How Harmful is Divorce on Children?

Some divorce critics state that a couple should never get a divorce because of the detrimental effects it has on children. There are organizations trying to pass laws that a couple cannot get a divorce until they have one year of counseling - at their own expense. Though a law like this might decrease the divorce rate, it probably would not prevent couples from separating. Children will have the same effects rather their parents separate or divorce.

Other specialists say that the stress of a divorce on a child is less detrimental than constantly watching their parents argue or witnessing physical abuse or substance abuse.

According to the University of New Hampshire Family and Consumer Resources report that the effects of a child depend upon the age of the child at the divorce, their gender, personality, the amount of conflict between the parents and the support they receive by friends and family.

Effects of Divorce on Children based on age and gender:

  • Infants up to the age of two normally do not suffer.
  • Preschool children3 to 5 years of age may believe they caused the divorce. They may fear being left alone or revert to baby-like behavior.
  • Elementary school age children experience grief, embarrassment and resentment. They may not be able to understand or control the pain they feel.
  • Teens experience anger, loneliness, fear, guilt and depression. They may feel that they are being forced into adulthood with additional responsibilities.
  • Boys who are raised by their father or have joint living arrangements tend to be less aggressive and have fewer emotional problems than boys who have little or no contact with heir fathers.
  • Girls raised with mothers seem to be more responsible and mature than girls raised by their fathers.
    Studies show that regardless of gender or age that the Childs adjustment following a divorce has more to do with the quality of the relationship they have with heir parents.

According to several studies approximately 25 percent of children from divorced parents have severe problems that require psychological assistance compared with 10percent of children raised by both parents. However, the severity of problems relate to circumstances surrounding and during the divorce of the parents.
Divorce is almost always stressful to all the parties involved, including the children. However, the stress level of the child ranges greatly depending on the way the parents are reacting. Parents lead their child by example, be it negative or positive. Parents who put their own feelings aside for the sake and love of their children assure the child that though things will be different, he will still have two loving parents.

Children who are affected the most are:

  • Children who witness constant fighting and criticism from their parents
  • Children stuck in the middle of a bitter custody battle
  • Children who have parents that ask or expect the child to take sides
  • Children who are being ridiculed or condemned for being like the “other parent”
  • Children who are told the other parent is no good
  • Children whose feelings are ignored during and after the divorce process

Children who are least affected the most are:

  • Children who are assured by both parents that they are loved and the divorce is not their fault
  • Children whose feelings are validated and they feel safe to ask questions to either parent
  • Children who receive information regarding the divorce that is appropriate for their age
  • Children who know what is going to happen such as where they will live and go to school
  • Children who are co-parented
  • Children who have contact and receive loving support from family members on both the mother’s and father’s side of the family
  • Children who are removed from an abusive parent

As a parent it is vital that you take the upper hand. Do not get caught up in the drama of fighting over the children, using them as pawns, or trying to turn your child against the other parent because of what he did.

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