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Divorce and Effects on Children

Divorce is a very difficult time of life and it is not one that many would opt to experience given the choice. Most people who have been through the divorcing process will readily acknowledge that it is stressful, expensive and often, emotionally painful. Divorce is also filled with conflict, uncertainty and change.

An added source of stress for people getting divorced is the presence of children in the relationship. Thus, in addition to having to deal with their own distress, parents are faced with the upset that their children experience as well. Because no two children or situations are alike, their reactions to their parents' divorce also varies. Much depends on children's ages, temperaments and personal circumstances. However, the greatest influence on children's adaptation to divorce is their parents' conduct and attitude regarding the changes in their lives. Children are very responsive and reactive to the level of conflict that extists between their parents.

What the Research Says About Children's Adjustment to Divorce

Research on children's adjustment to divorce is clear in noting that the first six months post separation is a challenging time for families and the most difficult on children. This period of time is characterized by change and uncertainty. For some families this often means moving to a new home or community as well as adjusting to the idea that their parents are no longer living together. However fortunately, the disruption and distress that follows separation usually subsides and within a year, a new state of "normal" is established.

Major Considerations for Children of Divorce

The most important thing for divorcing parents to keep in mind that children need to be reassured that they are loved and cared for. They also need to know that the changes in their parents' relationship have no bearing on how either feels about them. Children often feel responsible for their parents' separation because they impute their misbehavior or wrong doings as the cause of their parents' decision to split up. Children must be reassured that they have not played a role in their parents' separation. Parents should recognize that their children's sense of security depends largely on their parents' ability to provide clear boundaries, consistency in their own conduct and as little exposure to the details of the divorce as possible.

Dr. Reena Sommer is a divorce and custody consult. For more information on the effects of divorce on children, please visit:

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