Let’s talk about a tough topic: Divorce. There’s a lot of research that shows that, compared to living in an unhappy home, kids are better off if their parents split. But other studies shows that children whose parents divorce are more likely to get expelled from school, become unwed mothers, and have lower-paying jobs as adults.

Now, there’s a new study that could clarify the issue.  University of Wisconsin researchers followed a group of children from the time they entered kindergarten until the eighth grade. They looked at the children’s reading and math scores, as well as reports from their teachers on social skills and behavior problems. Because the study covered so many years, researchers were able to compare the performance of many kids pre-divorce, during the divorce, and post-divorce.

Study researchers expected a pre-divorce dip in the scores because of the increased tension at home - but that wasn't the case. The trouble didn’t actually appear until divorce proceedings began. And reading and math scores continued to decline for a period of 2 years after the divorce. Younger children also showed more symptoms of anxiety and depression after the divorce.

So, what’s this mean to you?

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether or not you should end your marriage. But the study does show that if you do decide to split, do it as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Then, both you and your spouse need to pay close attention to your children to watch for any signs of academic or social problems – even long after your divorce is finalized.