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New evidence shows wealthier children react hardest to divorce

The wealthier you are and the more apparently stable your family life seems prior to your divorce, the harder your children may take it when the divorce finally comes.

That's the new information from a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study that focused on the academic successes and failures of children following divorce. While children from lower-income families where money stress and parental conflict were obvious tended to have no significantly different outcomes academically than their peers from nondivorced homes, the children of wealthier families demonstrated the toll of divorce by having lower rates of graduation in both high school and college. They were 6 percent more likely to fail to graduate high school than their peers in the same socioeconomic bracket and 15 percent more likely not to finish a higher degree in a college or university.

This isn't the first study that says that children of wealth and privilege tend to take divorce harder than children with family units that struggle financially and are clearly on rocky ground. Among previous studies, one published by researchers from Georgetown University and the University of Chicago found that wealthy kids tend to have more behavioral problems following divorce than poorer kids.

In that study, the researchers theorized that the results had a lot to do with the fact that the father in the wealthier families tended to be the primary wage-earner. With his departure, the children were often forced to adjust to less income (even though the father paid support). Children often had to change schools and move homes -- which may have caused additional stress for those children. Children from lower-income families may be more used to occasional disruptions in lifestyle and moves, so they perceive the changes as somewhat predictable.

What can wealthy parents take from this information? Well, it may help to work harder to "normalize" the idea of a divorce if you know it is coming, along with any other changes. Don't make promises you can't keep about staying in the same house and school and give the kids plenty of time to adjust before the changes happen whenever possible.

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