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Created on August 5, 2017. Last updated on March 6th, 2024 at 04:50 pm

How does divorce impact children?

Divorce is a common concern that many families face. Data shows that over 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Often these families struggle with adjusting and redefining what it means to be a family. Studies have shown that divorce leads to decreased quality and quantity of time between children and their noncustodial parent. This may lead to behavior problems in children, academic concerns, or problems with mood changes such as sadness or anxiety. Studies comparing children from intact versus divorce families show that children from divorce families have significantly more behavior problems. Some parents may have concerns about how divorce impacts well-being among girls versus boys. However, the research finds that divorce tends to equally impact psychological functioning. On the other hand, research does find that younger children and those in high school have more problems adjusting with divorce.

Factors that reduce difficulties after divorce

Although divorce can be a challenge there are some factors that may be important to reduce the burden the family may experience. Research has examined factors such as the intellectual abilities of the child and positive parenting. For example, children with higher IQ’s have been found to have fewer behavior problems following parental divorce. Furthermore, positive parenting before and after divorce helps to decrease internalizing (e.g., anxiety) and externalizing problems (e.g., conduct problems).

Helping your child

We know that divorce is difficult for families based on decades of research. At minimum, it is important that parents learn how to co-parent effectively when living apart. This involves figuring out a plan for you and your family. Below are a few suggestions for helping you and your child after divorce.

  1. Parents should learn to express their own emotions appropriately around their child. Divorce can be difficult for everyone so expressing your anger or frustration in an unhealthy manner does not help your child adjust.
  2. Work on effective communication around raising the child. It is important to be reasonable with expectations of the co-parent and develop a plan that is feasible for everyone to be included in important decision making.
  3. Keep your concerns brief and specific to the child’s situation. Try to avoid blaming the other partner and work on identifying solutions.

Divorce is stressful and often not easy to manage alone. Be sure to seek professional assistance when appropriate to help your family. There are evidence-based treatments available to address behavior and emotional problems in children. For more help locating a provider click here.



Amato, P. R., & Keith, B. (1991). Parental divorce and the well-being of children: a meta-analysis.

American Psychological Association (2017). Healthy divorce: How to make your split as smooth as possible. Retrieved August 8, 2017 from .

Bray, J. H., & Jouriles, E. N. (1995). Treatment of marital conflict and prevention of divorce. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy21(4), 461-473.

Weaver, J. M., & Schofield, T. J. (2015). Mediation and moderation of divorce effects on children’s behavior problems. Journal of Family Psychology29(1), 39-48.


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