The Impact of Divorce on Children

 Children's adjustment following divorce

The good news is that children are resilient, and will get over their parent's separation IF parents & extended family handle the situation properly. 

 

Although there is little doubt that divorce brings a number of important stressors for children, the research indicates that the majority of children from divorced families are emotionally well adjusted. Although most children are resilient and get through the parent's divorce with little long term negative effects, they do experience psychological distress and pain following separation and report a number of fears and wishes, including fears of abandonment, wishes for reconciliation, grief at separation from, or the loss of, contact with a family member.

Low parental conflict

Low parental conflict has been identified as one of the major protective factors for children following divorce. Effective and constructive resolution of conflict between parents has also been found to be related to reduced child emotional distress and behavioural problems. Observing their parents successfully negotiate and resolve their conflicts appears to promote children's development of emotional self-regulation and interpersonal problem-solving skills.

Authoritative parenting

Authoritative parenting is strongly associated with child and adolescent adjustment following divorce. AP refers to parents who are warm and supportive, communicative, responsive to their children's needs, yet exert firm, consistent control and positive discipline, maintain age-appropriate expectations, and monitor their children's activities closely. Having a good relationship with at least one parent is a protective factor for children experiencing family dissolution.

Effective co-parenting or parallel parenting

Under ideal circumstances, both separated parents work together in a business-like relationship to avoid conflict with each other, establish routines across two households and support each other's parenting practices for the benefit of the children. Communication and cooperation and little active undermining of the other parent have been identified as major protective factors underlying the adjustment of children following divorce.

Findings show the effectiveness of the following

  • Reducing children's exposure to interparental conflict
  • Reducing triangulation of children, such as placement of loyalty conflicts
  • Improving quality of parent-child relationships, and improving co-parenting skills such as communication and problem-solving skills
  • Increasing the encouragement of children's relationship and contact with the non-residential parent
  • Improving parental understanding of children's responses to separation and divorce

 Conclusion

Early identification and intervention (such as mediation) for families showing evidence of adjustment difficulties following divorce has been shown to reduce children's mental health problems and adjustment difficulties, and promote adaptive coping and resilience as a normative outcome.