Children of divorce

J R Soc Health. 1990 Oct;110(5):161-3. doi: 10.1177/146642409011000505.


Divorce is a stressful experience for children. The disruption of the home is associated with significant emotional, financial, and social costs. Children often react to divorce with emotional responses typically associated with death. Divorce may be perceived as the death of an established family unit. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are often part of the emotional evolution of a child experiencing the divorce of the parents. The grieving process may last months or years and in some children may never end. The exact nature of the response is influenced by the age and the developmental level of the child. Most children are able to overcome the initial trauma of parental divorce and resume normal development and function. Some children, however, experience severe depression or anxiety and are left with an emotional scar for the rest of their lives. The adverse impact of a divorce can be minimised by a realistic and sensitive understanding of the effects on children. Parents can help at the time of divorce by preparing their children for what is about to happen. The preparation should be appropriate for the age and the developmental level of the child. Parents should demonstrate a strong commitment to their children. Children cope better with divorce if the parents co-operate with each other and adopt an attitude of 'together for our child while separate for us.'

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Divorce*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Psychology, Child*