It has long been known that children whose parents split up have lower educational prospects than those whose parents stay together. But a new UCLA study found that divorce does not affect all children equally. Somewhat counterintuitively, the study suggests that divorce shortens the academic career of kids from stable families more than it does those from already struggling families.

“We found that parental divorce lowers the educational attainment of kids,” says Jennie E. Brand, professor of sociology and statistics at UCLA, and lead author of the study, “but only among those for whom the divorce was unlikely. We interpret this to mean that the divorce was unexpected, and as such, more disruptive.”

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