Effects of Divorce on Children

Parents in seperation and divorce are very concerned about the effects of divorce on children. They wonder whether their decision will affect the happiness and health of their child. Reliable information about the effects on children is still being gathered and analyzed by sociologists and psychologists.

The divorce itself does not affect children in a negative way. The effects result more often from the feeling of uncertainty of what is going to happen after the divorce, from the level of conflict between the parents and from how the parenting after the divorce is done.

The consequences of a divorce for children are mostly that they have to move to a different home and sometimes to a different school and that they will not see and be with both their parents at the same time any more. In most of the cases, they will live with their mother and they will see their father much less.

To adjust to their new situation takes them 2 years or more.

The age of the children plays a role in how they react to the divorce. Effects of divorce on children under 9 years - the so called pre-schoolers - are that they tend to blame themselves for the divorce. They also dream about their parents getting back together again some day. That's wishful thinking.

Manage the effects of divorce on children

Manage the effects of divorce on children

For pre-schoolers, the family and especially their parents, is the center of their universe. They need a lot of attention, care, love and confirmation from them. As a result of the divorce, they might become even more dependent of their parents. Divorced parents report that after the divorce, their young children started bed watering again and that they could not or did not want to do simple tasks that they were able to before. Probably, this is their way of getting closer to their parents.

Adolescents (children between 9 and 13 years) react in the opposite direction. They tend to behave more independent. They feel betrayed by their divorced parents. Mistrust enters the relationship. They feel they have to take care of themselves, to take things in their own hands. Mum and dad are apparently putting their interest first.

Among boys, this materialises in more rebellious and agressive behavior. Girls have the tendency to become more anxious and withdrawn. Girls of divorce parents are sexually active at younger age.

Among effects of divorce on children are negative emotions like bitterness, stress, emotional pain, anxiety, fear, feeling abandoned, feeling betrayed and loss of self-esteem.

Judith Wallerstein concluded from her long term research project that the highest impact of divorce on children comes 15 to 25 years after the divorce, when the children enter into a serious romantic relationship. Not during their childhood, adolescence or young adult phase. They expect to fail and they fear loss, change and conflict.

Other know effects of divorce on children are adjustment and behavioral problems resulting from the divorced parents that are stress during longer periods and from interrupted routines. As a result, the children become more difficult to manage.

Children of divorce have problems to adjust to the new situation especially When their divorced parents keep on fighting. The bigger the conflict and the longer it lasts, the more the children seem to be affected.

The visiting parent can have positive or negative effects of divorce on children. If he or she is not paying attention to the child, but instead is fighting with the ex spouse, the child will not enjoy the visit at all. The visits must also be at a regular interval and at predictable times. This way, the children will get the feeling that the visiting parent takes the time and effort to visit them and that it is imporant for their visiting parent too. Finally, divorced parents should not try to find out via their children how their ex is living, what he or she is up to or to know about the new partner of their ex.

For additional reading, we warmly recommend your to read the book But What About Me?.

What is the story of your children during and after your divorce? What did you learn from it? What are your challenges? Share it!

The Positive News

Divorce and effects on children- The good news
Against common belief about the effects of divorce on children, most children are mentally strong and do not face negative consequences of the separation of their parents. The effects of the divorce is dependent of the type of the divorce: a civilized and sensible divorce, a divorce in which parents fight all the time or a separation due to abuse or violence. Read more in Divorce and Effects on Children.

Outcomes of Divorce on Children

Outcomes of Divorce on Children
During and short after the divorce, many children go through an emotional roller coaster. Emotions of fears, anger, bitterness, disappointment, guilt, betrayal and stress are followed by those like acceptance and relief. Fortunately for them, the negative feelings do fade away after time. In the early years of investigation - in the 70-ies - concluded that the outcomes of divorce on children was very negative. More recent research reveals a more positive result. Read more in the outcomes of divorce on children.

Negative Effects of Divorce on Children

Children Negative Effects of Divorce
Your children might display psychological and behavioral problems after your separation. Parents can play an important role in managing these negative effects of divorce on children. Especially during the first 2 years after the divorce, the children need much support from both their parents. An authoritative parenting style seems to reduce the negative effects of divorce on children.

Mastering Children and Divorce Audio Coaching Program
Special Audio Coaching Program
Mastering Child Centered Divorce

Long Term Effects of Divorce on Children

Mrs. Wallerstein has deeply investigated the long term effects of divorce on children during many years. She has followed children during a period of 25 years. She published her findings in 1991. Read the details.

Social and Emotional Development

For a solid emotional and social development of children, a strong attachment bond with their primary caretaker. The primary caretaker is the person that is around most of the time and who personally takes care of the young one. If a child is separated from his of her primary caretaker, the development process is seriously distrubed, resulting in emotional and social problems later in life. Learn more in Social and emotional development.

EYFS: Early Years Foundation Stage

The Early Years Foundation Stage is a UK law introduced in 2008. The EYFS imposes mandatory education targets for children below the age of compulsory education (the age of 5). Read more

How Does Divorce Affect Children?

When a married couple starts thinking about separation, the children are often their main concern. They want to know How Does Divorce Affect Children? This depends of many different factors, like age, gender and the size of the conflict. Continue reading.

Myths about the Effects of Divorce on Children

Some 40 years ago, Mrs. J. Wallerstein asked herself: what can be the effects of divorce on children? She started investigating and she wrote a book on the subject. Over a period of 25 years she studied a group of 131 children and their families going through the divorce process. Through her book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study, published in 2000, we now know that in fact divorce leaves children to struggle for a life-time with the effects of a decision their parents made.

Ms. Wallerstein is rather outspoken: “If the truth be told, and if we are able to face it, the history of divorce in our society is replete with unwarranted assumptions that adults have made about children simply because such assumptions are congenial to adult needs and wishes. The myths that continue to guide our divorce policies and politics today stem from these direct attitudes.”

Unfortunately it seems that adults have put their own needs and happiness before the happiness of the children justifying this by buying into the myth that children are resilient and that time heals all wounds. Let's look at these myths about the effects of divorce on children.

Myth 1: If the parents are happy, the children will be happy to

It will not be the first time that you hear someone marking the remark that if they divorce, they will be happier and therefor the children will become happier as well. A happy mom or dad means happy children.....

Unfortunately, this is just a projection of the parents feelings onto their children. By putting it in an objective way, for not having to feel responsible for causing the children emotional pain. Even if the parents are unhappy in their marriage, this does not automatically mean that the children are quite happy and maybe even do not care if mom and dad do not get along that well.

When confronted with divorce, the childrens live turns upside down. The process of divorce with all the change is already hard for the parents. Try to imagine what it must be like for children not even the age to understand the reasons and the situation. There is a negative effect of divorce on children.

Fact 1: A child's happiness is not dependent on their parent's happiness.

A child's happiness comes from daily routine, having a place called home, two parents, friends to play with, school activities to be involved in and counting this to be constant day in and day out.

Children of divorced parents often are more aggressive toward their parents and teachers. Depression, learning difficulties and problems getting along with their peers are often perceived. The impact of effects of divorce on children is negative. They more likely to be referred for psychological help, become earlier sexually active , are are more likely to produce children out of wedlock and they are three times as likely to divorce themselves or to never marry.

Myth 2: Less conflicts and disagreement, less trauma

True, conflicts and disagreements exacerbate the trauma. The other way around however is not that if parents get along fine, that there is no lasting negative effect of divorce on children. This causes a strong focus on the process rather than on the aftermath of the process.

Fact 2: Divorce cannot be considered an amicable process

With all the best will of the world, and how hard we may try, there will be bad feelings. The mayority of divorces are not unilateral, this means that both parents somehow will feel betrayed and hurt. These feelings will be felt and noticed by the children, even if we think we have concealed them so well.

It is naive to think that as long as the divorce process goes off without a problem, all is fine. There is a negative effect of divorce on children.

Ms. Wallerstein: “the parent's anger at the time of the breakup is not what matters most. Unless there was violence or abuse or high conflict, a child has dim memories of what transpired during this supposedly critical period.”

Researchers discovered that the most long-term negative effects were caused by the sadness resulting from the family breaking up, the difficulty to express their anger, not living with two parents under the family roof anymore and the forced visitation. Other negative feelings come from seeing how good things are for friends in normal families and from having less money in the broken family.

It is in the aftermath of divorce that most harm to the children is done. Therefore, focus on what is needed after the process and try to avoid as much emotional harm as possible.

Divorce Children and Conflict

The level of conflict in the parental relationship impacts the effects of divorce on children. Divorcing parents help their children by reducing or eliminating the maritial conflict. This article about the Divorce Children and Conflict explains what divorcing parents can do to manage their conflict and how.

Explaining Divorce to Children

The way you tell and explain your children about your separation impacts the effects of divorce on children. For tips and explanations, read the article Explaining Divorce to Children.

The Impact of Divorce on Children

Learn how to eliminate the impact of divorce on children with these 4 tips and both you parents will retain a close relationship with your children after the divorce: Impact of divorce on children.

Divorce Affects Children

Authoritative parenting seems to be the most effective way of parenting in most cases. Parents with such an authoritative parenting style provide a structure in the life of their children and they blend in enough flexibility for surprises and side steps and improvisation. The children are allowed to decide themselves, as long as they stay within the defined boundaries. In the end, the parents keep control over their lives. Hence, the parenting style plays an important role in how divorce affects children.

Conflict and Divorce Effects on Children

Conflict is bad for children of divorce. The worser the conflict, the more negative it is for the children. We find it necessary to explain the issues that arise from parental conflict. Children need supportive co-parenting. Parents must not fight but cooperate to meet the children's needs. The effects of conflict and escalation is explained in this article about the divorce effects on children.

Fear and Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety or fear are normal emotions that all of us have from time to time. It protects us from being harmed physically or emotionally. Psychologists speak of Anxiety Disorder is when fear is so present, that it takes over and the person can not function in a normal way any more. Anxiety Disorder is sometimes diagnosed in children of divorce and in those cases it is related to the separation of their parents. There are many people suffering from AD. It can be diagnosed and it can be treated. If you want to help your anxious child, check out The Anxiety-Free Child Program.

Anger Child Divorce

Angry children or angry parents often have negative effects of divorce on children. Anger prevents us from positive and contructive thinking and behaving. It depletes all our energy. If somebody is angry most of the time and it does not go away, it must be dealt with. Read how the divorce related anger can be controlled in Anger Child Divorce.

The Battered Women Syndrome

The Battered Women Syndrome is caused by long lasting domestic violence against a woman. The violence can be physical, mental or a combination of both. Women suffering from the Battered Women Syndrome are incapable to escape from their situation. As a result, these women harm their children because they are confronted with the violence every day. When the woman finally leave their abusing partner, the damage to the children has been done. The longer the situation continues, the worse it is for the children.

Oppositional Defiance Disorder

Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) is another of the possible effects of divorce on children. Typically, a child with ODD is uncooperative and defiant. He or she is hostile when authority figures interfere with the youngster's day to day functioning. Oppositional Defiance Disorder can be treated by professionals.

Effects of Divorce

Many divorcing parents do consider the effects of divorce on children before they actually separate. Women experience different physical and emotional effects from a divorce than men. Statistics show that women are affected more physically, while men seem to experience more emotional problems. Read on inEffects of Divorce


We speak of a remarriage when somebody marries again after a previous marriage. A marriage can be ended by death, divorce or annulment. Read about the consequences of remarriage for children.

What are the Effects of your Divorce on your Children?

What is the story of your children during and after your divorce? What did you learn from it? What are your challenges? Share it!

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