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The Effect of Divorce on Children Essay

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Divorce is common in American culture. Children are often caught in the middle often this tumultuous situation. Children of divorcing parent often are extremely affected by the loss of a parent. The change in the child’s life is a major impact on the child. The loss of daily routines and familiar home situations can be a source of anxiety for the child. Many children exhibit sign of anger, frustration and sorrow. The ways and amount of emotions displayed vary depending on the child’s age.

This paper will examine the various impacts that divorce has on children.

Divorce is an intensely stressful experience for all children, regardless of age or developmental level; many children are inadequately prepared for the approaching divorce by their parents. Children at the beginning of a divorce have numerous emotions. Primarily composed of a sense of vulnerability as the family disintegrates, many children do not realize their parents’ marriage is troubled. This paper there will be a discussion of the following topics1.

What the onset of this life change do children experience?2.What is the reaction to grief of the loss of the intact family?What the onset of this life change do children experience?The experience of a loss of the non-custodial parent is sundry feeling of intense anger of the disruption of the family, and of powerlessness for the child caught in the middle.

Usual and customary support systems tend to dissolve, though the ignorance or reluctance of adults to actively seek out this support for children. “A study in 1980 found that less than 10% of children had support from adults other than relatives during the acute phase of the divorce” (Kalaman 2007). The concept of being alone in the world is a very frightening thing for a child to experience. These children know that nothing will ever be the same again, and their previously secure world is in a state of change.

Many things will change in the child’s life, not just the idea that mom or dad will not be around any longer. They may lose contact with extended family on one side or the other. Their bedtime, mealtime and after school routines may change; children who have a natural attachment to their parents may also fear losing other secure relationships such as friends, pets, siblings, or neighbors. Sometimes children are simply attached to their surroundings, and moving into new surroundings can cause an understandable negative reaction.

What is the reaction to grief of the loss of the intact family?”Preschool age children (ages 3-5) are likely to exhibit a regression of the most recent developmental milestone achieved” (Ahrons 2007 p. 63). Sleep disturbances and an intensified fear of separation from the custodial parent are also common. There is usually a great deal of yearning for the non-custodial parent. While children ages six to eleven will often openly grieve for the departed parent. There is a noted preoccupation with fantasies that that the parents will happily reunite in the future.

There is a greater tendency to label a ‘good’ parent and a ‘bad’ parent and these children are very susceptible to attempting to take care of a parent at the expense of their own needs. In an article by Weisman it states “adolescence (ages 12-18) are prone to responding to their parent’s divorce with acute depression, suicidal thoughts, and sometimes violent episodes” (1983). These children tend to focus on the moral issues surrounding divorce and will often judge their parents’ decisions and actions. Many adolescents become anxious and fearful about their own future love and marital relationships. However, this age group has the capability to perceive integrity in the post-divorce relationship of their parents and to show compassion for their parents without neglecting their own needs.

The simple act of divorce while alleviating the stress and unhappiness of the parents often creates a world of anxiety and vulnerability for the child. The impact of divorce on can have long lasting effects on a child. The need for support of children that are involved in divorce is evident for the child to have the support need to adjust to the major change in the child’s life


Ahrons, C. (2007, March). Family Ties after Divorce: Long-Term Implications for Children. Family Process, 46(1), 53-65.

Heller, Kalman M. (2007) The Impact of Divorce on Children Retrieved September 10, 2008 from http://www.drheller.com/impact_divorce.htmlHetherington, E., Stanley-Hagan, M., & Anderson, E. (1989, February). Marital Transitions: A child’s Perspective. American Psychologist, 44(2), 303-312Westman, J. (1983, October). The Impact of Divorce on Teenagers. Clinical Pediatrics, 22(10),
692-697. Retrieved September 2, 2008

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