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How Does Divorce Affect Children?

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Categories: Co-Parenting

What are the impacts of divorce on children?

There are many situations in which this question may be thought of first, last, or never at all.  This question can cover a multitude of topics because there are copious reasons and situations for families to divorce.  Regardless of the situation, there are common impacts on children as a result of divorce.  The effects of divorce will show up in children in many ways, depending on the individual child.  These impacts are based on aspects such as age, gender, and socioeconomic status.  What the common theme here is that every situation is different for each family involved in a divorce and a person cannot tell what it is like for someone just by looking at him or her.

The Factors

Parents’ behaviors both with one another and with the child contribute greatly to how the child will cope with the divorce.  Because there are so many different situations, the question of “how does divorce affect children?” is simply too broad.  In order to begin to narrow down the answer, this post will look at long-term and short-term impacts.  There are many sources with conflicting information on the topic, which makes sense due to the impossibility of all children feeling the same effect.

Many people immediately think of the word “consequences” to be a negative one, but it can be considered either negative or positive.  In research, I found an interesting article.  In the article titled, “Is Divorce Bad for Children?”, both risk factors and protective factors are discussed.  A risk factor is something that leads to a higher likelihood of problems and a protective factor is something that leads to a lower likelihood of problems.

According to this article, psychologists found that divorce affects most children in an immediate circumstance but luckily does not affect most children in the long term because they were able to recover quickly.  According to psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington of the University of Virginia, most children feel short-term reactions such as anxiety, shock, or anger.  Hetherington says that most children feel these short-term effects for about two years.  Along with this, according to a longitudinal study by Paul R. Amato of Penn State University, children of divorce do well long term in areas such as their social, emotional, and behavioral well-being as compared to children who are not from divorced families.

In general, it seems as if there are two initial effects: either confusion or relief.  For children who never hear their parents fighting because they hide it, they are usually very confused since they did not know that their parents had any issues with one another.  For children who hear a lot of fighting, they are relieved to hear the news.  Once the children process the news, they can begin to feel the consequences, whether they are positive or negative.

A Separation

For both parents and children, divorce has many consequences.  By the definition of the word divorce, a separation occurs.  The first thought that comes to mind is the separation between the parents or the separation between one parent and his or her family.  At a bare minimum, this is true, but most people do not think further about what else may be separated.  For example, some people say that children have to grow up more quickly, which means that a child is separated from his or her childhood.  Different types of separations will be explored in the next article.

Children are affected by divorce in many different ways.

For more information about parenting and co-parenting during divorce, check out the Divorce Recovery Ladder Guide.

Hannah Baron

Hannah Baron is our new blog writer. She is a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges with double majors in Psychology and Education as well as a minor in Child Advocacy. She is currently an Assistant Teacher at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD. She is interested in learning about the world and the people in it via a unique lens influenced by her educational background.
Hannah Baron

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