Divorces are a common occurrence in the modern world, and most people are accustomed to the idea of a separated family. Nevertheless, psychologists have long been concerned with the consequences of divorce for children. Research shows that, compared to children who grow up in a full family, those whose parents are divorced have poor outcomes in terms of mental health, physical health, academic performance, and general well-being, and they’re there are four key reasons for that.
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Firstly, divorce causes significant stress for the family, which affects children’s social support. Secondly, a stressful situation diverts the parents’ attention from children to their personal issues, leading to poor academic performance. Thirdly, divorce often has a negative influence on the family’s socioeconomic status, which might affect several indicators, including well-being and physical health. Lastly, it is difficult for many children to process the parents’ divorce, and thus they develop psychological consequences, including emotional and affective deficiency. All of these consequences influence their life and health well into adulthood, and hence it is critical to understand the full scope of the issue.
The significant increase in stress level is the immediate consequence of a divorce that affects both children and their parents. Throughout the process of separation, all family members experience severe stress, which impairs their ability to provide emotional and social support to children (Troxel & Matthews, 2004). However, divorce is a time that can be particularly frightening for children, who usually do not understand its causes and struggle to accustom to the new situation (Andrew & Segun, 2019).
While parents focus on their relationship problems and the legal, financial, and social repercussions of the divorce, they often do little to help their children through it. As a result, children experience a lack of emotional support during a particularly stressful time. This could lead children to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms or struggle with emotional control and expression in a future life (Chase-Lansdale, Cherlin, & Kiernan, 1995). Thus, increased stress in the family is an important factor affecting children whose parents are divorced.
The effect of divorce on children’s academic performance is also negative. This consequence is connected to the increase in stress levels because it causes parents to focus on problems other than their children’s academic success. Children, in turn, often rely on parents for learning support and assistance. They are also required to devote time and energy to classes and homework, which can be difficult under stressful circumstances (Andrew & Segun, 2019).
As a result, children’s grades become lower following parental divorce. A study by Nusinovici et al. (2018) showed that parental divorce had an adverse influence on children’s motivation to learn, their autonomy, and even manual dexterity, leading to lower school performance. The testimonials provided by Andrew and Segun (2019) offered more insight into children’s perspective on the topic and highlighted that divorce prevents children from being able to focus on schoolwork because of the difficult family situation and the lack of parental support. Hence, the research confirms that divorce has unfortunate consequences for children’s school performance and may cause them to struggle with learning.
The effects of divorce on socioeconomic status are also evident because, after a divorce, one of the parents usually lives separately, and thus brings less money into the family. As a result, single fathers and mothers often experience financial needs because of divorce. The consequences of a decreased socioeconomic status could include a variety of problems, including inadequate access to high-quality medical care, education, and housing.
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For example, Andrew and Segun (2019) mention that for many participants, parental divorce resulted in economic hardship, with a single parent not having enough money for food, rent, school trips, uniform, pocket money, technology, and gadgets required for school, and transport. Other studies show that financial difficulties are the key reason for physical health problems in children of divorced parents (Smith, Crosnoe, & Cavanagh, 2017; Troxel & Matthews, 2004). By decreasing the family’s socioeconomic status, divorce thus affects various aspects of children’s life.
The vast majority of research studies on the consequences of divorce for children focus on the psychological implications of parental divorce, and there is evidence confirming poor mental health outcomes in children. First of all, this is triggered by abuse, fighting, and other stressful situations that usually precede a divorce (Andrew & Segun, 2019). These situations have a negative effect on children’s psychological development because they could cause a lack of trust and affective issues (Troxel & Matthews, 2004).
Similarly, the divorce process and living in a separated family can impact children’s mental health. The stress and the increased distance between the child and one or both parents influence children’s development in affective and emotional domains, leading to problems in future relationships (Troxel & Matthews, 2004). Tasker (2014) goes further to show that this factor explains the intergenerational transmission of marital instability, confirming that due to the psychological implications of the divorce, children are likely to struggle with marriage in the future. Therefore, the negative psychological consequences of parental divorce are evident in both children and adults.
The physical health of children whose parents are divorced also suffers from consequences. A research study by Sun and Li (2002) showed that children of divorced parents had a lower level of general well-being than those who live in a full family. Given the information presented above, the implications of divorce for children’s physical health are explained by a combination of stress, psychological issues, and socioeconomic status changes.
Troxel and Matthews (2004) suggest that altered psychological stress-response systems evident in children following a parental divorce explain their decreased health. Moreover, increased stress, poor social support, and the lack of parental supervision can result in unhealthy behaviors, including adolescent smoking, drinking, and substance abuse (Troxel & Matthews, 2004). These behaviors can persist into adulthood, thus having a long-term effect on physical health.
Smith et al. (2017) present a model of the relationship between marriage instability and children’s physical health, arguing that parental divorce influences the health of children in families already experiencing negative situations. This suggests that children from abusive and disadvantaged families might experience decreased health as a result of parental divorce, but those from favorable backgrounds will not. Based on this explanation, divorce has an adverse effect on children’s health, although it is not the same for every child.
The present research provided a thorough overview of the relationship between parental divorce and the various aspects of children’s lives, including academic, physical, psychological, and developmental. Nevertheless, there are some limitations that could influence the quality and reliability of the presented data. Some studies included in the review focused on specific populations, such as children born preterm and disadvantaged youth, and thus the results cannot be generalized to all populations (Andrew & Segun, 2019; Nusinovici et al., 2018).
There were also some outdated studies included in the paper, and the information contained in them could be no longer accurate. Finally, it is necessary to note that parental divorce usually occurs after months or years of family conflict, abuse, and other problems. Hence, it is difficult to distinguish between the consequences of family problems and the implications of parental divorce.
Overall, research evidence suggests that divorce hurts children’s physical health, mental health, academic achievements, and future life. Children who have experienced parental divorce have increased stress levels and are more likely to be unsuccessful in future relationships. Socioeconomic status changes as a result of parental divorce impact children’s access to high-quality education and healthcare. They also can suffer from health problems related to bad habits and stress, which include psychological and physical health issues.
Andrew, C. T., & Segun, O. O. (2019). Investigating the effects of parental divorce on academic performances of young people. Bangladesh E-Journal of Sociology, 16(1), 97-110.
Chase‐Lansdale, P. L., Cherlin, A. J., & Kiernan, K. E. (1995). The long‐term effects of parental divorce on the mental health of young adults: A developmental perspective. Child Development, 66(6), 1614-1634.
Nusinovici, S., Olliac, B., Flamant, C., Müller, J. B., Olivier, M., Rouger, V.,… Hanf, M. (2018). Impact of parental separation or divorce on school performance in preterm children: A population-based study. PloS One, 13(9), e0202080.
Smith, C., Crosnoe, R., & Cavanagh, S. E. (2017). Family instability and children’s health. Family Relations, 66(4), 601-613.
Sun, Y., & Li, Y. (2002). Children’s well-being during parents’ marital disruption process: A pooled time-series analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(2), 472-488.
Tasker, F. (2014). Commentary: (How) does the experience of parental divorce in childhood contextualize adult development? Reflections on Fergusson et al. (2014). Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55(4), 361-362.
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Troxel, W. M., & Matthews, K. A. (2004). What are the costs of marital conflict and dissolution to children’s physical health? Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 7(1), 29-57.