The Results Are in: Divorce Creates Long Lasting Effects on Children

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Kitchens New Clegnorn: New research shows the long and short-term effects of divorce on children. While some of the results confirm prior research, many of the results are unexpected.

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Divorce creates a lasting effect on children.

Virtually no one has a "happy divorce," but understanding the mechanisms at work can make the divorce a little less painful.

New research has been released regarding the effects of divorce on children and some parents may be surprised at the findings. Both long-term and short-term observations have been compiled to give a fuller picture of what a child goes through during a divorce. While you may think your ex-spouse is a child too, the odds are that they still won't be as badly affected as your real children. Understanding the risk factors involved and having reasonable expectations is absolutely critical for parents interested in guiding their children through this difficult experience unscathed.

Boys Found to Be More at Risk Than Girls

The stoic image of the manly man may cause more harm than good for male children in a separated family. The problems boys face may be two-fold: boys often lack a father figure and, of course, boys are less encouraged to share their emotions. Mothers are still given custody more often than fathers, leaving many boys and girls in single parent households.

Girls are often far more willing to bond with a mother, whereas boys may feel as though they must prematurely fill a "man of the house" role without any male guidance. Of course, the opposite may also be true; girls who are given into the custody of fathers may face similar issues in the absence of a female role model. 

Children May Find Their Needs Unmet

Whenever a living situation is divided, there tends to be a financial crunch on either side. Suddenly, everything is duplicated: rent payments, car payments and don't forget the his and her lawyer payments. A family that was living quite comfortably suddenly becomes two individuals who are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Less money all around may lead to children feeling as though their needs are not being met. The abrupt financial change can be difficult for adults to adjust to, let alone children who yearn for the latest toys.

Preadolescent and Adolescent Children More at Risk

Many couples find themselves "waiting until the children are older" to get a divorce, out of the notion that this may ease the transition. Current research indicates that this might be misguided; in fact, adolescent children may be more at risk long-term. Older children tend to spend more time with their peers and less time with their parents, which can make any family changes more difficult to deal with because they no longer have a strong parental bond.

Do Half of All Marriages End in Divorce?

Perhaps--but not half of all marriages with children. 2 out of 5 children will experience the divorce of their parents; almost, but not quite half. 1 in 4 children will have a step-family. There are over a million divorces per year in the United States, leaving over 1 million children under the age of 18 involved in a divorce. Divorce is an increasingly common occurrence and something many families will need to deal with.

How Does Divorce Affect Children?

Short-term, children will experience emotions such as anger, sadness and depression. They may display behavioral problems such as opposition, impulsivity, aggression and non-compliance. Children may feel as though they have lost a parent or the attention of their parents. Environmentally, they may be subjected to financial issues, stress and less parental supervision overall.

Long-term, children may experience growing anger against the parent they believe was wrong. They may long for their parents, especially if the parent does not visit as often as they desire. Children may have a persistent urge to reunite the family, and this will rarely lead to a comical "Parent Trap"-like situation.

Virtually no one has a "happy divorce," but understanding the mechanisms at work can make the divorce a little less painful. Knowing what your children are going through can act like pain relief on a broken tooth; the core situation still needs to be addressed, but at least there'll be a little less screaming.

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Jeff Cleghorn
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