34 years on, I still bear the scars of my parents' divorce: New research shows children always suffer when marriages fail. Sadly all too true says Tanith Carey in this emotionally raw testimony
Even now, I can still remember the exact spot in my bedroom where my mother was standing as she announced she was divorcing my father.
My parents had been due to emigrate to Australia for a 'fresh start' after years of affairs, separations and recriminations.
I was ten so I still believed in 'happily-ever-afters'. I couldn't begin to comprehend the notion of a married couple splitting up — particularly my own parents. I told myself they would go on to reconcile and look after me in a sunny land full of koalas and kangaroos.
Family truths: Tanith Carey with her parents Lynne and Kim
A few weeks earlier, we had said goodbye to my father, Kim, at Heathrow. We'd been told he was to start a new job in advertising and that my mum, Lynne, and my younger sister, Tara, then three, and I would stay to finish the school term and then fly out to join him.
Looking back, I hadn't understood quite why my mother had sobbed so uncontrollably at the airport when we were to be joining Dad shortly.
Of course, the penny dropped that afternoon in my bedroom. I had been regaling Mum with the latest facts I had learned about our home-to-be when she briskly interrupted me.
Bracing herself, she delivered the words she must have been dreading: 'We're not going to Australia. We're staying in England. I am not going back to Daddy.'
She was standing with her back to a full-length mirror in my bedroom, in which I could also see my reflection. At that moment, I saw my face fall and my world disintegrate.
It is 34 years since that day — and the effects of that moment have shaped my whole life.
Today, that sense of abandonment as I realised that my father was 12,000 miles away — and wasn't coming back to get me — is as vivid as ever.
Although I am a happily married mother-of-two, I am hard-wired to expect happiness to be snatched away at any moment. It is engrained in me to believe that happy endings never really happen.
Back then, in 1977, I was the only child I knew at school whose parents didn't live together. Divorce was only just starting to feel like a fact of life, so little was known about the long-term effects.
Yet even now, when we know so much more, divorcing parents continue to make crashing errors.
I still hear the likes of Kate Winslet glibly pronouncing they will do everything they can to make sure their children 'don't suffer'.
Tanith Carey with husband Anthony and children Clio (left) and Lily
The actress said: 'There's no way that I'm going to allow my children to be f***** up because my marriages haven't worked out.'
But the truth is — as a study this week published in the journal Family Relations has found — this is never truly possible.
Researchers looked at broken homes where the parents still get on well, others where they co-operated and, thirdly, where there is very little, if any, contact.
Their discovery — based on the analysis of 1,000 families — was that children always suffer regardless of whether a split is amicable or not. And that comes as no surprise to me.
In my view, peddling the 'good divorce' myth does children no favours.
In so doing we are merely trying to assuage parental guilt by pretending that our offspring are eminently adaptable. When, in fact — assuming they have not suffered serious injury or abuse — divorce is likely to be the most catastrophic event of a child's life.
In fact, some studies on the long-term effects of divorce have found that the effects are far more stressful than bereavement.
When a parent or partner dies, they are gone. But when parents go their separate ways, children are left to deal with the on-going feelings of anger and abandonment; the confusion and disruption of new partners turning up on the scene; the pain of having to move aside for step and half-siblings.
The truth is, too, that divorced adults so often have the solace and excitement of new partners to fill the void. But for children, there are no such consolations.
Of course, the extent of the damage to a child depends on their character, age at the time, and peculiar sensitivities. Certainly my sister Tara, then three, seemed unfazed by our father's disappearance. But as the eldest child, I was old enough to feel the pain — but too young to understand or control my reactions to it.
Looking back, I now see I quickly sank into some form of depression. Before my father left, I had been conscientious to a fault at school, but that changed after the bombshell news.
I took to raising my hand in class to ask provocative questions such as: 'What's the point of learning this'. Within a matter of weeks, I had fallen from the top to the bottom of the class. The following term, I failed my exams.
Researchers looking at broken homes found children almost always suffer from the breakdown of their parents' relationship
And how did my mother react On top of everything she was going through, I felt as if my behaviour was inconvenient.
To be fair, her life was very tough. My father refused to pay maintenance so she'd had to find a job and life as a single mother in the Seventies was hard.
Meanwhile, my anger and resentment found other channels. I developed a barely disguised hatred for the nannies Mum hired to look after me.
Instead, I found I was happier being a classic latch-key child, letting myself in to the house after school and watching children's TV until she came home.
The aftershocks of the trauma kept coming well into my teens.
I was 12 when my mother met her second husband. It was an even harder blow to have the father I adored so far away replaced by a total stranger in my home.
For all the presents my stepfather brought me home from business trips, it was impossible not to feel 'in the way'.
To make matters worse, my world was turned upside down again when my mother, sister and I had to leave the only security I knew — my school in Surrey — to move to New York for my stepfather's work.
Deep down, like every child of a shattered union, I ended up wondering if it just wouldn't be easier if I weren't around. At 15, I fell on my sword and agreed to be sent to boarding school.
Looking back, there are no memories of happy family holidays. My school vacations were spent shuttling between my mother in the U.S. and my father in Australia.
Along the way, there were plenty of moments which would have even seemed overblown in Kramer v Kramer — the first film to really look at the effects of divorce on children.
I still remember how, after a 22-hour flight to visit my father in Australia, I was driven straight to the hospital to meet my newborn baby half-sister. I hadn't even been warned my step-mother was pregnant.
I see why my father didn't tell me. He knew I wouldn't have come if I'd known. But it still hurts to remember my 15-year-old self, desperately trying to mask my feelings of shock and betrayal, and look happy about it.
At university, my troublesome relationship with my father meant I based my self-worth on how many men I could add to my list of conquests, which I assiduously compiled in the back of my French dictionary.
But my fear of abandonment meant I never expected them to stay with me — a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the first time I did settle down, it was with a man who had the same unpredictable temper as my father.
He showed flashes of the same jealousy and controlling behaviour that my father had demonstrated towards my mother.
It took me ten years to realise that it couldn't possibly work and I was well on the way to repeating my parents' mistakes.
One day, I came home, stripped the house of my CD collection and photo albums and left a note. It was wrong, and I was sorry. But I defaulted to the only exit strategy I knew.
Certainly, it is only now, after 16 years with my husband, Anthony, whom I consciously sought out for his stable, calm and easy-going nature, that I realise how profoundly my own life was altered by my parents' divorce.
Sometimes I look at him and my lovely daughters Lily, ten, and Clio, six, I realise there is something in my upbringing that makes me feel as if my happiness is not deserved. It's as if my brain has been hard-wired into a state of anxiety and vigilance, so that I still find it hard to believe the worst is not just around the corner.
Ironically, looking back on that summer's day when my mother broke the news 34 years ago, I still believe what she did was right. No woman should stay in an abusive marriage just for the sake of their children. But as adults, we have to remember we are not the only casualties.
Our children are not as resilient as they look. They do not always 'bounce back' no matter how much we want to believe it.
Even if they are not fully-formed human beings, they deserve our consideration too — or else they will live with the life-long effects.
The loss of a home where there is both a mother and father who love you unconditionally is catastrophic for any child, no matter how unhappy that household was beforehand.
My father died several years before I had my own children, but I have a good relationship with my mother, albeit she is still based in the U.S.
If there is one thing I've learnt from all this, it's that offspring of divorced parents have to fight even harder for happiness.
We have to avoid falling into toxic relationships that mimic the mistakes our parents made.
Every step of the way, we have to combat feelings of rejection and uncertainty — and we are forever on our guard, desperate to avoid inflicting the same pain on our own children.