For the sake of their children, a new study has suggested, parents should opt out of a bad marriage.
In marriages with a lot of conflict, 'staying together for the kids' does more harm than good, say researchers.
Their study showed that children of parents who fight a lot yet stay married experience more conflict in their own adult relationships than children of parents who fight and do get a divorce.
"The basic implication is, 'Don't stay together for the sake of the children if you're in a high conflict marriage,'" Live Science quoted study researcher Constance Gager, of Montclair State University in New Jersey, as saying.
For the study, Gager and her colleagues analyzed the results of a national survey involving nearly 7,000 married couples and their children in the United States.
The researchers found that children who grew up in high conflict families fared better in their adult relationships if their parents got a divorce.
The results held even after the researchers took into account other factors that could have influenced the children's relationships when they were older, such as the whether the participants acted out as a children or had trouble getting along with others.
That isn't to say divorce doesn't affect children in the short-term, the researchers said.
"There is research to show in the short-term, kids go through a one- to two-year crisis period when their parents divorce, but that they are resilient, and they come back from that divorce," Gager said.
Gager said that constant exposure to their parents' strife is likely what causes children's future relationships to suffer.
"If they're constantly exposed to conflict, and the parents stay together, that means there's many more years they're exposed to conflict by their parents. Whereas if their parents get divorced, at least there's a chance the parents will have less conflict after the divorce," Gager said.
The study was presented last year at the Annual Meetings of the Population Association of America.