Divorce: Psychological Effects on Children


According to Andrews (2001), psychology is an academic science which is also an applied science that deals mainly in scientific investigation how the brain’s functions and how the mental functions of individuals affect their behaviors. Swettenham (1996) asserts that the science deals in such phenomenal as personality, emotion, perception, interpersonal relationships and cognition. Psychologists also study the application of the science of mental functioning to various human activities and its influence on other issues like family, employment and education. They are also involved in the treatment of problems related to mental health. Andrews continue to say that the scientists are also studying the relevance of this science on the personal function of individuals socially and why some people feel more accepted than other in any given social setting.

According to Charman (1994), psychology has many fields and subfields and some of them include abnormal psychology, social psychology, health psychology, cognitive psychology, school psychology, quantitative psychology and a contingent of other fields. Shallice (2000) adds that psychology is used in studying of areas that include law, sports, human development, media, industry and health.

Hetherington (1989) points out that one of the fields is the personality psychology that scientists believe is often influenced by experiences from early childhood. According to Sperber (2000) this field of psychology is used by scientist to identify why people behave in some ways while others don’t behave in certain ways.

Effects of a divorce on children

According to Wallerstein (1987), there are a various psychological effects that are subjected to children when their parents divorce and sometimes these children need the services of a psychologist. Wallerstein argues that a trauma can have long life psychological effects on children and a divorce is a traumatizing experience to many children. Levy (1998), continues to say that the effects range from just a simple anger to a case of severe depression. Gopnik (1993) asserts that the kids may need the services of a qualified counseling psychologist to help them to cope with the effects of the divorce. Levy says that since these effects are very harmful to a child, the help of a qualified counseling psychologist is necessary so that the children can return to normal life after coping with the divorce of their parents. Sara (2003) points out that it is important to note that more than seventy five percent of the children do not support their parents’ divorcing and on the contrary strongly oppose the separation. But Guille (2004) asserts that a significant percentage of children support the divorce but adds that it is because the children suffer emotionally when they witness their parents arguing in their presence. Guile continues to say that the children support the divorce as to end the emotional punishment their parents’ fighting subjects them to.

Alexander (2002) asserts that the effects are more extreme when the parents undergo a long custody battle and the children are forced to endure the long process. He continues to say that the children are likely to suffer from various psychological problems which include guilt, low self-esteem, anger, depression, denial and panic. Charman (1994) asserts that to some extreme cases the children may start criminal and destructive behaviors. Bois (2005) advised that for the parents to protect their children from such problems they should refrain from custody battles, because sometimes divorce is the only solution and so marriages cannot be reconciled but parents have the responsibility of protecting their children from the harsh psychological problems that are brought about by a divorce.

According to Sara (2003), Counseling psychologists have advised that the effect of a divorce on the children is mainly determined by the father. Bradley (2001) also asserts that it is of paramount importance that both male and female children should have a father and mother figure in their lives who they perceive as their role models in their lives. Sara continues to say that the more of a role model the father is to the boys and girls, the more positive the effects of the divorce will by psychologically on both boys and girls. She asserts that if the father plays a significantly less role in the child’s live after the divorce, the children will suffer in their childhood and also many years into their adulthood as well. Sara also asserts that although modern societies have greatly undervalued a father’s role in the children’s childhood, it is important to note that only a father figure has the most powerful impact on the lives of his children. Bradley supports this by implying that a father is capable of creating an emotionally stable and successful adult or a disturbed and unstable adult off his children. Baron (1996) also airs the same sentiments and also continues to argue that the most troubled and disturbed adults can ascertain that their fathers did not play a very significant role in their lives. Bradley continues to argue that that even though the society today insists on the importance of the mother’s role in a child’s life, the father’s role is the most important and will determine whether the child becomes a success or a failure in the future life as an adult.

According to Schuder (2004), the age of the children is very important in determining the extent of the effects of the divorce. But Archer (2004) argues that the psychological effects of the divorce on the children will linger on from childhood to adulthood and the same sentiments are aired by Bois (2005) who continues to say that the psychological effects of a divorce will be of the same intensity when the children have reached their adulthood. Sara (2003) is of the view that the age of the children when the divorce takes place is an important factor to look at when assessing the psychological effects of a divorce on the children. Honig (2000) differs on this with Sara citing that after all has happened the psychological effect will amount to almost the same when the children come of age. He continues to say that when the children have reached adult age, they will portray the same psychological effects and this will be irregardless of what age they were when the divorce took place.

Ainsworth (1978) argues that in pre-school aged children it is very common for the psychological effects of divorce to bring complications in the children. He continues to say that it is very common for the children to suffer psychological problems which include withdrawal and anger. Margolin (2001) asserts that the children also become very hard to please. Levy (1998) airs the sentiments that these problems are rooted to the fact that no matter how much a parent tries to instill to the child that it is a normal thing, the child will take it very personally. McIntosh (2003) also argues that even though parents try as much as possible to hide the hatred they feel against their spouses it does not work no matter what. To this effect, Klein (1984) forwards the argument that it is important for a family to hold a family gathering or a meeting on the onset of a divorce and says that this would help very much in alleviating some of the psychological problems that may culminate in the children. He continues to say that the meeting should be between the children and the two spouses. It should be an open forum with the kids being permitted to ask the questions and the parents answering them without hiding anything. According to Delaney (1998), the kids should be enlightened as to why the parents are divorcing and the parents and Andrews (2001), insists that the parents should also candidly explain the situation of the marriage without necessary being too explicit. He argues that these play a very important part in alleviating the psychological effects of the children.

According to Levy (1998), children in High School or in Middle School also suffer from some sort of psychological problems. Delaney (1998) also argues that the psychological effects are far reaching and most adolescents spend a lot of time fantasizing about the reunion of their parents. Sara (2003) also airs the sentiments that these children may start experimenting with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to counter the pain that they are subjected to at home. Furstein (1987) also asserts that this group of children may show such symptoms as withdrawal which is directed to family and friends and also the activities that they are normally involved in. Levy (1998) supports this and also continues to say that the children after withdrawing from their normal activities and association they will then turn into antisocial people. Levy continues to assert that this is one of the most tell tale sign that the children are having psychological problems which are brought about by divorce as well as other issues in the children’s lives. Bradley (2001) airs the sentiments that it is important for parents and guardians to look out for antisocial behaviors like bullying and fighting and others like running away from home, cheating, stealing and lying. He continues to advice that when a recently divorced parents notices such behavior in their children they should consult a counseling psychologists because this are the signs the children are suffering from psychological problems and this is also supported by Charman (1994).

Margolin (2001) suggests that the effects have implication in the entire life of a child. He continues to say that many children whose parents have had a divorce have the psychological problem and phobia of being parents themselves. This sentiment is also shared by Archer (2004), and he continues to say that it is evident with many kids that when the parents divorce they think that they would rather not be a parent in their adult life. Furstenberg (1987) says that this is because when the parents undergo a divorce or a separation, they concentrate on their own concerns and ignore the concerns of the children who are seriously affected by a divorce of the parents. Furstenberg also asserts that this results in the parents giving the children little if any attention and affection but in a surprising turn of events more responsibilities are bestowed upon the children and also more pressure is subjected to the children. Furstenberg continue to argue that though this is done unconsciously with the parents not realizing the burden they are putting on their children. He says that it is only natural that these children do not want to subject their own children to such situation and hence opt to not having their own children. Baron (1996) also supports this idea and adds that this often results in some forms of psychological problems which include the children becoming more argumentative, defensive and defiant which are normally not their characteristics.

According to Sperber (2000) the less common psychological effects include when the child takes the role of the guardian and results in comforting the parent the siblings and have the responsibility of managing the household chores. He continues to say that these type of psychological effect results in the children feeling angry because they see as if their parents are wrongly putting more demands on them and that their identities have been robbed of them. Honig (2000) also support this and continues to say that the child may feel that he or she has been denied the lifestyle of other children because now they have to be more mature rather that assuming the carefree attitude of a child. He continues to say that the children have the tendency to be angry and also withdrawn. Bois (2005) airs the sentiments that the parents should do their children a favor and refrain from given them the responsibilities of being a parent when they are still children. He continues to assert that parents should remember that they are their children’s role models and hence they should let their children enjoy the joys of being a child without worrying about an unstable parent leaving all the chores and responsibilities to them. This sentiments are also shared by Guille (2004) who argues that parents should remember that their children are dependent on them for psychological support and morale building and when the parent are transformed into psychological wrecks by a divorce, the children really miss the true meaning of life. Shallice (2001) also supports this and also adds that the parent should be strong for the children’s sake and focus on the children’s needs rather than the divorce. Andrews (2001) also shares these sentiments and adds that this can help very much in the future of the children.

Sara (2003) also says that a divorce brings about a constrained relationship between the children and the parents. She continues to argue that the relationship between the children and the parents is more severed when the parents are involved in a custodial fight. Guille (2004) also supports this and adds that the children may feel that the parents are the cause of all the life dilemmas that their family is now facing and also feels that the parents should do some at least to salvage the situation. Swettenham (1996) is of the view that the children’s relationship is severed mainly when the on the part of one parent, the children see that it is the fault of one parent. Psychological problems according to Swettenham also increase when the parents who is viewed as the fault wins the custodial battle. He continues to say that this is mainly directed toward the mothers who are most likely to win the custody of the children.

Charman (1994) also airs the sentiment that children from divorced families who suffer from psychological problems had more tendencies to turn into antisocial behaviors in their adult lives. Klein (1984) also shares the same sentiments and argues that most of the criminals, prostitutes and other anti social people in the world have had a psychological trauma in their childhood. He continues to say that one of the most intense psychological traumas a child can go through is abuse or separation of the parents either due to a divorce or death. Margolin (2001) says that the many high profile criminals have had a traumatizing childhood and hence tended to be very anti-social. This sentiments are also shared by Sara (2003) who also continues to say that the lack of a proper father figure in the lives of many children who are both girls and boys have led to social problems when the children grow up and many of them may be harmful to a society while others are not harmful. She continues to say that many mentally disturbed people have lacked a father figure in their lives and hence they have very antisocial behaviors and also very troubled lives.


The study has come to the conclusion that a divorce has a lot of traumatizing effects on the children and most of these effects have a long life impact on the children. This is because; some children are psychologically destroyed when the parents undergo a divorce. The study has shown that the effects vary with the age of the children but it is a clear fact that the effects will be almost similar when the children are adults. The parents have been advised to be strong for their children and not be wrecks themselves. Before undergoing a divorce it is important for the parents to consider if the divorce is worth the risk of the children’s future. This is because children whose parents have divorced are likely to take up some very antisocial behavior. The greatest risk is not when the children pick these habits when they are still young but the greatest risk is when the children do not drop these habits when they are adults. Most of the criminals suffer from a psychological problem and that is a fact. A divorce brings about psychological problems to the children and thus increases the chances of the children being criminals.

Counseling psychologists can help the children who have started experiencing psychological problems as a result of their parents divorcing or other causes. It is important for the parents to ensure that if the child starts showing signs of psychological problems they should consult a counseling psychologist before the need arise when they would need the services of a clinical psychologist. This is because clinical psychologists take up the case when the situation is too worse and there involves lot of medication. It is always better to prevent than to cure and in this case the counseling psychologist can be seen as a preventive measure while the clinical psychologist can be seen as a curative measure. Children should not be subjected to this kind of suffering and though sometimes a divorce cannot be avoided, it is always good to consider the implication a divorce is likely to have on the children. Most parents tend to be selfish in these ends and do not consider their own children and the impact that the divorce will have on their children.


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