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Divorce is more than a legal proceeding; it is a social and financial change for divorcing parents that can impact the whole family, especially children.

Recently, researchers have begun to study the impact of divorce on children's mental health and future outcomes. While it's generally accepted by medical and behavioral experts that a majority of children do not suffer serious psychological and academic problems, studies reveal that some children do face difficulties after a divorce. One recent study revealed that a potential negative impact of divorce can be a child's academic performance in math.

Hyun Sik Kim, a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studied pre-divorce, post-divorce and during-divorce effects on children. Kim's research, which is the first long-term study of its kind, evaluated academic performance of children between ages 6 and 9. Using national data, Kim followed 142 children whose parents divorced between kindergarten and third grade. Comparing those children with more than 3,000 from intact families, Kim found that academic scores in math suffered after parents split and that on some occasions these children had a difficult time catching up with peers. However, reading scores remained unaffected by divorce.

Kim's study, which was published in the American Sociological Review, also confirmed that mental and social health of these young children can be negatively influenced by divorce. Children of the sampled age group can suffer from anxiety and depression for years after their parents split, as well as experience a general decline in social skills.

Kim attributes the disruption in social and educational development to children's experiences of instability in their home environments.

There is no single way to most beneficially care for children after a divorce. However, early intervention, such as family and individual counseling, or transition coaching, may help youngsters deal with their feelings and the change in their family. Communication and frequent reassurances from parent to child can also help a child deal with the transition.

Divorce, whether amicable or not, has a wide impact on the family. Custody, visitation and child support are only a few of the issues that may arise between divorcing parents. Those contemplating divorce should seek guidance from an experienced attorney who can help them navigate the divorce process and help to put the children into the best possible situation post-divorce.