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Divorce Effects on Children’s Behavior


A divorce is always an unpleasant event, even if two adults have no complaints against each other and want to stay in a friendly relationship. However, for children, the experience of parents’ separation is especially painful as it leads to the destruction of connections within the family, traditions, and habits of the child. Children perceive information about divorce with difficulties because, for them, parents are an inseparable whole, and their love is unconditional.

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Such an event often changes the behavior of kids, their performance in school and can also affect the formation of their personality and interpersonal relationships in the future. Therefore, adults need to study and understand the impact of divorce to help children cope with stress, regulate their behavior, and avoid potential negative consequences.

Study Questions

The topic of divorce’s influence on children is quite well studied in the scientific world since there are many aspects that the separation of parents affects. In addition, children of different age groups react differently to this event due to their physical and emotional maturity. For example, Weldon studies the timing of parental divorce and its influence on a person’s romantic relationships in the future (3). Scientist finds that children at the infancy, early childhood, late childhood, and adolescence stage are more vulnerable than during the period of middle childhood and young adulthood (Weldon 2).

Another issue that many scholars study is the effect of the parents’ separation on the behavior of children in school. However, in this case, studies show that changes in academic performance can be mixed. Cox and Desforges note that an increase in academic success is a common manifestation of stress in children, especially in the first years after divorce (6). Nevertheless, another study proves that children’s performance does not change in any way if the separation of parents was predictable and obvious to them (Brand et al. 7269). Consequently, this topic needs to be clarified and examined further.

However, the main issue addressed by all researchers is a study of the mental health of children who have survived divorced parents since all the previously discussed problems are the result of changes in their behavior. For example, Auersperg studied the long-term effects of parental divorce on children’s mental health and the potential for serious problems such as depression, suicide attempts, distress, alcohol, drugs, and smoking (112).

All of these problems can be the negative results of the uncontrolled influence of this event on the child. However, Weaver and Schofield argue that the impact of divorce can be either significant or almost imperceptible to children, depending on the general condition and situation at home (47). These conditions can be a level of financial income, the depressed or typical behavior of the parent with whom they live, and other significant changes in the usual lifestyle of the kids. Thus, the topic of the negative impact of divorce on children is well explored, but there is a need to summarize and generalize disparate information.

Nevertheless, as can be noted from the above examples, the positive influence of divorce on children is practically unstudied since researchers mainly pay attention to the negative impact or its absence. For this reason, it is necessary to determine whether there are positive consequences of divorce for kids and the possibility of their use to neutralize the negative impact. Thus, this study covers the broadest range of possible effects of divorce on children, which allows parents, sociologists, and psychologists to help them cope with the difficulties of this process without adverse outcomes.

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Methods and Tools of Research

This study is aimed at practical research of parental divorce’s effects on children, so it requires an extensive coverage of the information. This topic has many variables on which the accuracy of the results may depend; however, within the framework of one study, it is impossible to pay attention to all the details related to child psychology. The sample also should be full enough and include children who have experienced parental divorce at all stages of childhood, from infancy to adolescence.

First of all, necessary data has to contain the changes that parents noticed in the behavior of their children in the first months, in a year, and a few years after the divorce. Information about the gender and age of the children, the general situation of the divorce process, and the current relationship between parents are also needed. This data makes it possible to compare and understand the differences in the reactions of children.

Kind of Research

It is necessary to use a retrospective research method to understand the causes of behavioral changes and mistakes in the action of parents. Comparison is also an essential part of the analysis since a different background makes it possible to note the peculiarities of parental behavior that affect the emotional state of children. Questions about the reasons for the divorce are not appropriate as this topic may be too personal and painful for some people. However, it is possible to note the mood of the situation in general because the whole process could take place by mutual agreement or vice versa with quarrels and disputes. Besides, it is vital to clarify at least the general state of relations between parents after a divorce, but without delving into details to avoid personal aspects of life.

Methods of Data Collection and Analysis

The most appropriate data collection method, in this case, would be a survey that covers different aspects of a child’s behavior. Questions will be divided into several categories, such as general demographic data, positive and negative changes in the child’s behavior at home, discipline and grades at school, and relationships with other children. Questions also will be repeated for three different periods, such as the first months after the divorce, one year, and five years later. This approach will help to collect data covering the main categories of children’s behavior that are affected by divorce accurately and quickly, as well as the background on which the development of children takes place. Timing issues will help determine the progress and long-term effect of a divorce.

The data will need to be systematized into such groups as the positive and negative impact on children’s relationship with parents, school performance, and interaction with other people. Besides, the same information should be divided into two groups depending on the normal and stressful conditions in which the divorce took place and current communication happens between parents. This division is necessary because these conditions are also crucial for understanding changes in children’s behavior. Systematized data will make it possible to detect both the positive and negative impact of divorce on children and its dependence on the situation within the family and relations between parents.

Practical Application of Results

The results of this study will primarily be useful to parents who have survived a divorce and want to mitigate this process for their children. Adults will be able to predict and understand changes in their kids’ behavior and provide moral support and help for them. The findings can also be useful for child and family psychologists, who can develop methods for solving problems such as conflicts between children and parents, prevention and treatment of depression, development of social skills, and assistance in improving school performance. Social workers can also find this study helpful for assisting families that experience difficulties after divorcing.

Teachers and principals can also use this study to work with children who demonstrate behavior that is atypical for them because of parental divorce since they can notice the first signs of depression and distress that parents miss. Scientists also can conduct more detailed research on the positive effects of divorces on children based on this work or delve into the studied questions by considering the interdependence of separation effects and age stages.

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Therefore, this study is aimed at identifying the positive and negative influence of parental divorce on children and the formation of their personalities. The most convenient method of collecting data for this research is to conduct a survey of parents about changes in the behavior of their children as received data can be systematized and analyzed quickly. Parents, teachers, and psychologists can use the results of the work to provide mental support and help children who experience difficulties because of their parents’ divorce to avoid its negative consequences.


Auersperg, Felicitas, et al. “Long-Term Effects of Parental Divorce on Mental Health – A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Psychiatric Research, vol. 119, 2019, pp. 107-115.

Brand, Jennie E., et al. “Parental Divorce Is Not Uniformly Disruptive to Children’s Educational Attainment.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 116, no. 15, 2019, pp. 7266-7271.

Cox, Kathleen M., and Martin Desforges. Divorce and the School. Vol. 15, Routledge, 2017.

Weaver, Jennifer M., and Thomas J. Schofield. “Mediation and Moderation of Divorce Effects on Children’s Behavior Problems.” Journal of Family Psychology, vol. 29, no. 1, 2015, pp. 39-48.

Weldon, Adrian, “Effects of Timing of Parental Divorce on Children’s Romantic Relationships in Adulthood: A Review.” Lewis Honors College Capstone Collection, 2016. Web.

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