Children's learning and their ability to make friends can be harmed permanently by parental divorce, a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered.

The report found that children whose parents divorce suffer from anxiety and loneliness and fall behind their peers academically.

The five-year study followed 3,585 school children from the age of four. It found that although children showed no negative emotional effects before their parents split, children suffered a range of problems that persisted once divorce proceedings were announced.

The findings, published in the American Sociological Review, add to increasing data showing that children suffer badly from parental break up.

Lead researcher Hyun Sik Kim said: "Children of divorce experience setbacks in maths test scores and show problems with interpersonal skills and internalising behaviour.

"They are more prone to feelings of anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem and sadness.

"My original prediction was that children of divorce would experience negative impacts even before formal divorce processes began. But the study finds this is not the case."

Posted by Robert Mair on 6.6.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com