Negative Effects of Divorce on Children Essay

The divorce is a challenge for any family, but often the divorce is perceived as the problem that affects spouses above all. However, in actuality, the impact of divorce is much deeper since it affects not only spouses but also their children. As a result, children suffer from the divorce of their parents but their problems often remain unaddressed because these problems of children remain unaddressed as parents are concerned with their problems above all. Moreover, after the divorce parents often focus on such problems as earning for living and providing for their families, while they simply do not have time to address psychological and other problems of their children. Children suffer from the steady deterioration of their psychological condition, deterioration of their social ties and may develop serious problems that have a negative impact on their wellbeing and life not only in a short-run perspective but also in a long-run one. Therefore, divorce has a negative impact on children and affects their psychological condition and social life, while, in a long-run perspective, divorce of parents may have a devastating impact on the adult family life of children.

The background of the problem of divorce and its impact on children

In this respect, it is important to underline the fact that the growing divorce rate accompanied a dramatic change in the social relationship between men and women. In fact, the number of divorce has started to grow in the 1980s and, especially in the 1990s, while today, the divorce became a norm (Linaman, 2006). At the same time, the relationship of men and women has undergone a dramatic change in this period of time since the position of women in the society has changed consistently. To put it more precisely, the improvement of the position of women was marked by the decrease of the discrimination and larger educational and job opportunities for women. As a result, they have got a chance to make a professional career and compete with men in the professional domain.

On the other hand, such a change had a negative side-effect which influenced the family life. In fact, traditional gender roles, when women were focused on the household and family affairs, while men were traditionally viewed as breadwinners, have gone and, what is more, they have been replaced by new system of relationships when women attempted to take the position equal to that of men and when women competed with men in areas where the position of men was traditionally strong. For instance, women started to enter traditionally male jobs, attempted to succeed in professional career that made their family life secondary in regard to the career growth.

In addition, such a consistent change in the life of both men and women contributed to the improvement of socioeconomic position of women. Today, women are not financially dependent on men any more as they used to be in the past, even in the middle of the 20th century. Instead, women can maintain the high standards of living without the assistance of men and they can afford upbringing of their children as well. Consequently, women are more independent in their actions and cannot be totally controlled by men as it used to be in the past.

Obviously, such changes in the socioeconomic position of women and the change of traditional gender roles contributed to the larger freedom of spouses. This freedom was consistently enforced by the sexual revolution of the 1960-1970s and the spread of extramarital relationships undermined the family institution to the extent that today, specialists (Whitehead, 2004) argue about the disappearance of the family as a social institution, at least in its traditional sense. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the spread of homosexual marriages which are now legalized in some states that also changes the traditional view of marriage and family life. In fact, gradually marriage and family become ephemeral concepts, while the family institution is devaluated that naturally results in the large number of divorces because people neglect their responsibilities as members of the family and they do not pay much attention to the concept of the family in its traditional sense.

As a result, the growing number of divorces affects dramatically the life of spouses and their children. The latter suffer the most because the disruption of parental relations produces a negative effect on their psychological development and deprives them of the essential parental care. At the same time, spouses are also affected dramatically by the divorce because, along with a significant psychological pressure, this process may be accompanied by considerable financial losses. In addition, the family cannot function normally after the divorce, while children, which are brought up by one parent, a mother as a rule, are deprived of essential social experience and certain models of behavior which they could have learned from another parent.

Negative psychological effects of divorce on children

Negative psychological effects are diverse and may vary from the elevated anxiety level to severe depression depending on circumstances of the divorce, background of the family, and personal traits of character of the child. Children develop the high anxiety level because the family is the fundamental institution for them. The family is the world, where they have grown up and when the family falls apart, they confront the problem of feeling being insecure and uncertain in their future. If the family, which has existed since the beginning of their life, falls apart, they grow anxious that whatever they have may easily be ruined just like their family. This is why they have extremely high anxiety level. Also, their anxiety is the result of their attachment to their parents. They cannot just accept the divorce of their parents because its reasons are not always clear for children, while its effects are very significant for children. The lack of the adequate understanding of divorce raises the anxiety level in children.

The immediate short-term effect of divorce on children involves the growth of the anxiety level in children. The dependent child’s short term reaction to divorce can be an anxious one. So much is different, new, unpredictable, and unknown that life becomes filled with scary questions? “What is going to happen to next?” “Who will take care of me?” “If my parents can lose for each other, can they lose love for me?” “With one parent moving out, what if I lose the other too?” Answering such worry questions with worst fears, the child’s response can be regressive (Linaman, 2006).

The child wants to feel more connected in a family situation where a major disconnection has occurred (Whitehead, 2004). Regression to earlier dependency can partly be an effort to elicit parental concern, bringing them close when divorce has pulled each of them further away – the resident parent now busier and more preoccupied, the absent parent simply less available because of being less around (Hyatt, 2006). The divorce ruins bounds between family members and they are very difficult to restore. In such a situation, children often feel the problem of the family divide, when they stay with either parent, while another parent turns out to be in a disadvantageous position and does not live with them permanently. The perception of parents changes, whereas the attachment of children to their parents may remain strong still.

A divorce hurts all the family members, including the children. Very young children do not understand what is happening, but the feel the loss of one of the parents not being around.

Pain however, is something that goes away (Williams, 2005). The memories stay, but memories are not always on your mind. They only pop up when you think about it. Some people cannot let go negative feelings and emotions and keep them alive (Hyatt, 2006). By doing so, they keep on feeling mistreated, misguided and pitiful. These feelings prevent them from focusing on positive things and on a new future (Linaman, 2006). Usually, if they become aware of the vicious circle they are in, or when somebody else makes it clear to them, the suffering stops. The feeling of insecurity is very high among children, who have experienced the divorce of their parents.

Furthermore, researchers (Hyatt, 2006) reveal the negative effect of divorce on the self-esteem of children. For example, sometimes children feel being responsible for the divorce of their parents. Also children suffer from the low self-esteem because they feel as if something is wrong with them that their parents have divorced. Moreover, they may develop a sense of inferiority compared to children, who grow up in families with two parents. In such a way, the self-esteem of children after divorce of their parents may drop drastically. In this regard, children may suffer from the perception of their family as being worse than other families that also decreases the self-esteem of children.

There is the risk of negligence from the part of single parents because they do not always have time to provide care and attention for their children. Instead, they have to focus on their work to earn for living and provide for their families.

Negative social effects of divorce on children

Negative social effects of divorce on children are diverse and are also very significant. The lack of role models for children raises the problem of the acquisition of the proper social norms of behavior. The lack of role models raises the problem of the proper behavioral patterns of children, when they grow up. Hence, they simply do not know how to behave in their own family because they have only one-parent role model of the family.

For the young child, divorce shakes trust in dependency on parents who now behave in an extremely undependable way. They surgically divide the family unit into two different households between which the child must learn to transit back and forth, for a while creating unfamiliarity, instability, and insecurity, never being able to be with one parent without having to be apart from the other.

Problems developed in children because of the divorce of their parents may have long-run effects and influence their adult life as well. Researchers (Williams, 2005) reveal the high risk of divorce in families where spouses experienced the divorce of their parents.


Thus, the divorce has a destructive impact on psychology and social ties of children. Children develop both short-term and long-term problems. They turn out to be stakeholders, whose needs are often neglected. Hence, children need the special attention and assistance to live through the divorce of their parents and to minimize the negative effect of the divorce on their life.


Hyatt, K. (10 Apr. 2006).  “Children’s Adjustment to Divorce Largely in Hands of Parents, with one Exception: Dad’s Departure Depresses Boys.” Marriage and the Family. 31, 39-56.

Linaman, T.E. (3 Apr. 2006).  “The Effects of Divorce on Children and Families.” Family Life Facts, 45, 110-126.

Whitehead, B.D. (2004). “The Making of a Divorce Culture.” in The Presence of Others. Ed. Lunsford, Andrea A., and John J. Ruskiewicz. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin.

Williams, G. (2005). Divorce: Past and Future. New York: Random House.

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