The Effects Of Divorce On Children

The Psychology of Divorce: A Lawyer ‘s Primer Part 2 – The Effectss of Divorce on Children

In a old article, I reviewed the effects of divorce on the disassociating individuals.

1 In this 2nd article of the series, I shall discourse the effects on the kids of those twosomes, a group which excessively frequently falls victim to irreparable matrimonies. There are a figure of ways in which kids may be impacted by parental divorce, and, as is by and large the instance when divorce is studied, there is fluctuation and dissension in the literature about the nature and badness of inauspicious effects to kids.Before get downing a reappraisal of that literature, it might be helpful to set into perspective how far-reaching the effects of divorce are for kids.

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Though slightly disputed, it is by and large believed that the divorce rate in the United States hovers around 50 % . One-half to two-thirds of those who divorce remarry. One of every six grownups in the U.S. divorces two or more times. One-half of all divorces involve minor kids, with one million kids a twelvemonth fall ining the ranks.

Forty per centum of kids in this state will see parental divorce, and half of them will shack at least temporarily in a individual parent family. One in three will populate with a step-parent for some period of clip before the age of 19.2

Length and Severity of Adjustment Problems

While research workers agree that there are differences in life accommodation and psychological wellbeing between kids of divorce and those from integral households, there is considerable dissension about how big those differences are and how long they last. For some decennaries through the 1990s findings indicated that kids of divorce scored lower on steps of academic success, behavior, psychological accommodation, societal competency, and health.3ii Evidence suggested that these negative effects lasted into adulthood.

4v 5” & gt ; [ v Sum uping their 25 twelvemonth longitudinal survey in a 2004 article, Wallerstein and Lewis concluded that the lives of these kids “changed radically about nightlong, ” that 25 old ages after the divorce the now-adult kids still recalled the daze, sadness, solitariness, obfuscation, and choler, and that divorce is non an ague stressor from which kids recover, but instead is “a life-transforming experience.”6In more recent old ages, while dissension about impact remains, there has been a tendency toward happening more benign long-run result s. Surveies have concluded that kids do so fight as their households come apart, and that they score lower on a assortment of indices than kids of married parents. But the consequence sizes have been found to be smaller, and in some instances non to last every bit long as had been antecedently believed.7 8 9In their landmark longitudinal survey of some 1300 households over two decennaries, Hetherington and Kelly found that kids of divorce do less good than other kids and battle to get by with the divorce, but that by two old ages after the divorce 80 % are non significantly different on steps of accommodation compared to kids of integral families.10Amato points out that while divorce was antecedently discussed in footings of important harm to kids, a close scrutiny of findings through the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s shows poorer public presentation on indices by kids of divorce, but that the consequence sizes are little ( normally less than a one-fourth of a standard divergence ) , and have remained similar in magnitude in more recent studies.11 Amato besides summarizes findings on the long-run effects. He notes that some surveies show short-run hurt followed by gradual recovery ( Hetherington ‘s and Kelly ‘s decisions ) , while others indicate that the differences between kids of divorced and integral households really increases over clip, with short-run recovery followed by diminution in immature adulthood.

12Explanations of the contradictory findings frequently focus on deficiency of understanding on the nature of the phenomena being studied, the inclination toward personal research worker beliefs that cloud the research attempt, and differences in methodological analysis. Laumann-Billings and Emery, for case, point out that different research workers are frequently mensurating different phenomena depending on the instruments or methodological analysiss employed. Surveies that rely on clinical interviews ( as Wallerstein and Lewis did ) happen more psychological and emotional hurt than those utilizing nonsubjective, standardised steps. They surmise that clinicians label hard feelings, memories, and events as psychological upset, while academic research workers ‘ instruments may neglect to pick up elusive effects.13In an effort to accommodate the differences in empirical findings, between surveies, Amato summarizes them as follows.

There is understanding among surveies that kids of divorce are more likely to see psychological troubles than kids from integral households, and those effects are likely to go on into maturity. Those differences are statistically important, though weak to chair in size of consequence. So while long-run effects are non as permeant or strong as Wallerstein found, divorce is unimpeachably a hazard factor for psychological jobs during childhood and into maturity. Adult kids of divorce tend to see less satisfaction with their lives, higher rates of depression and anxiousness, and lower self-pride. Studies by and large support Wallerstein ‘s decision that this population exhibits peculiar troubles in their grownup confidant relationships, including lower degrees of matrimonial satisfaction, more matrimonial strife, more ideas about divorce, and more divorce.14Amato ‘s sum-up of the research findings accurately represents the current province of apprehension of the effects of parental divorce on kids. But the relationship between the act of parental divorce and these inauspicious results is non a additive cause-and-effect 1. Both the grade of psychological trouble and the types of jobs encountered are capable to a figure of hazard and protective factors which we shall discourse shortly.

But first we turn to an scrutiny of some of the accommodation jobs in greater item.

Psychological Problems

It has been suggested that turning up is harder when a kid ‘s parents are divorced, either in footings of psychological symptoms or at least in grade of subjective hurt. Children of divorce show higher degrees of depression and anxiousness, lower self-pride, and more frequent usage of psychological services.15 16 17 Girls from divorced households have, in some instances, been found to be significantly more down than misss from integral households, while male childs are more hopeless and discouraged as the degree of household hurt increases.19” & gt ; [ xix Greater degrees of depression have been found to go on into maturity, with both work forces and adult females describing relatively lower degrees of psychological well-being.20 2It is outstanding to observe that some of the differences in psychological wellbeing can be attributed to the fiscal disadvantages experienced by kids of divorce in comparing to their equals from married households. Women ‘s criterions of life normally decline more than those of work forces following divorce.22” & gt ; [ xxii 23” & gt ; [ xxiii Most kids of divorce unrecorded chiefly with their female parents and therefore unrecorded with a lower household income.

24” & gt ; [ xxiv 25” & gt ; [ xxv They move more frequently to new abodes and to poorer vicinities. These kids therefore experience yet another signifier of loss, see the higher degrees of depression correlated with hard economic conditions, and have lower academic accomplishment, including a lower rate of college attendance.27” & gt ; [ xxvii 28” & gt ; [ xxviii 29 30Acerate leaf to state, these findings are germane to issues of fiscal colony in divorce. In the all excessively frequent conflicts over support payments and division of assets, angry parents, and at times their attorneies, bury that the post-divorce economic wellbeing of both partners can hold direct, touchable effects on their kids ‘s wellbeing.

Behavior Problems

Among all the reactions of kids of divorce, behavior upsets, antisocial behaviours, and trouble with governments produce the largest hurtful effects.31” & gt ; [ xxxi They are two to three times more likely to prosecute in adolescent delinquent behaviour than their equals from integral households, with a higher incidence of behavior jobs in male childs than in girls.

32” & gt ; [ xxxii 33Adolescent kids of divorced households besides drink alcohol more often and in larger measures, and are more likely to utilize drugs.34 35

Academic Performance

Childs from divorced households by and large exhibit lower academic public presentation than kids from integral households, mark lower on academic trials, have lower educational aspirations, are two to three times more likely to drop out of school, and finally accomplish lower degrees of instruction and lower grownup occupational status.36 37 38 39

Sexual Activity

Adolescent females from divorced households are more likely to hold sex at a younger age than their never-divorced opposite numbers and have more sexual spouses during their high school years.40 41 Residing in a individual female parent family appears to increase the likeliness of early sexual activity for boys.42Females from divorced households reach the oncoming of menarche at an earlier age. There appears to be a relationship between early menses and early intercourse. That earlier sexual activity is likely due to the early oncoming of menses in misss with hapless self-regulatory accomplishments.

This state of affairs occurs because divorced households tend non to learn the accomplishments needed to derive self-control or self-mastery every bit good as integral households, and because many of these kids disengage from their parents at an earlier age.


Harmonizing to Hetherington and Kelly ‘s research, kids of divorced parents study experiencing near to their female parents in approximately similar proportion to kids from integral households ( 70 % vs. 80 % ) .

43 But experiencing near to male parent is a different narrative. While 70 % of kids with married parents study such intimacy, less than tierce of kids of divorce study similar feelings. This determination supports other research on the high proportion of disengaged or wholly absent male parents following divorces in which go oning struggle between the ex-spouses, detention agreements that cause male parents to experience marginalized in their kids ‘s lives, or turning away of child support payments drive male parents off from regular contact with their children.44 Adolescents from divorced households perceive their male parents to be less caring, while by early maturity about tierce of these kids doubt whether their male parents loved them at all.45 46With respect to their ain romantic relationships in maturity, kids of divorce are more likely to see matrimonial instability and a little lift in their ain divorce rates.47 Reasons for this include a sense of conditionality about relationships, chariness to perpetrate, and the perceptual experience of divorce as an option more readily than kids from integral households. A conflictual or combative place life can besides ensue in by and large weaker relationship accomplishments.

Distress V.


A survey by Laumann-Billings and Emery48 stands out for its differentiation between psychological upset ( the benchmark in most surveies ) and psychological hurt. They found that kids of divorce are non more dying or depressed than other kids on steps of psychological upset, but they reported more distressful feelings about their parents ‘ divorces. Most common among them were paternal incrimination, feelings of loss, and a belief that their lives had been everlastingly impacted by the divorce. They tended to see their personal universes through the lens of this powerful event, believing that they would hold been different people had their parents stayed together.

The huge bulk of them had come to footings with the divorce in that they did non fault themselves, did non experience doomed to reiterate their parents ‘ errors, and had been able to divide themselves from their parents ‘ jobs. But they believed themselves to hold had more hard childhoods than kids of integral households, and they were among the group who tended to oppugn whether their male parents had loved them. Those who lived with one parent reported more loss than those in joint detention agreements. The nature of the divorce procedure was of import in finding result. The grade of struggle, sum of contact with the non-residential parent, remarriage by either parent, and sum of household income all correlated with grade of hurt. In peculiar, the higher the struggle during the divorce, the more likely the kid was to see his or her life through the filter of divorce.

Post-Divorce Adjustment Patterns

Turning once more to the work of Hetherington and Kelly,49 they delineate several accommodation forms that are slightly alone in the literature, and deserving of attending. Five basic forms are observed to be in topographic point at the clip of their six-year followup.


The kids in this group got along good with others, were mature, self-regulated, and had few behavior jobs. They besides tended to be manipulative. They were oriented toward people who could be of usage to them and tended to exchange friends when they were perceived to be less utile.

They did good professionally as immature grownups.


These were the kids who had taken on caretaking duties at an early age. They had the same positive features as the competent-opportunistic kids, but lacked the manipulative quality. They tended to seek out others whom they could assist. This group was largely female compared to the competent-opportunistic group which was more than half male.

They tended to travel into assisting professions as grownups.


This form emerged in adolescence. Mostly female, these kids began to take attention of a dependent parent at an earlier age, and that relationship was more intense than in the competent-caring group. But the inability to work out the parents ‘ jobs left them dying even before the divorce, and unsure of their ability to run into challenges. They tended to put really high criterions for themselves and frequently felt that they had non achieved plenty. As grownups they were successful socially, academically, and professionally. But they had chronic, low-grade depression and low self-pride.

Good Enough

This group, stand foring about half the kids in the sample, tonss in the in-between scopes of merely about all steps of version and operation.

They resemble kids in the general population in footings of jobs.


Tending to come from households where struggle, rejection, and disregard were common, these kids appeared to see legion jobs including choler, emphasis, oppositional behaviour, and, in adolescence, intoxicant ingestion and delinquency. They had the highest gestation and self-destruction rates in the survey. The group broke down into two subgroups characterized by either antisocial behaviour or by depression and anxiousness.

Hazard Factors and Protective Factors

The organic structure of literature on the effects of divorce on kids, taken as a whole, provides clear indicants of what factors of parental divorce pose the greatest hazard to the psychological wellbeing of kids and what factors can protect them. Three sets of writers sum these up peculiarly good and we shall show a digest of their findings here.

50 51 52

Hazard Factors

  1. Continuing Conflict Between the Parents – This is likely the individual biggest forecaster of hapless result for kids. Twenty to 25 per centum of divorced twosomes continue the struggle post-divorce. Frequently they carry on their non-ending war in forepart of the kids and undercut each other. Probably the worst experience for the kids is when they are used to show a parent ‘s choler, to transport negative messages between the parents, or are encouraged to believe ill of or non hold a relationship with the other parent.
  2. Diminished or Incompetent Parenting – Mothers in higher-conflict divorces tend to be less warm and are harsher in subject, while the male parents of these households are more withdrawn from their kids, see them less, and move more impetuously with them. Hetherington and Kelly categorise unqualified rearing into subgroups which they label permissive, autocratic, disengaged/neglectful, parentifying the kid, and conflicted co-parenting. Loss of either parent in footings of contact or quality of parenting has hurtful and sometimes durable effects on kids. Inadequate, uneffective, or absent rearing deprives the kid of the heat and support necessary for development of positive self-pride, and frequently consequences in over-control, under-control, or both, by the parents.

    The latter state of affairs can bring forth trouble in larning the relational and self-regulatory accomplishments necessary for successful functioning.53 54 55 56

  3. Economic Decline – This frequently means alterations of location, new schools and activities, and loss of established equal support groups. Such breaks in the normal flow of working add incompatibility in the thick of an already hard accommodation ( the disintegration of the household ) .

    The diminution in criterion of life besides means want, and may hold effects on the emotional stableness and handiness of parents, every bit good as on their parenting effectivity.

  4. Loss of Non-Parental Supportive Relationships – The splitting of relationships outside the immediate household ( frequent during divorce ) can intend loss of grandparents, extended household, friends, instructors, managers, household friends, and others. Such loss deprives the kid of familiar and needed support while taking to the sense of break and instability already discussed.
  5. Remarriage and Repartnering – Consecutive fond regards and losingss by the parents can impede the development of mature, intimate relationships as the kid grows to adulthood. Estimates are that three quarters of divorced work forces and two tierces of divorced adult females remarry. Half of divorced grownups cohabit before remarrying, others alternatively of remarriage.

    One tierce of kids live in remarried or live togethering places prior to age 18.57 Repetitive repartnering happening shortly after the divorce is hardest on kids ‘s ability to get by and to set to the divorce.

Protective Factors

Personal Features of the Child That Lead to Positive Coping

Childs who are intelligent, self-regulated, independent, mature, have high self-pride, and have achieved success menu better than kids who do non possess these properties. In fact, in the Hetherington and Kelly research, kids who displayed weakness, anxiousness, insecurity, or anti-social behaviour saw those negative inclinations worsen after parental divorce.

58 Children with those more desirable features tend to utilize more active get bying accomplishments such as problem-solving or seeking societal support, so they are less likely to experience passively impacted by the divorce and less likely to fault themselves.591. The Presence of Positive Social Supports – This protective factor can come from a assortment of beginnings, including a sibling who serves as a buffer against the stressors ( normally an older sibling ) , grandparents, and relationships outside the household, including friends, equal groups, or the presence of an grownup wise man such as a instructor, manager, or household friend.

There is a correlativity between the presence of good societal supports and the positive personal qualities discussed above. Children who possess those qualities seek out supportive relationships more actively and be given to set more rapidly. As a group they are more physically attractive, have easy-going dispositions, and possess good societal accomplishments, all things that make them more appealing to others. Girls receive more support than male childs because they tend to be less demanding and easier to parent.60 61

  1. Competent Custodial Parenting – Positive psychological accommodation of the tutelary parent is one of the best forecasters of positive result in their progeny. Such parents are more likely to be warm, socially supportive, supply equal monitoring and subject, and have age-appropriate outlooks of the kids.62 A parent who combines heat with appropriate control, and who provides consistence, effectual communications, and sound subject helps the place to be predictable and reassuring for the kids and produces the highest achieving and least troubled kids after divorce.


  2. An Involved and Competent Non-Custodial Parent – Sufficient contact and high quality parenting by the non-residential parent, normally the male parent, is of import to the wellbeing of the kids. The quality of the clip spent with the kids is more of import than the measure, though the latter is non inconsequential. Children of male parents who are supportive, limit-setting, effectual martinets, and who communicate at a personal degree have higher academic accomplishment and fewer acting-out or internalising problems.64 There is abundant grounds that joint physical detention in the absence of parental struggle produces better result for kids and that co-op and active co-parenting likewise leads to really good results.65 66 67 68 Of class, it is the divorced twosome who can acquire along and collaborate that is most likely to hold on joint physical detention. Attempts at such an agreement where struggle ranges on are less likely to work.
  3. Entree to Therapeutic Interventions, Including School Based Programs

Decisions and Recommendations

We have discussed the extent of the impact of divorce on kids in our society at the present clip, the badness and continuance of reactions, the types of jobs that occur, the nature of post-divorce accommodation forms in kids, and the mediating factors that put these kids at hazard or, conversely, protect them from injury.

We can reason that the divorce of one ‘s parents is an disconcerting and riotous event in the lives of these kids. The psychological, emotional, and behavioural reactions cause some old ages of hurt or upset which, for some, can widen into maturity, impacting even their ain matrimonies. Though the bulk of kids of divorce recover significantly after a few old ages, that recovery does non pass over off those old ages of important accommodation trouble, nor is it complete plenty to go forth this population unscathed.With this cognition in head, the inquiry arises as to whether there is anything that attorneies can make to assist the state of affairs. While it would look that such aid is the sphere of clinical psychologists and divorce managers, I have pointed out in old articles that the pattern of marital jurisprudence is to a important extent a psychological and emotional endeavor whether or non the attorney wishes it to be.6970 71 Weinstein points out that the system of legal divorce is a child-unfriendly 1 that, by its really nature, causes injury, rendering the philosophy, “in the best involvements of the kid, ” meaningless.72 Robboy suggests that the legal procedure trades merely with “the concern of matrimony, ” while non covering with the wide internal and external effects it causes in disassociating families.

73So is it the attorney ‘s occupation to cover with the “whole image? ” This is a extremely problematic inquiry, depending on which practicians one asks, and a inquiry that we shall go forth until the concluding article in this series, in which I shall cover with the effects of household pattern on legal professionals and concentrate on the intertwining of household jurisprudence and psychological science in greater item. For the present, do it to state that there are things a attorney can make if he or she chooses to make so.Think holistically – Acknowledge that divorce is much broader than the colony to be negotiated. The attorney ‘s function is frequently as one member of a squad of professionals working with all of the pecuniary, tutelary, psychological, and emotional constituents of a household coming apart, though the attorney may ne’er run into the other squad members.

Some of the wisest advice attorneies give to their clients has nil to make with the jurisprudence. Remember the kids and promote clients to make the same.Encourage rationality in clients and maneuver them toward healthy divorce – When attorneies, either by their ain aggressive attitudes or client penchant, aid clients to prosecute in struggle with their partners, it increases the likeliness of harm to the kids, and, as we have seen, it is likely to prolong post-divorce struggle, therefore bring forthing the most harmful results for the childs. If on the other manus, attorneies can assist maneuver clients into behaviours, attitudes, and places that are just, sensible, and more favourable to a healthy result, they have so helped to bring forth divorces that are more successful. It is wise to maintain in head that the client caught in his ain fury or vengefulness is non person whose advice should be followed without treatment despite the fact that he is paying the measures.Keep the kids in head when geting at a fiscal colony – As we have seen, economic diminution in the primary residential parent bodes really ill for the kids. Having another parent who is wealthier does non equilibrate it.

Having a fighting female parent, for case, is likely to intend more break in life style and parenting. Fiscal colonies that leave non-residential male parents in hard passs are associated with decreased contact between male parents and kids.Seek detention and rearing agreements that promote well-being – Joint physical detention is best when possible, but just agreements in which both parents are satisfied is the existent end. If both parents are meaningfully involved in their kids ‘s lives and can rear good, their kids will profit. It is frequently a good thought to hold a psychologist knowing in rearing and kid development aid in the development of a comprehensive parenting program. Such programs can be frontward looking, expecting the demands of the kids as they grow and develop, and expect the future demands of the parents as good.

Establish a squad – Have mental wellness professionals at your disposal who can make full the functions of manager, child specializer, or healer. To make so is portion of a more holistic attack and provides the advantage of holding other professionals trade with the psychological science of divorce and work with the lawyer toward a better result for their clients and their clients ‘