According to the American Psychological Association, being raised by happily married parents shelters children from mental, physical, educational and social problems. What does this mean for the children of the approximately 50 percent of married couples who end up getting divorced? Though some long-term effects can be positive, divorce can have serious negative long-term effects on children. Being aware of these may help reduce the negative impact of divorce on your children.
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Anxiety and Depression
If parents don't put the welfare of their child first during and after divorce, the child's long-term mental and emotional health may suffer, sometimes resulting in anxiety and depression. If parents argue in front of their child, or vent their hurt or anger about the other parent to the child, the child may blame himself for the divorce, or feel under pressure to take one parent's side over the other's, says the HelpGuide.org article, "Children and Divorce." Common signs of anxiety or depression in children include sleep problems, difficulties at school, drug or alcohol abuse, self-harm, eating disorders and a lack of interest in social activities.
Even decades after the event, a child of divorced parents may struggle to find or sustain healthy adult relationships. According to psychologist Jan Gumbiner in the article, "Divorce Hurts Children, Even Grown Ones," for Psychology Today, someone whose parents divorced may go into a marriage thinking, "I know I can leave." Based on a 20-year-long study of adult children of divorce carried out by the National Opinion Research Council, children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves, warns relationship coach Leslie Doares in the article, "Is My Marriage Doomed if My Parents Got Divorced When I Was a Kid?" for PsychCentral. Fear of abandonment, failure and loss may affect the adult child's romantic relationships and result in a reluctance to commit, or an inability to work through problems.
A Positive Role Model
Not all long-term effects of divorce on children are negative. Ending an unhappy marriage may give a child a more positive attitude toward marriage, suggests divorce and parenting coach Rosalind Sedacca, in the "Huffington Post" article, "Divorce Or Stay? Parents Must Put Kids First Either Way." On the other hand, enduring a marriage lacking in love, respect and happiness may give a child the message that marriage is something to avoid or distrust. Divorce may teach a child what a marriage should be, and what he is worthy of in his adult relationships.
Healthy Parent-Child Relationships
In some cases, divorce is the best option for a child. Staying together simply for the sake of a child is extremely risky. According to psychologist Philip "Dr. Phil" McGraw on "Dr. Phil.com," it's better for children to come from a broken home, than to live in one. Sedacca agrees that parental divorce may be more desirable than growing up in an unhappy home, with angry, miserable parents who fight and disrespect each other. A child may be more likely to have a happy, healthy relationship with both parents if she sees them happy and fulfilled, without the pressure and stress of an unhappy marriage.