Psychological Effects of
Divorce on Children

There are many psychological effects of divorce on children ranging from anger to extreme depression.

About 75% of all children oppose their parents’ divorce. The other 15% are children who frequently witness their parents’ loud arguments, accusations and even physical violence. As a result, they do not oppose the divorce because they just want the fighting to stop.

The psychological effects of divorce on children are more extreme when they’re forced to endure a long, drawn-out custody battle. These children suffer from a variety of psychological problems like denial, guilt, low self-esteem, physical problems, depression, anger, panic, destructive or even criminal behavior.

So if at all possible, try to avoid a custody battle completely. You’ll save your children from a lot of heartache, trauma and grief.

The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children Depend Greatly on the Father

It’s critical that boys and girls have BOTH a male and female role model in their lives. The less of a role the father plays in his son or daughter’s life, the more negative the psychological effects of divorce on the child will be. They will not only suffer in their childhood, but also many years into adulthood as well.

Our society has undervalued the role of a father in a boy and girl’s childhood years. A father (and a father alone) has SUCH a powerful impact on his children’s lives that he can choose to create an emotionally secure, productive adult or a troubled adult with a vast array of habits and insecurities.

Don’t believe it? Ask the most troubled person you know. In virtually every case, you’ll find that the father was not a key part of their life. And if he was, the impact that he had on this person was more destructive than it was positive.


Side note: Our society emphasizes how important a mother is to a child. But very few people acknowledge the father’s role in the child’s life. Let me tell you…the father is EVERYTHING. Fathers, (NOT mothers), determine whether a child will succeed or fail in life. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but the majority of the time, this is true.

A bold statement I know, but if you want your child to live a happy life, you MUST understand what a “REAL DAD” is. I’ve written about this on my blog…go there to see for yourself how you (or your husband) can guarantee the success of your children by being a “REAL DAD”.


Another difference in the psychological effects of divorce children is that boys are more vulnerable than girls are to divorce related stress. This could be due to the fact that women tend to get custody of the children over men. Boys are then forced to live with the opposite sex with no male role model in sight.

Does AGE Make a Difference in the Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children?

Yes it does…AT FIRST, but the long-term effects are often very similar.

Pre-school Aged Children – It’s common for pre-school aged children to become very withdrawn, angry and seemingly impossible to please. Your child senses the conflict in your marriage and often takes it personally even if you attempt to hide your mutual resentment for your spouse.

Bonus tip: Hold a family meeting with all the children (and both spouses) so that all questions get answered out in the open. Have an open and honest discussion telling your children WHY you are getting a divorce.

(This is the first question that pops up in their mind, so it is important that you give them a reason. Be sure to do this without pointing fingers at your spouse or arguing in front of your children.) Click here for more tips on talking to children about divorce.

Children in Middle or High School – Common psychological effects of divorce on children of this age might consist of fantasizing about their parents getting back together or even the use of drugs and alcohol to cover up the pain they’re experiencing at home.

Be on the lookout for withdrawal from their friends, family or activities. This antisocial behavior is one of the most common psychological effects of divorce on children. Look for things like fighting, bullying other children, cheating, lying, stealing, and running away.

Kids Don’t Want to Be the Parent

When parents go through a divorce, they tend to focus on their own immediate concerns, instead of focusing on their children because they quickly get caught up in the ‘rollercoaster’ of divorce.

As a result, parents give their children less attention, discipline and affection, but also MORE responsibilities…and MORE PRESSURE without even realizing it! This often leads to children becoming defiant and argumentative when they normally are not.

One of the less common psychological effects of divorce on children is when the child takes on the role of becoming the “caretaker” by comforting the parent, holding them (and their siblings) ‘together’ and managing household chores and responsibilities.

These children become angry because they feel like they’re trapped by the parent's demands, robbed of their separate identity and denied the care-free lifestyle of a child.

Do your child a favor and don’t put this kind of added pressure on them. You and your spouse are their role models. Let them be a kid without the added pressure of an emotionally unstable parent abandoning everyday responsibilities.

Remember, your children are depending on YOU to stay strong and remain focused on their needs. If you don’t, you’ll make this more traumatizing for them and they will pay for it for the rest of their lives. If you don’t believe me, read these 18 shocking statistics about divorce and children.

At the very least...

If you want to minimize the psychological effects of divorce on your children, you and your spouse must attempt to meet their basic needs at all times. Children need to be nurtured and cared for by both mother and father.

You and your spouse, regardless of geography or “new loves”, must remain involved in your sons or daughters lives if you want to avoid the most serious psychological effects of divorce on children.

And finally, no matter what you do, NEVER use your children as ‘pawns’ during or after your divorce. To avoid some of the most severe psychological effects of divorce on children, NEVER ask them to choose between you and your ex spouse.

If you are trying to save your marriage, don't give up hope just yet. I know what you're going through because I've been there myself, suffering 27 years in a miserable, bad marriage. Today we are still married over 36 years - and my wife hasn't changed one bit.