How Does Divorce Affect Children?

As I was sitting in a lecture the other day, my professor gave my class a nice reminder to be thankful for the people who raised us and taught us to be the people we are today. It made me think about how I have been blessed with rewarding childhood in a mostly happy household. I also began to realize how many people I know with divorced parents, and people who live in single parent households. How different their childhoods were and how different their lives could be because of this different living situation. It made me question how does a divorce really impact a family but more so their children?

The first thing I wanted to research when asking this question was how family life affects children. According to an article reviewing divorce and its effects on children, family is a strong determining factor to the building blocks of a child’s future. It can either leave a positive of negative effect on someone’s life. With this inference, I concluded the null hypothesis would be divorce leaves no significant affect on children, or the alternative hypothesis divorce can affect them among many areas. These areas include, trouble in school, bad behavior, and antisocial behavior, depression, and anxiety. All these outcomes then all have to be determined in short term and long term affects.

Through my research, I began to see a common trend between these two hypotheses. In an article by Scientific American, their research resides with the null hypothesis saying that only a small percentage of children suffer from serious problems as children or later as adults. I then found these “serious problems” are considered hard end points since they result in mental disorders, extremely troublesome behavior related with crime, or a future of unsuccessful relationships such as divorce.

In another source, they conducted an observational study of 99 college students who experienced a recent divorce in their families in the last 3 years. They asked the students various questions in which all conclude with “soft end points” effects as seen in the chart below.

ImageThese effects are very normal, according to Emory. They all deal somewhat with grief which is not a mental disability, it’s being human.  

In another study in 2002, Psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington at the University of Virginia and a  graduate student Anne Mitchell Elmore saw that in a short term time period of about two years, children can experience similar short end effects such as shock, anger, disbelief, and short term anxiety. Although, there was still a minority of children who continued to feel these effects and worse.

Since this minority of children is still a possibility, I found through research that this minority could possibly be children who are troublesome prior to divorce. These are the children that are likely to suffer from hard end point effects. These prior conditions although are confounding variables. Other confounding variables that can worsen effects are parent’s mood post-divorce, which means that cannot aid to the children’s needs, or if marital discord is first introduced to the children in the event of divorce, which can worsen their shock and other reactions. This is because children can be more resilient if surrounded by discord prior to divorce.

In conclusion, with this information which was very similar across many studies and sources, there are so many variables that cause the severity of effects which can result in a false negative since there still is something going on but scientists still conclude with the null hypothesis that there is nothing significant happening. But honestly, it may depend on the possible variables and specific details within different divorces families. With this, it’s very hard to draw an actual conclusion.

Although divorce can be a very tragic and traumatic happening within family life, it is very possible and hopeful parents and children can recover and live happy lives. I can’t say this is true at all from my lack of experience, but I know that with tragedy comes a new enlightenment and room for improvement for a better future. -source and picture credit

4 thoughts on “How Does Divorce Affect Children?

  1. Wendy Sun

    I thought the graph that you included was very interesting. As a person with divorced parents, I always wonder what if my parents were never divorced. Would I have been a happier person? Would I be an extrovert instead of an introvert? Being a child of divorced parents also made me feel emotionally detached, and unable to feel unconditional love. I cannot tell if it is just because of my personality or because of my parents. But then again, this article says unconditional love is bad. Hmm.

  2. Charlotte Anderson

    I found this post interesting because as a child of divorce, I can agree with a lot of the things you are saying. When my parents got divorced I was so angry and upset. Instead of turning to people around me I found myself excluding myself from others and this caused my anger to build up. I do think this is a hard subject to test because everyone handles things differently and reacts in different ways. I know friends who were too young to remember divorce so it could not really effect them because they are so used to the way things are now. This article describes how divorce can actually be beneficial to children .

  3. Taryn S Linker

    I found this post to be interesting as what is written is opposite from what I’ve seen from personal experience. I have first hand exposure to how children are affected by their parents getting a divorce. My best friend and her brother are the children of two divorced adults and it has greatly affected them. My best friend was close with both her dad and mother, however, after moving in with her mother, she has become estranged with her dad, does not enjoy being around him and also resents him in a small sense (his new girlfriend contributes to this greatly). The divorce has destroyed the parent child relationship between her and her dad as well as the family structure. Additionally, her brother’s grades began to decline due to the constant moving back and forth between the two parents. He also developed some anti-social behaviors and would rarely interact with others, especially since he only sees his dad every now and often. Conclusively, I believe that it depends on the situation and is therefore unfair to say that nothing significant is experienced when two parents divorce. Here is an article that discusses the effect of divorce on children:

    1. Olivia Frederickson Post author

      I’m very sorry to hear about your friend’s experience with divorce and estrangement within her family. Although, I do note in my blog that these effects are possible, but with the sources I found, they aren’t as common. The trauma experienced by your friend can be taken as an anecdotal piece of data. I was researching data found throughout scientific data, and I did consider that those hard-end point effects are possible. This was a very hard and touchy subject to research. I too have seen many marriages and family split through terrible divorces with similar situations that you explain, but I have also seen smooth transitions made by divorced couples to keep a positive relationship within their families. Although, I appreciate you noting I did not conclude with a fair statement. I was sure to revise my final conclusion by stating that really, it is based on the uniqueness and details of the situation; therefore there can be no final scientific conclusion. In my defense, I really tried really hard and challenged myself to explore such a tricky issue, so flaws within this entry were very possible although your comment is appreciated and respected.

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