Talk

Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Staying together for the sake of the kids- study shows it may actually *harm* your kids.

(42 Posts)
dizietsma Mon 15-Jun-09 10:16:21

Another reason to end it, if it's over. It's all fairly common sensical really- high conflict families create traumatised kids.

The effects are- a higher chance of mental illness, behavioural issues, binge drinking and drug abuse. Also lower grades at school. This is a study that compares "high-conflict" families with secure lone-parent families.

Guardian article

How do those of you who are staying together for the sake of the kids feel about this new information? Will it change your mind?

theDreadPirateRoberts Mon 15-Jun-09 10:20:25

Splendid article, splendid thread smile

makipuppy Mon 15-Jun-09 10:33:46

But it's not just either high conflict two parents or secure lone parent is it? Either situation could have or not have conflict.

dizietsma Mon 15-Jun-09 10:38:22

I dunno about that... Is it really possible to stay in a loveless relationship without more conflict than being single? I think people who believe that are fooling themselves TBH.

differentnameforthis Mon 15-Jun-09 10:51:19

I thought this was general knowledge
already.

I think you can have conflict in any relationship, whether happy or not, staying together for children or not.

Dh & I have had an awful year, lots of rows etc. Not always kept from the children, (5 & 1) although we tried. So will that conflict damage my children anymore the conflict of a 'for the children' couple? At least they know the outcome of their actions, so can try & keep things as amicable as possible.

A friend had a terrible upbringing with a single parent, physical & mental abuse. Always being shouted at.

I think it can be done, if both couples are commited 100% to make it work!

RealityIsMyOnlyDelusion Mon 15-Jun-09 11:01:08

Message withdrawn

dizietsma Mon 15-Jun-09 11:02:38

Of course you can have conflict in any couple.

The difference in this situation is that it is a long term commitment to staying together despite knowing that the relationship doesn't work, because you think it's in the children's best interests to stay together above all else.

Having a bad year in your relationship and arguing in front of the kids is pretty common, and in many ways is probably not a bad thing for your kids to see, providing that you work through it and resolve issues. Presumably if you were unable to resolve things after really trying, and it was clear the relationship was over, you would split to prevent further suffering in the family.

Yes, I'm sure it is possible to make such a situation work, I just don't think it particularly likely that the majority do. I think the majority of "for the sake of the kids" relationships probably are high conflict families, whether they realise it or not. It is very easy to normalise unhealthy and harmful relationship dynamics, particularly when you are essentially presenting a fiction of a relationship to everyone except yourselves.

Ethically, I think it is wholly wrong to lie to your children your relationship. What sort of role model are you at that point?

dizietsma Mon 15-Jun-09 11:06:35

Well, at least you parents were honest about it, Reality.

Although, doesn't it place a burden of responsibility for your parent's suffering on you if you know the only reason these two people who don't like each other are living as a married couple is "for you"? I think that's really unfair on the kids.

makipuppy Mon 15-Jun-09 11:17:57

I think you can argue (as I'm sure DP and I always will) but tell you children that you love each other, and them, and that it's not their fault and noone is going anywhere. I don't think that's going to ruin anyone's life. It's the feeling of responsibility that will do that for a child. Children can't understand adult relationships but they will be secure if you keep telling them you love them, surely?

But if a relationship is abusive, then that's another matter entirely.

I never heard my parents argue, I never heard my father speak to my mother with disrespect. As a result, I had dreadful relationships for ages because I didn't understand conflict and constantly tried to calm it without ever thinking there might be a rightful place for it. So perhaps they managed to fuck me up a bit anyway.

GooseyLoosey Mon 15-Jun-09 11:24:20

Don't think you can generalise, but would agree that it is not always the best thing for parents to stay together. It depends very much on the sort of relatiohship that the parents are capable of having. If there is still an element of mutual friendship and respect, it might well work well.

My parents separated when I was very young but then got back together for "my sake". They had an extremely damaging relationship and in no way was it in my interests growing up in the midst of that. They separated as soon as I left and seem much happier for it. Incidentally, my relationship with my father is difficult at best, but I think it would have been much better if they had stayed apart early on.

dizietsma Mon 15-Jun-09 11:55:36

I think you're right about emphasizing to kids that it's not their fault when you argue, makipuppy. Explaining that it's normal for people who love each other to sometimes get angry and argue is also important. Obviously telling, and demonstrating to your kids that you love them is also important to their emotional security.

All relationships have their difficult periods, but if your relationship is all difficult and no relaxed happiness then I think it's time to call it a day. Kids are acutely attuned to the emotional states of their families, if there is a lot of tension, it will affect their development.

If kids grow up with an amicable but loveless marriage as an example of how to have a relationship, I think that will damage their functioning in their own adult relationships. Mum and dad were "perfectly happy" and they didn't show affection to each other, had extra marital affairs etc so that's what I think a good marriage is. Unless they meet a person with a similar upbringing to marry, then that will cause heartbreak and problems later.

Emotional honesty is so important with your kids.

makipuppy Mon 15-Jun-09 12:02:19

I agree dizietsma.

Snorbs Mon 15-Jun-09 12:17:06

It's better to have come from a broken home than to live in one.

oneplusone Mon 15-Jun-09 20:41:24

My parents stayed together for the sake of me and my sisters. It was obvious they hated each other and because of their dysfunctional relationship, all the other relationships within the family were dysfunctional. ie between siblings and parent/child. The whole thing was a complete mess and I am sure it affected my performance at school, my relationships, my health. I wish they'd split up (or better still not got married in the first place.) I am still untangling the mess they left me in even though i haven't seen them for 3 years.

HolyGuacamole Mon 15-Jun-09 21:18:45

Agree dizietsma.

It depends on circumstances. My parents were both in a marriage they did not want to be in. There was never any conflict or arguments but there were other problems. Nothing was ever discussed and that for one is a major problem, brushing things under the carpet. I don't think I could even discuss personal things (even with friends) till I was well into my 20s, because I didn't know how to.

Also when two people don't want to be together for whatever reason and can't actually get the courage to do something about it, that is very, very damaging because as a child you know that things are wrong. Parents pretending to be happy but there is always this awareness of things not being right, an atmosphere. I also think sometimes that adults think that children do not notice these things, well they do. I have memories from about age 4 of things being weird in the house.

As an adult, I don't like the message that parents staying together for the children gives. It is a bit like saying "look, I am putting up with all of this unhappiness just for you". Also, maybe wrongly, I think that sometimes "for the children" is actually an excuse not to have to do anything to get out of the marriage. I mean it is hard enough to get the strength to get out of a marriage when there are no children so I guess I do understand it in a way but I don't think it is right.

By the way, I don't mean my post to be critical to anyone, it is just from my point of view and tiny bit of experience. If I had the choice, I'd have my parents divorced when I was 4 rather than when I was 16, without a doubt.

SolidGoldBrass Mon 15-Jun-09 21:28:34

Diestzma: but if your parents were happy as co-parents in an open relationship then that is a good relationship, just a not-particularly-conventional one.
I don't think that parents should stay together if they are unhappy, though: what this does teach children is that heteromonogamy is more important than anything else in the world, when it isn't: it;s much better to be single than stuck with someone who is abusive or simply doesn;t have any respect or consideration for you.

HolyGuacamole Mon 15-Jun-09 21:46:16

Yes, I agree solid.

Let me just make it clear that I am talking solely about people who are unhappy and don't or can't get out of their marriage or relationship, those who say "oh, I'll put up with this till the kids are old enough". You see so much of it on here and it's very sad.

ilovetochat Mon 15-Jun-09 21:58:29

my parents stayed together for me until i was 17, i wish they split years earlier.
they very rarely argued infront of me but the unsaid nastiness/looks/disinterest and total lack of affection had a terrible affect on me.
i felt guilty that they were both unhappy "for me".
i didnt realise what normal family was like till i met my first boyfriend at 17 and witnessed happy family life.
i went straight into a very controlling relationship to escape home.

it taught me to never live in misery and kids see everything!

YanknCock Mon 15-Jun-09 22:01:31

I've said exactly this on quite a few threads where people have asked 'should I stay together for the kids?'.

Mine stayed together despite dad's affairs, horrific screaming matches, household objects being hurled around, etc, etc. Dinner was always a tense affair where I played referee as I got older.

My mom used to say they wouldn't fight so much if I did/didn't do X. Fortunately, I knew it wasn't my fault, and when I left home, they carried on fighting.

They fought so much they barely noticed I was suicidally depressed, experimenting with alcohol/drugs, and working very much under my potential at school.

I felt cheated when they finally did divorce (I was in my late 20s). I do have an okay relationship with each of them individually now, but get incredibly annoyed when my dad gets nostalgic about their marriage. He's just pissed off about the circumstances around the divorce, doesn't seem to remember how bad things were! But I do.

lucykate Mon 15-Jun-09 22:04:27

my parents stayed together for the sake of the kids, it was hellish. when they finally did split, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

hester Mon 15-Jun-09 22:07:20

I haven't read the whole thread, but my understanding of the research was that it confirmed what previous research has shown: that what really damages children is parental conflict. If getting divorced will exacerbate parental conflict, that will hurt children. If getting divorced will reduce or resolve parental conflict, then it will probably benefit the children. Clearly, some parents who 'stay together for the children' manage to do so in a reasonably amicable way, and in those cases their children will definitely benefit from them doing so. If, however, they stay together and are always at each other's throats - and if they could split up and not spend the next decade with locked horns - then the children may be better off with them apart.

So you really can't generalise about whether divorce hurts kids more than staying in an unhappy marriage - it all depends.

SolidGoldBrass Mon 15-Jun-09 22:43:20

Parents who 'stay together' in that they continue to live in the same house but don't consider themselves a couple can give their DC a perfectly good and happy family life as long as the parents have a reasonable amount of fondness and respect for one another as co-parents. Parents who stay together to keep up appearances, or because one parent is so desperate not to be single that s/he will put up with any amount of crap (abuse, infidelity, theft of money, constant put-downs and being taken for granted) can mess up their DC badly.

makipuppy Tue 16-Jun-09 09:31:46

hester - great post.

dizietsma Tue 16-Jun-09 10:31:57

HolyGuacamole

"As an adult, I don't like the message that parents staying together for the children gives. It is a bit like saying "look, I am putting up with all of this unhappiness just for you"

Well absolutely. It would take parents with pretty awesome emotional intelligence not to take out their resentment on the kids at some point, a la YanknCock's parents- "My mom used to say they wouldn't fight so much if I did/didn't do X"", or for it not to place an unfair burden of responsibility for the parent's dysfunctional relationship on the kids, like ilovetochat's parents- "i felt guilty that they were both unhappy "for me""

"I think that sometimes "for the children" is actually an excuse not to have to do anything to get out of the marriage. I mean it is hard enough to get the strength to get out of a marriage when there are no children"

Yeah, I've often thought this. Living a lie is less scary than facing a major life change. Sometimes I think pride is involved too. Some people don't want to see like "failures" in their relationships. I don't think that if your relationship breaks down you are a failure, to be clear. I do think it's a failure of courage to live a lie rather than face the truth of a relationship breakdown though.

SGB
"but if your parents were happy as co-parents in an open relationship then that is a good relationship, just a not-particularly-conventional one."

I did think about this, but I think it's a very different situation. It's not emotionally dishonest, for one thing. The parents involved would be affectionate and loving to each other, as well as others outside their relationship. As opposed to a businesslike loveless marriage where the parents either forgo their emotional needs for affection and love, or find it elsewhere.

"what this does teach children is that heteromonogamy is more important than anything else in the world"

I'm bisexual (proper bi, not tittilation for my boyfriend bi) and am not a fan of the heteronormative pressures on society either. I think the "for the kids" families are an example of the damage these anachronistic ideas do.

"Parents who 'stay together' in that they continue to live in the same house but don't consider themselves a couple can give their DC a perfectly good and happy family life as long as the parents have a reasonable amount of fondness and respect for one another as co-parents."

That's not really "staying together for the sake of the kids" though, is it? It's co-parenting. If I understand correctly you are referring to families where both parents have emotionally seperated, possibly divorced etc but are sharing a house to facillitate raising their kids. There's no burden on the ex-couple to pretend they are still a couple, where as with "for the kids" couples there very much is.

hester

The difference is that when getting divorced the parents in the situation are given an opportunity to move on and find new happiness. As you mentioned, some do not seize this opportunity and spend years fighting each other, but most eventually move on, ending the conflict and therefore being better placed to provide an emotionally stable home for their kids. Happy parents make happy kids.

HolyGuacamole Tue 16-Jun-09 11:23:42

I think dizietsma has summed it up in the last sentence "happy parents make happy children". Whatever the circumstances, sexuality or relationship status, if parents can agree to live (together or separately) in a way that gives their children the best chance of seeing healthy adult interactions, then that is a great thing. The message of not putting up with unhealthy relationships is IMO extremely important. As is actually doing something about unhappiness, to show children that problems should be dealt with.

Maybe people who stay in unhappy situations for the children, have themselves as children experienced this? In my case, I've promised myself with utter determination that I will never end up like my parents, although that took two crap long term relationships, most of my 20s and a lot of emotional palaver to get to that point. Thank God I never married either of the ex's or I might just have found myself in the exact situation that my parents had. Who knows. I can only hope that when I have children, that I can make it different for them and let them enjoy being young instead of being weighed down emotionally.

This is a fantastic thread and very interesting to read the differing opinions.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now