Most parents put their kids ahead of their spouse, focusing all their energy and intention on raising their children, rather than on more ‘selfish’ pursuits like date nights or intimacy. However, a new study shows that parents who fail to protect and maintain their marriage could be doing harm to their children’s mental well-being and scholastic outcomes.
A new study led by researchers at the University of Michigan and McGill University in Quebec has found that parents who are happily married are more likely to have children who stay in school longer and marry later in life.
Researchers began the study by asking married parents how much they loved each, “very much,” “some,” “a little,” or “not at all,” and then recorded their answers. For the next 12 years, they followed the children of these couples to see how they fared in school as well as to study their own relationship choices.
The researchers found that when parents reported loving each other “some” or “very much,” their children were likely to stay in school longer and to delay marriage until later in life, as opposed to getting married young or ending their education early.
This lines up with my own decades of experience working with parents.
I have seen so many clients over the years who are afraid to prioritize their own needs or their marriage. They want their children to come first, which is noble, but they don’t realize that they’re actually putting their children at greater risk when they fail to first safeguard their family unit.
But what does this mean for the millions of parents who ultimately decide to end their marriage? Well, divorce doesn’t spell disaster for children, but staying in an unhappy marriage can.
As you can see in this study, parents who reported loving each other very little were more likely to have children who quit school early or married young. And previous research has shown that children of divorced parents fare better than children with parents who are in a constant state of marital discord.”
Of course, avoiding divorce is the goal, which is why I urge parents to not be afraid to put their marriage ahead of their kids.
It may seem like you are doing your kids a disservice when you leave them with the babysitter, especially if they’re begging you to stay home. But your kids will benefit from seeing you in a happy marriage, as well as from seeing you model healthy self-care and relationship behavior.