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What Are the Effects of Divorce on Children?

Depression can affect even older children whose parents get divorced.
Divorce can lead to sibling rivalry for a parent's affection.
In joint custody cases, each parent must provide a bedroom suitable to the child's needs.
Parents tend to fight about children more often leading up to a divorce and afterwards, making the child think he is partly to blame.
Divorce might cause a child to feel helpless or angry.
Step-siblings usually have to adjust to the new dynamics of the household while ensuring that their personal needs are met.
Article Details
  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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The effects of divorce on children can be both emotional and psychological. Children may blame themselves for their parent's breakup and/or keep wishing that they would get back together. Kids may think that if only they wouldn't have behaved badly in some way, their parents would not have become so angry toward each other and would have stayed happy and together. Of course, in actuality, children are innocent victims in a divorce, as it is solely about the parents and not the parent-child relationship, but kids may not be able to grasp this. It can get confusing to kids because the parent-child relationship becomes a big focus in the times leading up to and through a divorce; parents tend to fight about the children more and this may inappropriately make a child feel that he or she at least helped cause the separation between mom and dad.

Other issues of the family dynamics that take place during a divorce, such as siblings who become split by "taking sides" with one parent over another, can also occur. These effects of divorce on children can lead to sibling rivalry for a parent's affection, especially when kids don't see mom or dad as often anymore due to one parent moving out of the home. Parents who feel guilty about a divorce may resort to buying kids expensive toys.

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This behavior can annoy the other parent who may not be able to afford to do this or who could resent the money being spent this way or on the kids becoming spoiled. This kind of added tension to the already-tense family situation may end up making the children feel even more like the divorce was at least partly their fault. In this way, the effects of divorce on children can keep escalating throughout the process of the parents separating.

Children may also feel angry about the divorce as well as helpless to stop it. Even if kids make a smooth transition emotionally and psychologically, the physical effects of divorce on children may take a toll. Having to move between mom's house and dad's place can be wearing. All of a sudden, they have two bedrooms, two homes and often spend part of the week, or as little as every second weekend, in one and the rest of their time in the other. This new lifestyle structure can effect how often children see their friends as well as create a significant change in the sports or other after-school activities they had before the divorce.

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