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The Social Effects of Divorce

Updated on March 19, 2018
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Sharilee Swaity writes on family and marriage issues on her blog, Second Chance Love. She has written a book on the topic of remarriage.

Social Effects of Divorce

The decision to divorce is a never an easy one and the repercussions are long-term. The decision to separate on a permanent basis has far-reaching consequences.This article discusses some of the social effects of divorce. Social effects refer to effects on an individual's life, relationships, place in society and sense of self.

I will organize these effects into three categories:

  1. Effects on the individuals
  2. Effects on the children
  3. Effects on friends and family

This list is by no means exhaustive but it is an overview of how divorce may affect the individuals separating, the children from the union, and close friends and family members. In some cases, these effects can be either positive or negative, depending on the circumstances and the reasons for the divorce.

Social Effects On The Individual

Effects on Reputation

The person who is divorcing goes from married to single, which has several social repercussions. To examine the social effects of divorce, let's briefly examine what the effects of marriage are, and then how these realities change.

  • A couple is a unit of society, identified as a whole, and not just as two individuals. Being known as a couple means that whatever is done between the two of them counts for both of them, even if done by only one of them. This is symbolized by the decision of many couples to adopt the same name, and go by "Mr. and Mrs."

    For example, a man may earn an excellent income and the woman may not. They are known by society as "having money," even though she is not directly earning it.

    When a divorce occurs, this identification changes, for better or worse. The two must now stand on their own merits.
  • As a couple, to say something about one of the couple means that both are directly effected. Their reputation is tied together. This can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances. For example, if a person has been dishonest in business, and gained a bad name, the former spouse will no longer feel that stigma.

Address Changes

Our social status is often affected by a divorce.
Our social status is often affected by a divorce. | Source

Effects on Status

  • As well, they both are known to live at a certain address, in a certain neighbourhood. Whatever social status, high or low, is associated with a particular neighborhood, applies to them as a couple. When the break occurs, the two people are no longer associated as "the couple from ..." but rather, their paths go in different directions and they live at a different address. In many cases, the incomes they make separately will be less than their combined assets and their living situation will be downgraded, but there are exceptions, depending on the situation.
  • .Finally, as a couple, they are also, by law, joined financially. The government requires that they file taxes together and they can own a house, a car and othe financial assets together. After a divorce, all assets and finances are split. In many cases, the financial situation will be worse off, although there are some notable exceptions, a person in the divorce will come out more well off.

Social Occasions Change

After a divorce, holiday traditions such as Christmas cards, change.
After a divorce, holiday traditions such as Christmas cards, change. | Source

Effects on Social Life

  • When two people are married, they often have common affiliations and join groups in common, whether it be a church or a golf club. Sometimes they are given a "couple rate" and will know many of the same people together. When the relationship ends, these affiliations are changed. First of all, they must now be individual members. Because they may no longer wish to see each other, often one or both of the people will end some of the association, in order to avoid an awkward situation. As well, because of address changes, local groups may not be accessible.
  • And when they are involved in social interactions, it is often as a couple. They are invited to parities together, sent Christmas cards together and sometimes given presents together. After the divorce, these joint gestures change. For example, a former wife may no longer receive invitations for parties of her former husband's friends. Choices are often made between one partner or the other.

    In some cases, this can be seen as a positive thing, if these friends were not particularly close or liked, but merely tolerated.

Changes To Every Day Life

Divorce means that the other person is no longer there to share every day life.
Divorce means that the other person is no longer there to share every day life. | Source

Effects on Personal Life

  • On a personal basis, the couple has another person there, in the home. This is regardless of how they get along. If there is another person there, they are seen and there is an opportunity for someone else to contribute to their everyday life. Chores are usually shared and contact is a regular thing. All of the everyday moments in life are no longer shared.
  • The isolation from losing this relationship can be a very lonely experience for the persons going through the experience and may lead to depression, addictive behaviour or unwise decisions. There are often feelings of rejection and uncertainty, especially for the partner who did not initiate the separation. If the decision to split was unexpected, the person may also experience confusion and a lack of reality.
  • In some cases, if the marriage itself was harmful, the reprieve from contact with the ex-partner may be a relief. If there was philandering, the pain of that will be lessened. If the ex was addictive, the separated partner will no longer be subjected to the destructive behaviour patterns of their husband or wife. And if one of the partners was being abused in any manner, the lack of contact will often allow room for healing and restoration.

Effects on the Children

The social effects on children are perhaps even greater because the parent-child relationship is primary and permanent, lasting the entire life of the child. Even after the divorcing spouses have moved on to new lives, the children's lives have been irrevocably altered. What are the social effects of divorce on children? Here are some of the most important:

  • The children don't get to see their parents every day. They only see one of them and they are usually forced to go from one home to another on a regular basis. This often means there is a loss of stability. New routines must be adopted, as the nuclear family is broken up.
  • Parent alienation is another possible consequence of a divorce. If the parents communicate negative feelings about the ex-spouse to their child, the child will feel torn and in some cases, be alienated from their mom or their dad.
  • Children often lose full time access to their father or less commonly, to their mother. This means that they grow up with less of the influence of the non-custodial parent in their life. For better or for worse, their lives will be more closely aligned with the parent whom they stay with more often.
  • Because of the unexpected changes to their lives, children do react in a myriad of ways, including depression, withdrawal, academic problems and anti-social behaviour.
  • Both parents both lose their "married" status which means they may start to date and expose their children to another person besides their parent. The children are then forced to deal with that other person in their lives, that is not their parent. This means adjustment on the part of all parities concerned.
  • The children must sometimes deal with the "name issue" if their mom decides to go back to her maiden name, or remarry. The child is either forced to change their name, or have a name that is different than their mother.

This list is by no means complete, but it is an overview of some commonly effects of divorce on children. For more information about the long-term effects of divorce on children and partners, you may be interested in a longitudinal study conducted by Judi Wallerstein called The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A Twenty-Five Landmark Study. A more recent study called The Effects of Divorce on Children, was conducted by the Family Research Council, looks at the most recent data and gives the most recent observations.

Relationships with Friends Change

After divorce, relationships with friends change.
After divorce, relationships with friends change. | Source

Effects on Friends and Family

  • The rest of the family must deal with losing the partner of their child or other relative. In many cases, the son-in-law or daughter-in-law have become a son or daughter to the partner and this loss is devastating. In other cases, the relationship with the in-laws was not good, and it may be seen as a good thing.
  • The friends of the couple often feel like they have to choose one or the other of the couple because it is awkward for them to see or associate with persons of the couple. If the relationships with partners are maintained, scheduling changes as they must make separate time for each person of the former couple.
  • Friends of the couple lose access to things that they used to enjoy together. For example, if a couple used to go to the cabin with their friends together in the summer, this habit will likely change, and this means a change in the lifestyle of the friends.
  • Whenever there are life events happen, care must be taken about invitations, sometimes choices must be made. If both parties are invited to an event, such as a wedding, consideration must be given to how to make the situation least awkward. If there is open animosity, the hosts may feel discomfort at the possibility of an outburst from an aggrieved ex-partner.

© 2012 Sharilee Swaity


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    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      5 years ago from Canada

      @Thief12, that is so good that your mother was able to compensate so well for some of the possible effects of the divorce. She sounds like a wonderful lady, and was great at shielding her children. Thank you so much for the comment, and taking the time to read the article. Take care!

    • Thief12 profile image

      Carlo Giovannetti 

      6 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Coming from divorced parents, I definitely understand a lot of the things mentioned here. I'm the youngest of four male children, and fortunately, we've all turned out relatively well, thanks to an excellent mother who took it on her to raise us all by herself, and did a spectacular job. But still, the effects of divorce are there. I can't imagine how it might be for children that don't have the foundation that we had in our mother and grandparents. Great hub.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      @Ebonny, thank you for your comment. You are so right -- it truly is a life-changing decision. Take care.

    • Ebonny profile image


      7 years ago from UK

      Very important to consider both the up and the down side when making such a life changing decision. Voted up and sharing.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Cathy, I am glad that you can confirm that the information is correct. It is such a huge decision, and you are right that it is good for people to know what they are getting into.

      Thanks so much for the comment. I value your honest feedback. Take care.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

      Ms. Immortal 

      7 years ago from NJ

      I am going through a divorce (for two years now) I can tell you, your information is very accurate. It is important for a couple to know what they are getting into before making such a life changing decision.

      I am glad I am getting divorced and would do it all over again.

      Reading information like yours would have helped prepare me better.


    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Coffee, when the kids are older, they are often allowed to decide but when they are little, they need both parents, and the courts recognize this, but it's so hard, like you say, to be pulled apart. Thanks so much for the comment!

    • coffeegginmyrice profile image

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

      7 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      In my opinion, the children shouldn't be forced to go from one home or another so the situation would not add more harshness to their coping with adjustment. I think it is better for the kids to decide where they want to spend there time to (dad or mom). For older teens (high school) who can think for themselves and those in their 20's especially if they are still living under their parent(s) roof, wouldn't like to be told or forced how and when to spend their time with either one of their separated parents. They are old enough to fight back with you and would just make matters difficult. The parents should take that into consideration and give the children the freedom to when they would visit or spend nights with either mom or dad.

      Useful hub! Cheers!

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Sarah, thank you for your kind words. Yes, it does affect people in many different ways, and hopefully, healing will take place in time. Have a wonderful day, and thanks for coming by!

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Rajan, I completely agree. It is hard on the children for the rest of their lives. Thank you so much for your comment and support. Take care!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      7 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      A divorce affects everyone associated with the couple but the children are the most affected. It should be resorted to as a last resort when all avenues have been tried.

      Great hub with a lot of useful and interesting insights.

      Voted up, useful and shared on G+1.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Toknow, thank you! You are so right. It is a very difficult thing for anyone to go through. Have a wonderful evening.

    • toknowinfo profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a very good hub. Divorce is not easy for everyone involved, but you give a lot of wise advice.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Teaches, I am sorry to hear about your friends. And I completely agree. Marriage is such a huge decision that it really has to be thought out. Thanks for coming by and commenting. Have a wonderful day!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      I have had several friends experience this in the past five years. It is never pleasant and the children suffer from the process. Wish this was not a something that people would ever decide to do, but being better informed prior to marriage sometimes helps people to commit for life.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      @Angela, I appreciate your comments. It is a difficult subject for all involved. Take care.

      @Aethe, wow, that is interesting. You are so right -- bitterness can really come from the devastating loss of a marriage and it sounds like you experienced first hand. Thank you for sharing.

    • aethelthryth profile image


      7 years ago from American Southwest

      I did not have a strong opinion on divorce until I worked for a couple years in an office with 7 others, and I was the only one who had never been married and also the only one who had never been divorced. There was so much bitterness in the lives of the others. I would rather have been my great-uncle than any of them - he had 50+ years of a bad marriage, but his life seemed happier than any of theirs.

      I was especially sorry for the daughter of one of them, whose father went on to marry twice more. This girl was closer to her ex-stepmother than to her father or the woman he was married to at that time. In other words, "family" did not have much meaning for her anymore.

      Then, shortly after I did get married, the "mom and pop" my new husband worked for divorced at the same time they were selling us the business. We felt like we suffered through that one right along with their children. We wondered if the one who wanted the divorce in that case could possibly be under the impression that it was just a matter between the two of them!

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      7 years ago from Central Texas

      Excellent Hub on a most difficult topic -- eloquently and tastefully done. Best/Sis

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Kissayer, thank you so much. It is a very personal topic and very painful for so many people. Take care.

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Excellent hub for such a personal topic! Well done :)

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Billy, I hear you. It is quite an ordeal to go through. Thanks so much for your kind words and you have a great day!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Been there, done that, and I have to say your article is right on in all aspects. Great to have you writing again; thoroughly enjoyed this insightful hub.


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