The Effects of Divorce On Children

Early Divorce Studies

Since the early 90’s scores of marital researchers have changed their stance on the negative stigma that once accompanied divorce. Yet it would be reckless of any couple, husband or wife to enter into divorce without considering the effects of divorce on children.  Recent research regarding the effects of divorce reveal the effects vary depending on a couples particular situation.  Many researchers have concluded that couples need no longer assume old assumptions of the ill effects of divorce are applicable to them.  Mounting evidence in the annals of scientific journals detail the ill effects of divorce.

Divorce Effects Findings

It has been found, children whose parents have divorced will have:

  • Increased risks for health problems.
  • An increased likelihood the victims of abuse and neglect.
  • More behavioral and emotional problems.
  • Are involved more frequently in crime and drug abuse.
  • An increased likelihood to abuse alcohol and begin using drugs.
  • Higher rates of suicide.
  • More emotional and mental health problems, significantly more as adults than adult children of intact families.
  • A higher frequency of diminished learning capacity, are more likely to repeat a grade, and have higher drop-out rates and lower rates of college graduation.
  • Permanently weakened relationships with their parents.
  • Destructive ways of handling conflict and a poorer self-image.
  • A greater likelihood to feel hostility and rejection.
  • Will demonstrate an earlier loss of virginity, more cohabitation, higher expectations of divorce, higher divorce rates later in life, and less desire to have children.

Additional effects of divorce on children:

  • Incur a higher incident of serious abuse, including sexual abuse.
  • An increased tendency for premarital teenage sexual activity, number of sexual partners during adolescence and out-of-wedlock childbirths.
  • Difficulty with romance and courtship as they reach adulthood. Including more failed romantic relationships, experiencing a more rapid turnover of dating partners, and higher levels of cohabitation. This will lead to a greater number of sexual partners, which in itself creates a grave risk that one will acquire an incurable sexually transmitted disease.
  • More positive attitudes toward divorce.
  • Have less favorable attitudes toward marriage.
  • Are less likely to insist on a lifelong marital commitment.
  • Are less likely to think positively of themselves as potential parents.
  • A negative impact economically due to a decreased household income and have a higher risk of poverty.
  • Destructive ways of handling conflict because they have not seen their parents’ ability to handle conflict and move towards an agreement.
  • An affect in their adult years due to the strains and difficulties that arise in daily rituals, family celebrations, family traditions, and special occasions and see these losses as major.

An Extended Period of Impact

Unlike the experience of their parents, the child’s suffering does not reach its peak at the time of the divorce and then level off. Rather, the emotional effects of the parents’ divorce can be played and replayed throughout the next three decades of a child’s life. Divorce has pervasive ill effects on children.

If you have a little time, think about taking our Marital Risk Assessment.

This information is summarized from the article, The Effects of Divorce on America. Patrick Fagan and Robert Rector, “The Effects of Divorce on America,” The Heritage Foundation, June 5, 2000,