The Effect of Divorce on Children

Subject: Family, Life & Experiences
Pages: 11
Words: 2751
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: Bachelor


The process of separation between couples is often characterized by pain and anger often expressed against each other. In extreme cases, violence may erupt leading to physical and mental frustration including body harm. In such instances the most forgotten people are the children who are often used as pawns in the “grand chess game”, between their father and mother. It is the children who continue the mental and emotional anguish long after the process of separation has been finalized.

Some of these parents are also concern (DeBord, 1997). End as to the effect that the child may live with and either the separation issue will have an inclination as to how the child will grow up. Most of them ask themselves if the child will grow like all the other kids who are fortunate enough to be brought up by both parents.

Human beings have evolved with time, and their mental abilities have consequently changed based on several factors. Two of the key factors influencing human behavior are either biological or environmental depending on an individual’s level of exposure. Knowledge of behavioral changes based on social situations is acquired at an early stage of an individual. However, other person’s gain similar knowledge while in elementary school and high school for the ‘slow learners.’

A high school setting serves as a major example of how human beings transform to adapt to a particular social change. Since all the students come from different backgrounds, they conform to a particular social behavior set by a particular school they are attending. Research has established that a social setting that one joins will most likely modify his or her behavior eventually. Such an impact usually persists and rarely changes irrespective of the social diversity of a particular setting, for instance, in new school. Eventually, different people with diverse origins will in the end show more behavioral similarities and less difference.

In studying human behavior from a psychological perspective there is a belief that it is it is important to point out two distinct human behaviors that change based on social situations. Individuals experiencing social behavioral transformation can be seen in when relating to his peers or when addressing certain situations. Initially, a person adopting a certain culture will exhibit a liking for the new culture before trying to ‘sell it’ to the surrounding individuals. The next step would be to start researching more about the culture to identify the culture’s strong points; needed for behavioral self-defense when confronted.

The constant attacks from peers will further strengthen the bond toward that new culture and to some extremes forcing the individual to relocate to areas away from the source of confrontation. Luckily, if it was just a stage of growth, say adolescence, the perceived change in behavior will slowly diminish (DeBord, 1997). But had the behavior change been caused by external factors, the individual will be attached to the new culture whether or not it is accepted.

In situations whereby a young person has adopted a delinquency-related behavior like drug abuse, there is usually the need for therapeutic intervention. However, this not being the case at all times, certain behaviors that are adopted without the negative effect on the people surrounding the individual need not call for the intervention. Consequently, if the individual exhibits extreme changes in behavior, the intervention would depend on the level to which the behavior affects the surrounding.

In most cases physical abuse normally precipitates divorce actions and normally can be defined as a deliberate action in expression or physical contact that can result to injuries and general disregards the rights of the spouse in the marriage. Physical abuse can be in the following forms; psychological, sexual abuse, and neglect. The consequences of this negative act include depression, anxiety, and emotional torture of the child physical injuries sustained in the process. This issue has been of great concern to the country as a whole because of the long term effect of such abuses. It is because of this impact that the government and other organizations have carried out the causes and possible solutions to this habit.

Divorce is among the most sensitive issues in our society today, from time to time cases of divorce have been committed by adults who are either ignorant, irresponsible or were victims of divorce when they were young (DeBord, 1997). It is therefore worth studying the genesis and prevalence of this negative act that may destroy not only morals in the society but the future of the coming generation. Studies and research have shown a certain trend of habit from victims who had experienced or witnessed divorce in their early childhood. Such victims have been known to either abuse other children or even perform other major crimes within the country (Hughes & Scherer, 2008).

According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, over a million underage children have witnessed divorce or have been in a family where the father and mother have separated from each other. These victims suffer emotional scars injuries that lifelong and very traumatic in some victims. There are several consequences of divorce; they range from long term to short time consequences. Long term consequences normally shape the behavior of an individual in later age.

These individuals normally resort to violent approaches to situations and sometimes commit deliberate abuse of children and adults. Most importantly the world worst criminals analyzed statistically were witnesses of divorce or were raised in families where the father and mother had separated at a young age. The long term effects include, feeling of isolation, anxiety, depression, drop out of school and suffer depression among other negative impacts.

The context in which these behaviors occur is mostly in a social setting such as a school. In any particular school, some rules and regulations govern ways in which students and teachers behave and interact with one another. The established rules and regulations in a school setting is another reason that could impact students’ adoption of certain behavioral dialect. On the other hand, peer pressure influences student’s abilities. Depending on the teachers, the extent of students ‘pronunciation of certain words and mastery of a given language at an early age is determined. The ability of the teachers to pass on their language skills is to large extent copied by students.

At an early age, a student can easily adapt a particular dialect and finally adapt to a life different from the initial exposure. For instance, a child whose parents relocate from an Asian country to the U.S. will easily adapt to the American setting compared to an adult with whom they relocated with. This variation in ability is explained by the fact that at tender age human beings have the inabilities to decide what options are to be adopted and which ones are to be left out. A child will easily befriend another age-mate in the context that an adult would not. This is because grown-ups set up certain standards or characteristics behaviors they expect of a new friend; a criteria which does not feature in the life of children.

Researchers and scholars in conjunction with other academicians are starting to study the new phenomena where by the effects of divorce are starting to be known and being documented to provide information to parents contemplating on breaking up. Studies have shown that effects of divorce in children vary with the age at which the parents separated. As opposed to earlier assumptions that effect were the same regardless of the age of the child in question.

It was also discovered that effects also varied depending on the gender and personality of the children. The length of the strife in the home between the parents as was witnessed by the child also has a part to play in the determination of the effects that will b undergone by the child or children. The support of friend, extended family members is also very important during the period that the process of separating could be taking place. The first factor that we are going to consider is the age of the children


Very little is known on the effects of divorce on children who are less than three years in age. It is assumed that at this time the child is not able to comprehend on the events surrounding the separation of the parents. Issues have been found to occur where the parents and the children had close relation with each other. Separation in such cases tends to become much more painful for both parties and way of mitigating these effects should be discussed by both parents. Studies have shown that effects are varied in accordance to age:


At this stage, studies have shown that children are too young to understand the intrigues surrounding the separation of their parents. Infants may although sense that something is not right through the adjustment in the mother’s mood which is manifested through changing moods. Infants have been found to exhibit loss of appetite and stomach upsets.

Preschool children

Children at this age have been found by researchers and scholars to blame themselves as the cause of their parents separating. They generally assume that their parents are separating because of them not following orders from their parents. Children at this age may fear being forsaken and neglected and this may be manifested through exhibiting behaviors that may display the need for security. Example of such behaviors may be increased wetting of the bed, playing with toys and increased need of attention from their parents. They may enter into a phase in which they may try deny something could be wrong in their family. Children at this stage also exhibit different moods such as anger and depression. As much as they will seek attention from the adults around them, they may defy orders from them.

School aged children

Children at this age can comprehend the activities and the changing home environment in which they come from. It has been reported that separation affects children at this stage the most. Children may experience bursts of anger with joint resentment towards their parents regarding why they could not cope with each other.

Causes of Divorce

There are several causes of divorce in the United States; social structure is one of the major causes of violent act in most cases of separation in families. The social structure is essentially made up of the community surrounding children who have experienced divorce in their families. Divorce in many families results in community deterioration which leads to substandard schools and housing often make the youth feel unappreciated and therefore turn to acts of violence to get the care and the attention they are seeking. The media in America has also portrayed divorce as an appropriate way of solving problems; such images make especially the couples to carry out acts that will undermine their marriage.

Alcohol and drugs on the other hand have contributed to over 40% cases of divorce acts. Young couples have been reported to committing violent acts due to the side effects of drugs and alcohol. Such couples carry dangerous weapons and can attack others including their children, causing injuries which can in extreme cases result to death. In the American social setting, some teens have witnessed abuse from their families and close community relatives. Childhood abuse and neglect has also been the major cause of violent cases later in life by the victims.

The other two major causes of divorce in the community is because of oppression based on age, gender, race and disability hence the perception that such the other person in the relationship cannot contribute meaningfully to the family. Economic situation is also another cause of divorce, this happen especially to unemployed people, lack resources and few support services by the government. The feeling of being hopeless contributes to a larger margin the chances of people committing acts that will undermine their marriages.

Consequences of Divorce

Ranging from the extreme of violence, the results of divorce at all times is normally severe to the whole community and especially to the young children. America has witnessed a high number of divorce cases in the last century. Such couples have been found to attack each other with lethal weapons and consequently causing injuries by the weapons they use on innocent people and even other members of their family who disobey their order or threaten to report them to the authorities (Hughes & Scherer, 2008).

Moral decay and insecurity in any country is caused by violence from the public. Such repeated acts hamper the peace and security level in any setting. The normal progress of duties and nation building is affected by acts of crime and violence. This is mainly because the economy and the overall gross domestic production (GDP) significantly drop unless the divorce acts and other related vices are contained by relevant authorities. Conclusively, there cannot be any economical progress in a violent community.

Preferred solutions for violence

The solution of divorce acts in American society must originate from the core cause of the irresponsible behavior which is the community, the government and the family members. The community should provide the couple basic advice regarding life Moreover affection to each other as a couple should always be improved for them to feel accepted in the community. There should be a ban and eradication of alcohol and drug abuse especially by the couples Guidance and counseling about the harm of drugs and alcohol consumption should be taught.

Fighting discrimination in form of age, gender, race and disability will help reduce reprisal acts by the victims of such oppressive and discriminative. During the post war error, such discrimination against race and gender dominated the cause of the violence later witnessed in the early 1960’s which lead to death of activist of that time like Martin Luther King Jnr. and Malcolm. Later as the community became less discriminative against race, there was a reasonable reduction of acts of violence by the victims.

The state of economy and uneven resource distribution in other states which lead to poor schools and homesteads is also a common cause of acts of divorce cases. It is therefore the responsibility of Governors and Senators to ensure poverty eradication and even national resource distribution to avoid resultant violent acts as a result of poverty and economic state of people who feel left out by the community. The media should also eliminate the perception that violence is the solution of problems affecting the people but rather sensitize people that violence adds their problems and impede their development.

Case study

The consequences statistically in percentage are as follows

Running away 28%
School engagement 23%
Depression 17%
Delinquency 32%

There was also a relationship between children who have undergone the experience of divorce among their parents and depression. Since the research focused on the juvenile delinquency because it is the most costly outcomes of such instances. The research therefore hypothesized that the more cases involving such children, the higher the rate of delinquency (Hughes & Scherer, 2008).

The data was collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent (Add Health).The project was also sponsored by Carolina population centre which was specifically designed to investigate adolescence health and behavior. The sample for the project was a stratified sample of 80 schools to represent U.S school system with the following details; region in the country, urban city, school size, school system and ethnicity. A total population of above twenty thousand adolescents was interviewed for wave I which was followed in later years by wave II and wave III respectively in 2001 and 2002.

Our first hypothesis null hypothesis is there is relationship between consequences of divorce on children (i.e., abuse, physical abuse, neglect and psychological abuse) and run away from home. The obtained value exceed the critical value more extreme than the critical value, the null hypothesis cannot be accepted. The mean of run away without child abuse (.28) is bigger than the mean of run away with child abuse (.49).

Our second null hypothesis is there is positive relationship between child abuse and school attendance. The third null hypothesis is here is no relationship between child abuse and depression. The obtained value (4.413) exceeds the critical value (1.64) more extreme than the critical value, the null hypothesis cannot be accepted. The mean of depression without child abuse (3.22) is smaller than the mean of run away with child abuse (2.77). The table above shows the scatter plot of delinquency and effects of divorce.


DeBord, K. (1997). Focus on kids: The effects of divorce on children. Cooperative Extension Service: North Carolina.

Hughes, R., & Scherer, J. (2008). Parenting on you own. London: Oxford publishers.