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Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children

Updated on April 3, 2018

How Divorce Affect Children

In some cases one of the parents slams the door and he/she is gone. As any thinking person can imagine, it is horribly difficult for a child who had no premonition or any preparation. Children don't understand this. Most times, they start sobbing, not believing that his parents would no longer live together. Today, separation, lone parents, remarriages, and the ensuing step-parents and siblings - the after-effects of divorce are now part of the fabric of 'normal' family life.

A loving parent considering divorce should be concerned how his/her divorce will affect the kids. Will their grades slip? Will they hate me for putting them through this mess? Is this going to scare them off marriage and commitment to a partner for the rest of their lives? It is truly awful watching how so many children are treated as objects by divorcing parents. Each parent in most situations contributed some pretty extreme attitudes to circumstances leading up to the divorce and the actual separation. The false belief that's pretty pervasive is that “I'm the best parent because I'm the good person” and without looking within at what you’ve done to contribute to the problem is deceitful.

How your children are affected by divorce is a question you should put into consideration before embarking on it. No matter how you go about it, divorce is traumatic. A divorce is painful, regardless of your specific circumstances. If there’s still a chance that you can sort out your marital problems, then take action now. Don’t leave it to chance –fight for it. Invest a lot of energy into making sure that you’ve done everything possible to make the marriage work.

Many say that you do not divorce your children but the sad fact is that in most cases they are adversely affected by it. It's therefore particularly important to understand its effects on children. Nothing is the same in their lives ever again. They would naturally want both parents to continue to live together happily.

In early life, every child is trying to answer the question of “who am I?” And they get the answer from contact with both sides of their family, because one of the chief roles of parenting is to teach children values. So in making the decision to split as parents you really do need to consider how divorce can affect your children. Whilst adults may recover and move on to a new relationship, the effects of divorce on children can be more long term because unless they have witnessed violence, abuse or destructive rows, the children believe that their family is happy.

It has been proven that children in a high-conflict marriage situation generally are better off if their parents decide to divorce compared to children whose parents stay married, while children in low-conflict marriage situations, however, generally do worse when their parents’ divorce.

Whatever your children's age, even adult children are affected. The impact of a divorce can be one of the most life-changing and distressing things that will happen to a child. Divorce is almost always stressful for children.

Divorce also can strain parent-child relationships, lead to lost contact with one parent, create economic hardships, and increase conflict between parents. For all these reasons, most children have a hard time during the divorce transition. How long the transition lasts depends upon on how calm or how chaotic the divorcing couple makes it.

Children do cope and many certainly flourish after divorce but they need to see both parents openly expressing their love for them and reassuring them they will be safe, loved and cared for. So it is better, the best plan is that frequent and continuous contact with both parents. The best parent is both parents. This requires patient instruction and explaining values to them over and over again as they are growing up. This is even more important as they reach adolescence and start to form their own relationships. The importance of living by that value must be explained. Children are very susceptible to the lessons they receive from the important people in their lives as they are growing up. Parents who do a good job managing the stresses of divorce for children often are surprised by how quickly their kids make the adjustment.

Divorce clearly increases the risk that children will suffer from psychological and behavioral problems. There's overwhelming statistics that children who don't have a father in their lives do not turn out well. Troubled children are particularly likely to develop problems with anger, disobedience, and rule violations. Statistically children of divorced parents are susceptible to premature pregnancy or adolescent pregnancy, crime, drugs, dropping out of school, all manner of adjustment problems, psychological adjustment problems.

Divorce generally puts children at greater risk for many kinds of problems. School grades achievement also can suffer. Other children become sad for prolonged periods of time. They may become depressed, anxious, or become perhaps overly responsible kids who end up caring for their parents instead of getting cared for by them. The children who have the good fortune of having the guidance of a father turn out better overall. However, some children from divorced families are resilient, especially when their parents do a reasonably good job managing the stress of divorce.


Divorce and its consequences can be devastating but the way you conduct yourself and the way you handle your divorce can have very damaging effects for many years to come for all concerned, especially the children. I believe that parents should keep court out of the decision of their family if it is possible. The judge does not love you or your children. Brian Tracy wrote, “Our courts are clogged with thousands of people demanding redress and payment for something that went wrong in their lives. Backed up by ambitious plaintiff lawyers, people go to court demanding compensation, even if they themselves are completely at fault for what happened –especially if they are at fault.”

The judge will listen to the evidence and take a decision that might not be right. And it's a very expensive process, not just financially, emotionally. And as an unfortunate result is that one parent thinks that he/she is the best parent and therefore tries to keep the other parent from seeing the children. This usually causes a serious problem because the child really needs two parents. Most children do not want their parents to separate. The extent of the trauma inflicted on your children can be reduced by behaving with dignity towards your spouse. If you both co-operate regarding the children, and in the areas of legalities and finances, which also affect them, the emotional stress may be reduced for all concerned. And also there's a presumption of constant care where the child has had constant care with this one parent and the other one wants to come in and have parenting rights and parenting time with their child. Courts need to be reserved for the worst case scenario where there is no way to handle a case without it.


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    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 3 years ago

      "It has been proven that children in a high-conflict marriage situation generally are better off if their parents decide to divorce compared to children whose parents stay married," - Very true!

      Having been a child of divorce myself at age 7 I can tell you it was the best decision my parents made! Me and my brothers turned out fine.

      I believe the children who are most hurt by divorce are those who (believed) their parents were "in love" or never saw them fight. They are shocked! One day out of the blue they come home from school and are told:

      "Daddy is moving out". or worse: (He's already gone).

      Those of us who witnessed parents having loud arguments, doors slamming, cursing, threats of violence or worse are grateful divorce exists! Toxic households aren't healthy for children.

      "A child would rather be (from) a broken home than live in one."

      - Dr. Phil