When a couple announces their divorce and custody dispute, the first effects of divorce on children’s behavior may not be evident right away. Often, these are the behaviors that will last throughout the child’s adolescence and into adulthood. The effects of divorce on children’s behavior can vary depending on the age and mental state of the child involved. Adolescent children are often more difficult to evaluate because they are still developing emotionally and cognitively. Thus, it is important for separated parents to work through their issues before raising their children in a new environment.
Many psychologists believe that parents who remain intact have an important advantage in the development of their children. Divorced families are less likely to have unresolved parental conflicts, and parents with low conflict are more likely to have their children behave in a socially acceptable manner. Children raised by married parents who are able to handle conflict appropriately are more likely to have high school graduation rates and college attendance.
Children whose parents divorce later in life report higher levels of emotional difficulties and social adjustment than those whose parents remained together in marriage. Separated couples tend to have more marital problems, spousal abuse, and parental separation than intact families. Adolescent girls are more likely than boys to report a history of parental divorce or separation. Girls have a tendency to enter married dating earlier than boys, and some girls choose to marry at a very young age, which increases the risk of divorce. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to remain single and raise their children without having experienced any marital difficulties.
The effects of divorce on children living in an intact family will also differ depending on the gender of the child. Research indicates that boys tend to become less sensitive to changes in their family situation after being raised in a single parent home for a long period of time. While this may be true, the lack of a father present in a girl’s life can cause her to focus more on her peers, her friends, and school. Girls who have been exposed to only one divorced parent are more likely to become depressed and less well adjusted than girls whose parents remained married and living together. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to develop substance abuse and behavioral problems after experiencing a divorce.
Impact of Divorce on Children
Children whose parents divorce early in life are more likely to experience high levels of teenage delinquency and substance abuse than other children. A recent study indicated that girls living in two-parent households were more likely to have elevated rates of incarceration compared to children whose parents were married. Boys have been shown to display increased risky behaviors such as driving while intoxicated, frequent and unprotected sexual contact with others, and theft. These behaviors may serve as an indication that a boy is unstable and could become involved in criminal activities in the future. Conversely, girls who have stayed in stable homes and have both a mother and father present in their lives are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and are more likely to attain higher educational levels.
Divorced children have different needs than non-divorced ones. They need care, security, discipline, respect, and structure just like other children. While divorced parents can provide these things for their children, they may not be able to provide them with all of these needs at once. Without proper supervision, children are likely to experience neglect, broken trust, and behavioral problems that will eventually spill over into adulthood. When these issues are not addressed, they can negatively impact one’s self-esteem and lead to a number of difficult decisions in relationships.
Other effects of divorce on children include higher chances of being obese, having fewer friends, and getting into fights more often. It is also shown that boys of divorced parents are less likely to engage in sports and other extracurricular activities. Boys from separated homes are also more likely to live in poverty. There are many other effects of divorce on children according to the national longitudinal study of adolescent health.