Divorce & the Effects on Children (Part 1)

Nearly one million children are affected by divorce each year. Parents and families struggle to help children who are experiencing negative effects after their parent’s divorce. Psychological and sociological research is widespread with evidence of the detrimental effects that divorce can have upon children after separation. Research has shown that, on average, children from divorcing families more frequently experience behavioral and adjustment difficulties during later childhood, adolescence, and even into adulthood. Children have been shown to exhibit a wide variety of responses to divorce and other family changes; frequently these responses include anger, a sense of loss, betrayal, shame, embarrassment, depression, loyalty conflicts, and guilt.

With about half of all marriages ending in divorce, many children may experience a difficult time adjusting. Studies show that the detrimental effects that parents’ divorces may have on their children include: depression, aggression, anti-social and/or self destructive behavior and diminished academic performance. Researchers have identified three factors as the most important predicators of negative effects on children of divorce: 1) instability in the child’s life, 2) the absence of effective parenting, and 3) interparental conflict.


Divorce can be extremely emotional for everyone involved; however, it is important to maintain stability in a child’s life. The more stable you can keep the child’s life, the better adjusted they will be after their parents get divorced. Stability means maintaining regular contact with the other parent by getting child custody and visitation orders in place. You also want to surround yourself with relatives and friends during this hard time. Stability also means following a familiar day to day routine with the child. This is often challenging because the routine is going to change for the child after the parent’s get divorced. A minimum number of transitions after divorce are the most beneficial for the children. If possible, keeping the children in the same school, home or neighborhood, always helps the child relate to some stability. Instability can leave a child feeling confused, alone, and at fault for the divorce.

Ineffective parenting

Parents who are unaware of the effects divorce can have on children or have had on their particular child cannot help them through it. Some parents may not know how to help their children cope or even ways to deal with the divorce themselves. Others may be unaware of resources in their community such as parenting classes and family counseling. It is important for parents to get educated about the effects divorce may have on children and get help for themselves if need be. That way the parents are equip to help a child who is experiencing a difficult time, because ineffective parenting can leave children feeling lonely, hurt, and unloved.

Finances can be very hard after a divorce. The economic stress can play a big role in ineffective parenting. Studies show that 2/3 of American families today, need two incomes to survive. This often means parents are going back to work or picking up a second shift to provide for their family. Having child support orders in place can help with the pressure of finances after a divorce. Depending on the length of your marriage, spousal support can also be provided to you from your soon to be ex spouse. Without court orders in place, these payments will be hard to enforce.

Interparental conflict

About 20% of ex spouses report experiencing continuing intense conflict with the other parent, characterized by blaming, physical and verbal attack, unclear emotional boundaries, high levels of tension, and overall lack of resolution for problems. Some other things that may cause interparental conflict include domestic violence issues, child abuse allegations, distrust and bitterness about the other parent’s ability to provide for the child, and lack of education about co-parenting skills and family counseling.

No child is too young to notice conflict between their parents; it can make a child feel like they are in the middle. If parents argue or fight in front of a child, they are more likely to experience long lasting negative effects and become more aggressive as they grow into adolescence and become an adult. It is important for the child to feel safe; a child may feel threatened if they see their parents fighting and become isolated or exhibit anti-social behavior. This can affect the child’s academic performance and their self confidence.

At the Law Offices of Nancy Bickford, we strive to help children and families through the difficult process of divorce. Selecting a compassionate attorney can be one of the best decisions you make when getting a divorce. Our office is dedicated to addressing your divorce needs in a positive, collaborative manner that resolves conflict and helps families restructure their family relationships. We approach divorce with the best interests of you and your children in mind. To schedule a consultation with a Certified Family Law Specialist, call 858-793-8884 today.

Follow up next week to read about what you, as a parent, and your attorney can do to help protect your children from experiencing these negative effects during divorce in Part Two of this blog. Learn about resources in the San Diego area, and find out what works best for you and your children. We look forward to working with you.

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