Divorce does more damage to kids than parents like to think.

That’s the conclusion of a British survey done by the online site Netmums. The site surveyed 1,000 divorced parents and about 100 of their children and got wildly varying results. More than 75 percent of the mothers said their kids had coped well with the divorce; only 18 percent of the children who were surveyed said they were happy with their parents’ divorce.

One in 20 of the kids were using alcohol; one in nine had self-harmed, and one in six had thought about suicide. Only 1 percent of the parents had any idea that their kids were drinking, were suicidal or had hurt themselves. A third of the children, who were between the ages of 8 and 18, described themselves as “devastated” by their parents’ divorce. Nearly 40 percent of them hid their feelings from their parents. Of the divorced parents, only 10 percent acknowledged that their kids had seen them fighting, but 35 percent of the children said they had seen their parents arguing.

This survey has appeared in most of the British newspapers this weekend and the self-defensive comments on newspaper comment forums are interesting. Undoubtedly, it simply hurts too much for these parents to realize how much they have hurt their children. Like the U.S., the United Kingdom is a country where there are many divorced and never married couples. It is the conventional wisdom that kids are better off with divorced parents than they are living in a home where the adults are fighting all the time, even though many recent studies would suggest this is probably not actually the case. Unless the parents are actively abusive to each other, kids probably fare better when their parents stay together “for the sake of the children” even if the parents are no longer entirely happy together.

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