by Rachel Rettner
updated 7/1/2010 12:33:34 PM ET
In marriages with a lot of conflict, "staying together for the kids" might do more harm than good, a new study suggests.
Children of parents who fight a lot yet stay married experience more conflict in their own adult relationships than children of parents who fight and do get a divorce.
"The basic implication is, 'Don't stay together for the sake of the children if you're in a high conflict marriage,'" said study researcher Constance Gager, of Montclair State University in New Jersey.
"There is research to show in the short-term, kids go through a one- to two-year crisis period when their parents divorce, but that they are resilient, and they come back from that divorce," Gager said.
Constant exposure to their parents' strife is likely what causes children's future relationships to suffer, the researchers say.
"If they're constantly exposed to conflict, and the parents stay together, that means there's many more years they're exposed to conflict by their parents," Gager told LiveScience. "Whereas if their parents get divorced, at least there's a chance the parents will have less conflict after the divorce," she said.
In contrast, parents' happiness did not appear to affect the children's adult relationships — children of happily married parentsdid not necessarily grow up to have happy partnerships themselves.