10 January 2008 Adolescence And Divorce Make For Distant Dads
The typical distancing from parents by adolescents is exacerbated by divorce for fathers, but not for mothers, say researchers from Penn State in the Journal of Marriage and Family. "Historically, teens distance themselves from parents and increase involvement with peers," says study co-author Dr. Alan Booth. "Coupled with divorce, this distancing may result in further declines in father-child closeness."
Fathers, who often are the less involved parent before divorce, would have to increase their investment in the relationship just to maintain pre-divorce levels of closeness, which the vast majority of fathers do not do, according to the study. "Therefore, fathers are at a disadvantage in closeness to start, and then divorce makes it even more challenging to be close," says Dr. Booth.
Prior to divorce, 71 percent of youth reported being very close to their mothers, while 57 percent reported being very close to their fathers. The teens' withdrawal from fathers was much more severe among those youths with divorced parents (56 percent) than among those with non-divorced parents (28 percent), the study reports. The proportion of youths who reported a consistently close relationship with their father was much higher among those with still-married parents (48 percent) than among those with divorced parents (25 percent).
Interestingly, there was no significant difference in the change in closeness to mothers reported by youths in either group. "Those teens who maintained a close relationship with their father had a stronger mother-child bond and a greater sense of well-being, defined as feelings about relationship qualities and perception's of their own qualities and abilities," Dr. Booth notes.