Impact of Divorce on the Emotional Well-being of Children


As an official process to end a marriage, divorce usually has a negative impact on both children and parents. When it comes to health, the inability of people to live together can result in the development of various mental illnesses that significantly lower the quality of life. However, parents are grown-up individuals who are capable of making informed decisions, whereas children do not have the opportunity to achieve this goal. Most frequently, they blame themselves for divorce, which is why their self-esteem gets tremendously damaged. Moreover, separation of parents can contribute to a child’s poor performance in academics, loss of interest in social activity, and engagement in risky behaviors.

Nevertheless, emotional well-being is expected to be affected more than other aspects of a child’s life. For instance, parents’ decision to terminate their marriage relationship can cause the development of an adjustment disorder, anxiety, and depression. However, multiple factors determine the impact of divorce on the emotional well-being of children, including their age, gender, personal relationships with each parent, and the cause of divorce. Therefore, in order to analyze the influence of parents’ separation on the emotional and psychological health of children from different perspectives, it is essential to take into account interpersonal relationships, as well as environmental and biological factors.

Literature Review

Divorce can be considered an extremely common process of dissolving the bonds of matrimony in the U.S. For example, nearly 50% of all American couples are predicted to divorce at some point in their lives (Brand et al., 2019). In other words, the local divorce level is one of the highest across the globe. Most frequently, married couples divorce due to infidelity, unrealistic expectations, various types of abuse, and the lack of equality in the relationship. Sometimes, the combination of several causes results in separation. At the same time, 67% of all second marriages end in divorce (Brand et al., 2019). In spite of the fact that such a considerable number of people end their relationships in the context of legal responsibilities, there are many couples who are unable to divorce due to financial burdens and the fear of depression. Thus, their children live in unhealthy environments where they are likely to face the same issues as children of divorced parents.

Once people divorce, their children are required to make a choice where they want to live. Usually, 90% of children live with their mothers, whereas they are allowed to spend time with the other parent whenever they want (Bell et al., 2017). In some cases, the court obligates the other parent to spend time with their children not more than several hours per week. Even though the majority of children prefer living with their mothers, there are higher chances that this life will be associated with poverty. In fact, nearly two-thirds of individuals living in poverty are divorced women and children (Brassiolo, 2016). Hence, divorce can bring a variety of negative consequences to the life of children.

All children suffer from separation of parents in different ways, although there are some common problems experienced by them. For instance, it is a tremendously common practice when the child in the divorced family has lower educational aspirations and test scores than other children. In addition, children from divorced families are more likely to get engaged in risk behaviors, such as alcohol consumption, smoking, and substance abuse (Bonnell & Little, 2017). It can be explained by the fact that children are unable to find a better coping mechanism to deal with the divorce of their parents. Simultaneously, mental health issues significantly affect the overall health status of underage individuals.

Emotional well-being plays an essential role in the life of each individual, as it helps balance the feelings in the appropriate manner. Currently, it can be influenced by numerous factors, including demographic, economic, and situational ones (Hashemi & Homayuni, 2017). In terms of children, their emotional well-being depends on the psychological state of their parents. Consequently, if parents experience emotional stress, their children are likely to face this problem as well. As a result, numerous children suffer from anxiety, depression, and sleep problems during the process of divorce. When it comes to the long-term effect of parents’ separation, children are more likely to be involved in crimes than individuals living with both parents (Theunissen et al., 2017). Therefore, in order to avoid the negative impact of divorce on the entire life of a child, it is extremely crucial to consider psychological help.



The primary research methods that the author employed during this project are survey research and secondary data analysis. Survey research consisted of 10 questionnaires that were devised specifically to test both of my hypotheses. These questionnaires were disseminated to 12 individuals in the 8-18 age group, while the remaining four were given to divorced individuals in the 25-45 age group. Survey research also included an interview session suggested to one of the participants who completed the aforementioned questionnaire. This interview was one of the two subjects in the 25-45 age group.

Furthermore, secondary data analysis as a research method was used. Extensive secondary data included articles from peer-reviewed journals, textbooks, and statistics from reputable internet websites. The secondary research was conducted before survey research, as I needed appropriate background and knowledge from the past studies in order to formulate two hypotheses and questionnaires in order to effectively test whether my hypotheses were correct or not.


Two hypotheses were formulated based on a literature review. The first hypothesis is that children from divorced families are more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression at an early age than children living in the full family. As stated in the literature review section, for the purposes of the study, the inability to find effective coping mechanisms can result in the development of an adjustment disorder, anxiety, and depression during the process of divorce. The second hypothesis is that divorce can have long-term effects on personality development, thereby increasing chances for getting engaged in risky behaviors in the future. Presently, the most common risky behaviors experienced by children from divorce families include alcohol consumption, smoking, substance abuse, and involvement in criminal activities. There are enormous amounts of data that support both of these hypotheses.

Discussion and Interpretation

The first hypothesis is that children from divorced families are more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression at an early age than children living in the full family. The results from the one-on-one interview and questionnaires, coupled with the knowledge gained from having completed secondary research, lead me to conclude that my first hypothesis is correct. A total of 90% of subjects who completed questionnaires indicated that they experienced some kind of psychological issues in the next several years after the divorce of their parents. Of this 90%, approximately 33% of respondents state that the level of their emotional well-being was on such a low level that they required psychological help from a highly qualified specialist. In turn, 60% of these individuals were diagnosed with either anxiety disorder or depression. In other words, the survey has helped to identify a strong connection between parents’ separation and emotional trauma experienced by children.

At the same time, the accurateness of the first hypothesis has been proved by a variety of secondary resources used in this paper. In fact, based on the research study conducted by Bohman et al. (2017), approximately one-third of all children whose families suffered parental divorce was likely to experience symptoms of depression. Moreover, researchers of this study state that the episode of depression in childhood increases the chances of facing depression in adulthood.

The second hypothesis was that divorce could have long-term effects on personality development, thereby increasing chances for getting engaged in risky behaviors in the future. The results from the secondary research analysis and personal interview with one of the participants lead me to conclude that my second hypothesis is correct. Of 12 individuals in the 8-18 age group, nearly 40% associated their lives with risky behaviors due to the divorce of their parents. Most frequently, children expressed interest in alcohol consumption and smoking. However, one participant stated that they used substance abuse as the main coping mechanism.

At the same time, out of four divorced participants in the 25-45 age group, one person stated that their child committed a crime on the basis of poor emotional well-being. The adolescent was arrested due to theft, which is described by the law as the physical removal of an object without the consent of the owner. In fact, this person stole jewelry from one of the local shops in New York City. Afterward, the psychologist communicating with this adolescent concluded that the crime was committed due to the lack of attention and support from the perspective of both parents towards this person. I conducted a short interview with one of the participants in the 25-45 age group in order to determine if I would be able to gain more information on the connection between divorce and increased likelihood of committing crimes.

Subsequently, the respondent highlighted that their child displayed a more antisocial behavior than children in biologically intact families. These signs were ignored by parents due to their personal healthcare issues. Therefore, this kind of behavior developed into the child’s intention to participate in crimes. The association between the separation of parents and a child’s desire to commit crimes can be explained by poor emotional wellness and the lack of love and support from both parents. My secondary sources also supported my second hypothesis. According to Sillekens & Notten (2018), living in a one-parent family has enduring consequences for externalizing problem behavior. Hence, children from these families are more likely to commit crimes than children raised in full families.

Sample Questionnaire

I am conducting a survey for my research paper that seeks to compare and contrast the characteristics and qualities of children’s lives in both divorced and full families. Please put a check or circle the choice that best answers the question. All answers will be kept confidential and are strictly for research purposes. Thank you for your time and input.

General Information

  1. Gender
    • Male
    • Female
  2. Ethnicity (Please circle one)
    • Asian
    • Black/African descent
    • East Indian
    • Latino/Hispanic
    • Middle Eastern
    • White/Caucasian
    • Other
  3. Family status
    • Full family
    • One-parent family
      Specific questions regarding the impact of divorce on the emotional well-being
  4. Who do you live with?
    • Mother
    • Father
  5. Do you know the cause of their divorce?
    • Yes, I do.
    • No, I don’t
  6. Did you have a conversation with your parents regarding life after divorce?
    • Yes, I did
    • No, I didn’t
  7. Was it difficult to accept the fact of divorce for you?
    • Yes, it was
    • No, it wasn’t
  8. Did you want your parents to divorce?
    • Yes, I did
    • No, I didn’t
  9. Would you like your parents to live together again?
    • Yes, I would
    • No, I wouldn’t
  10. Did you talk with your parents about your psychological state after divorce?
    • Yes, I did
    • No, I didn’t
  11. Were you visiting a psychologist after the divorce of your parents?
    • Yes, I was
    • No, I wasn’t
  12. Did your relationships with friends change after the divorce of your parents?
    • Yes, they did
    • No, they didn’t
  13. Did your academic performance change after the divorce of your parents?
    • Yes, I did
    • No, I didn’t
  14. Were you engaged in any risky behavior after the divorce of your parents (alcohol consumption, smoking, substance abuse, criminal activity)?
    • Yes, I was
    • No, I wasn’t
  15. Assess the quality of your life after the divorce of your parents on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is equal to “terrible,” and 10 is equal to “excellent.”
    • 1-3
    • 4-6
    • 7-8
    • 9-10
      Thanks for your time and cooperation!


Most frequently, divorce is a tremendously difficult period of life for both parents and children. Therefore, it is essential to take appropriate measures to reduce the impact of parental separation on the emotional well-being of all family members. In terms of children, they require an individual approach to recovery after parental divorce, as they do not have a stable nervous system. In case parents ignore the emotional well-being of their children, there is a high likelihood that underage family members will face depression and anxiety, which can result in poor academic performance, engagement with risky behavior, and the loss of interest in social activities.

Based on research findings, nearly 90% of children and adolescents indicate that they experienced some kind of psychological issues in the next several years after the divorce of their parents. In turn, only one-third of them received appropriate psychological help. As a result, the paper provides essential information regarding the connection between parental divorce and the emotional wellness of younger family members. First, the author encourages divorced parents to communicate with their children regularly in order to determine the first signs of antisocial and violent behavior. Second, the author suggests not to hesitate the chance to make an appointment with a highly qualified psychologist. Consequently, numerous children experience feelings of loss, anger, confusion, and anxiety after the divorce of their parents, although the accurate management of these emotions is expected to help them deal with this situation in a healthy manner.


Bell, N., Harris, S., Crabtree, S., Allen, S., & Roberts, K. (2017). Divorce decision-making and the divine. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 59(1), 37-50. Web.

Bohman, H., Låftman, S., Päären, A., & Jonsson, U. (2017). Parental separation in childhood as a risk factor for depression in adulthood: A community-based study of adolescents screened for depression and followed up after 15 years. BMC Psychiatry, 17(1), 1-15. Web.

Bonnell, K., & Little, K. (2017). The co-parenting handbook: Raising well-adjusted and resilient kids from little ones to young adults through divorce or separation (1st ed.). Sasquatch Books.

Brand, J., Moore, R., Song, X., & Xie, Y. (2019). Parental divorce is not uniformly disruptive to children’s educational attainment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(15), 71-76. Web.

Brassiolo, P. (2016). Domestic violence and divorce law: When divorce threats become credible. Journal of Labor Economics, 34(2), 443-477. Web.

Hashemi, L., & Homayuni, H. (2017). Emotional divorce: Child’s well-being. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 58(8), 631-644. Web.

Sillekens, S., & Notten, N. (2018). Parental divorce and externalizing problem behavior in adulthood. A study on lasting individual, family and peer risk factors for externalizing problem behavior when experiencing a parental divorce. Deviant Behavior, 41(1), 1-16. Web.

Theunissen, M., Klein Velderman, M., Cloostermans, A., & Reijneveld, S. (2017). Emotional and behavioural problems in young children with divorced parents. European Journal of Public Health, 27(5), 840-845. Web.

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