Caleb and Divorce
April 10, 2016
The Effects of Divorce on Children
Many of the 1.5 million children in the U.S. whose parents’ divorce every year feel as if their worlds are falling apart (U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1982). Divorcing parents are usually very concerned about the welfare of their children during this troublesome process. Some parents are so worried that they remain in unhappy marriages, believing it will protect their offspring from the trauma of divorce.
Yet parents who split have reasons for hope. Researchers have found that only a relatively small percentage of children experience serious problems in the wake of divorce or, later, as adults.
Divorce affects most children in the short run, but research suggests that kids recover rapidly after the initial blow. Many psychologists believe that many children experience short-term negative effects from divorce, especially anxiety, anger, shock and disbelief. These reactions typically diminish or disappear by the end of the second year. Only a minority of kids suffer longer (Bumpass, 1984).
Most children of divorce also do well in the longer term. Studies have compared children of married parents with those who experienced divorce at different ages. The investigators followed these kids into later childhood, adolescence or the teenage years, assessing their academic achievement, emotional and behavior problems, delinquency, self-concept and social relationships. On average, the studies found only very small differences on all these measures between children of divorced parents and those from intact families, suggesting that the vast majority of children endure divorce well.
Researchers have consistently found that high levels of parental conflict during and after a divorce are associated with poorer adjustment in children. The effects of conflict before the separation, however, may be the reverse in some cases. Researchers have reported that some children who are...