Furstenberg F. F (1989). How Marital Dissolution Affects Children: Variation by Age and Sex. Developmental Psychology 25:540-549.


Amato P. R., & Keith B (1991b). Parental Divorce and the Well-Being of Children: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin 110:26-46.

Crocket M., & Tripp J (February 1994). Children Living In Re-Ordered Families. Social Policy Research Findings No 45, John Rowntree Foundation, Exeter University

Zubrick S. R., & Silburn S (1994). Western Australian Child Health Survey. Western Australian Institute For Child Health Research, Perth, Western Australia

Sawyer et al (2000). The Mental Health of Young People In Australia. Mental Health and Special Programs Branch, Department of Health and Aged Care: Canberra

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