Question

Family Challenges & Problems

How does divorce affect a child's development?

A Answers (3)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    When you consider the fact that half of all marriages end in divorce (most of them within the first seven years), then you know that it's far from an atypical situation -- and one that has profound effects on the kids involved. A lot of changes take place for both parents and kids during the divorce process, not only in terms of logistics but also of emotions. Research tells us that many factors can affect how a child reacts to a divorce: everything from his temperament to the stress levels that he faced in the household beforehand. And it's clear that different children react in different ways. Some regress in development, some become more aggressive, and some experience high levels of stress because their habitual worlds have been turned upside down. There are many ways to address this with your ex-partner as you split into two households, such as mutually agreeing to try to establish as much routine as possible (for instance, consistent bedtimes) and providing endless emotional support.
  • ABob Livingstone, Marriage/family Therapy, answered

    The effects of divorce on children's development are:

    1. They often feel that the termination of the marriage was their fault.
    2. They come to believe it is their job to mediate their parent's arguments.
    3. They often feel that they are in the middle of their parent's conflict.
    4. They are sometimes used as “message carriers” between parents and they develop an identity as a message deliverer.
    5. They are also asked to report back to the other parent about what mom or dad is doing and they have mixed feelings about playing informer.
    6. The conflict between their parents becomes so overwhelming to them that they shut down emotionally as a means to escape from their parent's hostility towards each other.
    7. Some will become substance abusers.
    8. Some will suddenly lose interest in school and grades will plummet.
    9. Some will no longer follow rules set up by their parents.
    10. There will be an adjustment period in getting used to living in two households.
    11. They may feel that they have to be loyal to both parents putting them in a terrible position if the parents are at war with each other.
    12. There may be an increase in anxiety or depression symptoms.
    13. They may become fixated on the worry if my mom left my dad, maybe she will leave me one day.


     

  • ACharles Sophy, MD, Psychiatry, answered

    When you consider the fact that half of all marriages end in divorce (most of them within the first seven years), then you know that it's far from an atypical situation -- and one that has profound effects on the kids involved. A lot of changes take place for both parents and kids during the divorce process, not only in terms of logistics but also of emotions. Research tells us that many factors can affect how a child reacts to a divorce: everything from his temperament to the stress levels that he faced in the household beforehand. And it's clear that different children react in different ways. Some regress in development, some become more aggressive, and some experience high levels of stress because their habitual worlds have been turned upside down. There are many ways to address this with your ex-partner as you split into two households, such as mutually agreeing to try to establish as much routine as possible (for instance, consistent bedtimes) and providing endless emotional support.

    • They often feel that the termination of the marriage was their fault.
    • They come to believe it is their job to mediate their parent's arguments. They often feel that they are in the middle of their parent's conflict.
    • They are sometimes used as “message carriers” between parents and they develop an identity as a message deliverer.
    • They are also asked to report back to the other parent about what mom or dad is doing and they have mixed feelings about playing informer.
    • The conflict between their parents becomes so overwhelming to them that they shut down emotionally as a means to escape from their parent's hostility towards each other.
    • Some will become substance abusers.
    • Some will suddenly lose interest in school and grades will plummet.
    • Some will no longer follow rules set up by their parents.
    • There will be an adjustment period in getting used to living in two households.
    • They may feel that they have to be loyal to both parents putting them in a terrible position if the parents are at war with each other.
    • There may be an increase in anxiety or depression symptoms.
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