Parental Divorce Has Negative Effects on Children


The typical tradition of marriages holding until death separates couples is long gone. The rate of parental divorce is presently worrying. The purpose of this research study was to gain an insight into the impact that divorce between parents has on children. The study focused on three research questions. The questions dwelt with: the initial reaction that children show when their parents decide to divorce, the effects that the parental divorce has on the children’s relationships with the divorced parents and other family members in general and also the impact the parental divorce has at children’s personal level.

There are many research studies that have been done about impacts of parental divorce on children; however, the studies have never been extensive as to answer the above issues of concern. What makes this research look unique is the fact that most divorce cases happen at the time when children still depend on their parents for social, economic and emotional support. So it is highly likely that divorce must have some effects on the children of divorced parents. The working hypothesis for this research study was “Parental Divorce has negative effects on children” this hypothesis was selected to set the direction of what the research sought to find out about impact of parental divorce on children.

Literature review

The available literature indicates that there are many challenges faced by children of different ages when their parents divorce. Even the very young children who may not be aware of what goes on around them are also likely to show some changes of behavior, especially when the mother is not around. The effects of parental divorce are experienced differently by children in different age groups. However, almost across all the age groups the children initially feel some emotional feelings and some pains due to loss of either of the parents through divorce; this is supported by Wolfinger (2005).

Some studies have suggested that children whose parents have divorced do experience some varied challenges in their functioning during certain parts in their lives. Some of these available studies further indicate that the metal status of the parent in whose custodian the child or children are, determines the extent to which the divorce scenario affects the child or the children (Wolfinger, 2005).

The available literature shows that children who are victims of parental divorce seem to have poorer academic performance, low self esteem, behavioral problems, and challenges in their social relationships. However, the studies have not convincingly shown the differences that significantly exist between these children and those children who are still living with their parents. It is therefore safe to argue that parental divorce has some negative effects on children. It is important to note that the effects of parental divorce may be minimal or intense. As much as the available research gives low self esteem and drop in academic performance as some of the direct effects of parental divorce, similar incidences have always manifested themselves in children who are still living with both parents (Everett, 1989).

When parents divorce, the children are most likely to experience diminished parental care. The children do not receive the care of both parents. In some cases the children may be placed under the care of step families in which they may not feel comfortable, or they may be taken to children’s home depending with a court ruling. During this period children are likely to suffer depression as they may feel neglected and mistreated. Available research work also suggests that children whose parents are divorced are also highly likely to experience the same thing in their marriages. The research also suggests that victims of parental divorce are not likely to go to college level educations and are also not likely to get high monetary earnings.

Children whose parents have divorced are also likely to feel stigmatized by fellow children who live with both parents. In some cases it is true that such children undergo mental and psychological torture when their peers talk of their parents. For instance, a peer may talk of how good his or her father is, the divorced child may be living with the mother or in a foster family; in this case the child may feel neglected and may grow to hate either of the parents for the rest of his or her life (Dahl, 1977).

The divorce also affects the parents themselves. A partner may find it difficult to psychologically adapt to the absence of the other partner. When this happens the attitude of such a parent may also affect the children negatively. Nevertheless, the parents can make certain that divorce does not negatively affect the child’s welfare. Research has also shown that as much as the parental divorce have negative effects on children, some children especially those already mature, are resilient and adapts fast to parent’s re-union or to the parental divorce (Dahl, 1977).

Research methods

Quantitative research method was used in which data was collected using structured questionnaires.


The sample used in carrying out the research included 20 children whose age ranged from 8 to 15 years. The sample was randomly drawn from children whose parents had divorce. There were 10 girls and 10 boys represented in the sample population.

Data collection

The participants were first demonstrated to how they were supposed to fill in the questionnaires. Each of them was then issued with a questionnaire to fill. Those who could not fill due to some reasons were given structured interview using the same questionnaire; in this case the data was entered according the respondents’ responses to the questions asked.

Data analysis

The study was exploratory and simply exploited the data that was obtained from the surveys finished by the children who are victims of parental divorce. Since the sample size was small, only 20, the major fraction of the analysis utilized descriptive statistics. The analysis of the responses to questions asked in the questionnaires was done by use of already established qualitative enquiry methods; this also included the coding and the processes of categorizing that utilize the approaches of deduction and induction. The data collected was initially classified by responses attached to each question then initial coding groupings were established. Each researcher then was involved in coding data, compared the data, the differences discussed amongst the researchers and then finally the groups were refined.


When the children were asked whether or not they were surprised to realize that their parents were getting divorced, the children had differing responses. Almost half of them agreed to have been surprised and the rest reported never to have been surprised. Amongst those who were surprised 90% reported that they never expected the divorce would take place; the rest expected but not as soon as they happened. However, amongst those who never got surprised 70% had seen the divorce coming while the remaining portion never. These scenarios indicate that some children are always aware of the problems between their parents, some also do not.

The fact that some of the children were surprised by their parental divorce is a clear indication that such scenarios have negative effects on the children. The children may be aware of the problems but never expect the parents to separate on the grounds of divorce. The study found out that the majority of the children interviewed were under their mothers’ custody. More than half of these children reported that they felt their fathers were bad or never loved them. This is consistent with previous research studies that have shown the divorce is most likely to affect a father’s relationship with his children; there is likely to be a strained relationship between the father and the children.

The study also found out that girls are always empathetic with their mothers during times of divorce. Most of the children reported that they always find it difficult and stressful to travel far and frequently in order to go and see either of their divorced parents.

Some of the children indicated that they would not travel to go and see either of the divorced parents, those who lived with their fathers or elsewhere indicated that they would try by all means to go and see their mothers while only one of then reported that she would travel to go and visit her father. When asked about how they came to start living their current parents, less than half of them indicated that they live with one who retained the house, some indicated they were asked to choose in court while the rest showed that during vacation holidays they had no places to stay.

The children also responded differently on the question about the impact of parental divorce on them at personal level. Most responses dwelt on the mistrust of relationships; in fact they indicated that they never trust marriage. Some of them reported not to be interested in marriage due to fear of divorce, though it may be argued that they are still young and therefore still not understand family issues comprehensively. Some of them indicated that they will get married but highly expect divorce similar to that of their parents. However, some of them expressed optimism that when grow up and marry their marriages will last.

They indicated that they would try hard to keep their marriage intact or in the cases that they must face divorce some said they major on the issues regarding their children before accepting final verdict of divorce. When asked about their academic performance at school, most of the children reported that the parental divorce never affected their grades in school; this contradicts the arguments of Ackerman (2008).

The fact that most of the children were students in high schools disapproves the argument that parental divorce causes academic retardation in children. In fact, many of the children reported to have academically beaten fellow students who lived with both of their parents. Some of the students reported that they have put more of their efforts in academic work in order to either avoid the stress caused by the parental divorce or to excel so that they can help the parent they thought was unfortunate or mistreated, the improvement in academic grades is supported by the arguments of Schickedanz (1993).


The research had findings that support the hypothesis. In deed, parental divorce has some negative impact on the children. However, it is important to note that the negative effects are never the same for all children across all age groups. The study found out that there are children who are aware when their parents start having marriage problems. Some of these children even predict imminent divorce. These are children who are almost maturing to adulthood. It was also found out that as much as it may be true that parental divorce may cause a drop in children’s academic performance, mature children are likely to find ways to cope with the incidences.

One of these ways is through spending more efforts in study which definitely increases academic performance as opposed to reducing it. Those whose academic work may be affected are those in lower grades; the ones who still depend on their parents, especially mothers, for everything.

For future research studies, this research can provide some important insights that can help come up with research questions. Though it is limited in terms of the size of the sample population it provides some insights into understanding of the experience children undergo due to parental divorce. Expanding the sample size in future may provide more opportunity to study the impacts of parental divorce in details taking into account the age, sex, and the process itself. This research can also be used as a stepping stone to finding how children of different ages deal or cope with the issues of parental divorce.

Reference List

Ackerman, J. (2008). Does Wednesday Mean Mom’s House Or Dad’s? Parenting Together While Living Apart. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Dahl, N. (1977). Inventory of marriage and family literature. Volume 4. Family Social Science. Minnesota: University of Minnesota.

Everett, C. (1989). Children of divorce: Developmental and clinical issues. London: Routledge.

Schickedanz, A. (1993). Understanding Children: Infancy through School-Age. New York: McGraw-Hill College.

Wolfinger, N. (2005). Understanding the divorce cycle: The children of divorce in their own marriages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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