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University Students Normally Unscathed by Parental Divorce

A new study of university students has found that they normally emerge unaffected from the recent divorce of their parents, University of Warwick researchers have reported. 

The researchers, economists at the University of Warwick, designed an experiment in which both the productivity and happiness levels of 270 students were measured under controlled conditions.  After accounting for all other influences, the children of recently divorced couples performed the same, or if anything slightly better, on those measures than all other students. Some male students actually demonstrated  higher productivity levels following their parents’ divorce. 

The results are likely to reassure parents concerned about the impact of family break-up on University aged children.  In many developed countries, including the UK, approximately 50 per cent of people eventually divorce.

University of Warwick researcher Dr Eugenio Proto, one of the authors of the study, said “University students are much more resilient than has been presumed.  Although parents do worry about divorcing around the years that their children go to university, our tests suggests those children turn out to be just as happy as other students”. 

To avoid biasing their results, the first question the Warwick researchers asked of their laboratory subjects was how happy overall they felt with their life.  Then the researchers made the subjects do a paid productivity test.   After that, all the family details were recorded.

Dr Daniel Sgroi, another of the University of Warwick research team said:.

 “Given the large number of university students throughout the industrialized world who have recently divorced parents, our results can only be reassuring news for concerned parents and students alike.”

Note for Editors: The research paper,  entitled Are Happiness and Productivity Lower among University Students with Newly-Divorced Parents? An Experimental Approach has just been published as a discussion paper of the  Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn.  The paper  was written by Dr Eugenio Proto (University of Warwick) , Dr Daniel Sgroi (University of Warwick) and Professor Andrew Oswald  (University of Warwick and IZA)

For further information please contact:       

Dr Daniel Sgroi, Leverhulme Assistant Professor of Industry and Organisation
Department of Economics, University of Warwick
Tel: 02476 575557

Eugenio Proto, Associate Professor
Department of Economics, University of Warwick
Telephone: 024 76523484

Peter Dunn, Head of Communications, University of Warwick 
Tel: 024 76 523708 Mobile 07767 655860

PR16 PJD  18th February 2010