Impact of Divorce on Children

Many studies conclude that there is an impact of divorce on children. The impact varies from child to child and from situation to situation. The age of the child and the gender affects the impact too.

Child personality

Each child is different. Some children cope well with a divorce. Others experience a lot of difficulties. One child in the family can react completely different from another. Some children are not very sensitive to stressful situations. They cope well with it. Others are much more affected. They withdraw or they start to act differently. If a child drastically changes his behaviour over a longer period of time, parents might consider professional help.

The situation

The impact of divorce on children depends on the situation before the divorce, during the divorce and after the divorce.

If parents fight a lot before the divorce, children will understand better why their parents file for divorce. Especially if there is physical fighting involved with violence and the children are aware of it, the children will recognise that this situation cannot continue. There is a big possibility that the divorce comes as a relief to the children.

For some children the message of the divorce comes completely unexpected. For them it seemed as if their parents lived in good harmony. They do not understand why their parents divorce. In these situations, it is even more important to explain the reasons for divorcing to the children very clearly. To avoid children start blaming themselves for the divorce, the parents should make it very clear to their children that the children did not cause the divorce. In this situation, especially the younger children keep thinking their parents will reunite after a while.

The age of the child

The impact of divorce on children is dependent on the age of the child:

  • Infants - may change sleeping and eating habits, may get diarrea or constipation, may seem fretful, anxious, fearful
  • Todlers - same as infants, may return to baby-behavior, being angy, may worry about other separations
  • Pre school children - may still not understand it, feel sorrow, might have good and bad dreams, blame themselves and others
  • Elementary school children - understand divorce, may feel deception and loss, may be depressed, may become very angry
  • Adolescents - may become very angry or depressed, may feel betrayed by their parents, may have a reduced self-esteem, may connect more with one of the parents, may improve his behavior in the hope that will undo the separation

The impact of gender

The impact of divorce on young girls tends to be different than on young boys. Girls tend to surpress their emotions and their feelings. Boys deal with it in a more direct way by letting their emotions flow. They express their emotions to their social environment.

With girls, the emotions stay asleep until they are around the age of 20. The feelings of anxiety, fear, anger and guilt come to the surface just when they are about some important decision for the rest of their lives (Wallerstein's Sleeper Effect).

Information related to the impact of divorce on children can be found in the web site on the page Effects of Divorce-on-Children.html.

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