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May 6, 2013

Children Impacted by Divorce

Children and Divorce

Divorce is not just an American phenomenon, it is worldwide challenge.  Recently a gentleman from England reached out to me and asked to write a “guest blog” for us.  Of course I was curious to see how divorces in England compare with those in the U.S.  The topic of children and divorce seemed like a good starting point.  When I read his article, I was astounded at how similar the experience was for children whose parents were divorcing in both countries.  It seems that no matter where you live, people encounter the same struggles with children of divorce.

Please read his article to see for yourself that protecting our children during and after divorce is the most important concern for all of us.

Divorce Dynamics – How Divorce Affects Children of Different Ages
Contributed by: David Williamson

Sadly, divorce is a rather matter of fact issue these days. The process – though complicated – is a process we are perhaps all a little too familiar with. Many don’t properly consider the effects of the breaking up of the family unit any more, and what such a monumental change in children’s lives is doing to them. At the moment, in the USA, around half of all marriages end in divorce and around a quarter of all children under the age of 16 now live with a step parent. Therefore, it has never been a more necessary time to fully consider how your divorce may affect your children; allowing you to implement some important prerequisites before kicking your spouse out the door.

Here’s what to expect:

The Very Young – Under 10 Years Old:

The effects on the very young are still somewhat a mystery. Many tests and psychological studies have been run on the subject but as of yet there is no conclusive answer. However, one of the main purposes of these tests has been to gauge the long-term emotional blow-back on children who suffered the break-up of the family unit early on. What has been confirmed here is that when children are very young, before they begin to store memories, the effects are surprisingly minimal. They don’t understand what is going on and as such don’t have the unanswered questions that children several years their senior would have. As they age, though, between about 5 and 10, a very common side-effect is that the child seems to feel as though they shoulder the guilt. They show rudimentary signs of understanding and express blatant cries for attention; feeling that the reason one of their parents is leaving is down to something they have done. As they fear that the remaining parents may also ‘abandon’ them, they will yearn for attention more and more whilst commonly suffering from an irregular sleeping pattern and decreased self-esteem. Studies have shown, however, that it simply takes time for these children to get used to the living arrangement and as children are surprisingly resilient at this age, long-term lingering effects are non-existent when children are very young.

Young Children:

When children mature, roughly between the ages of 9 and 13, it is common to see the feelings of guilt manifest itself even more strongly than in their younger counterparts. Here, an increased imagination is common and it is not rare for children to act out make believe fantasies where they refuse to believe the situation before them; acting as if their parents are still together and nothing has changed. This form of denial comes hand in hand with a much more extroverted behaviour. Children in this age bracket commonly express blatant anger or resentment, while temper-tantrums and sulking is incredibly common. As with the very young, though, these effects are temporary and once the new situation becomes the norm, the child will revert to their earlier behaviour.


This may surprise many, but it is in teenagers where the most long-term and most drastic consequences of divorce can manifest. Between the ages of around 12 and 16, children are mature enough to understand the full extent of what is happening. They witness their parents distress and see how upset the situation makes the people who have been the strongest, most steadfast elements if their upbringing thus far. This can leave the child with a fear of intimacy and hesitancy when it comes to commitment – commonly resulting in increased promiscuity. Statistically, young people whose parents have divorced are more likely to engage in sexual activity at a younger age than those who have been raised in the more traditional two-parent family unit their entire upbringing. The effects, though often not long-term, can linger for some time; even years in the worst cases. Other lingering qualities can be bouts of depression, which initially can be shockingly frequent. They also tend to mature more quickly as they undertake certain caring responsibilities for the parent who they see as suffering the most; many times resulting in a high desire to be completely self-sufficient; seemingly possessing a reluctance to accept help from anybody else. Unfortunately, a common effect in children of this age bracket is their assumption that the same will happen to them in the future. This is the most long-term affect and is known to be a burden for that child until adulthood and beyond as they see the unhappy circumstances of their parent’s current situation as something completely unavoidable in their own life.

Young Adults:

Once children enter young adulthood, usually around the age of 16, the effects divorce tends to have on this generation is very minimal, especially when compared the effects on the pubescent adolescents before them. The main factor for the monumental difference is simple: they still experience the feelings of abandon, confusion and frustration, but are now mature enough to remove their own personal emotions from the equation and let the process run its course. They understand more so the complicated intricacies of love and human nature and know that it isn’t their fault. It is commons for these young adults to become overly involved in the caring for the jilted party (if there is one); feeling as though they are protecting their parent. This can result in a strong sense of resentment toward the guilty party and occasional angry outbursts.. Fortunately, though, these prove to be very short term, not lasting more than a few weeks or months in the worst cases.

Please bear in mind, though, that this is just meant as a guide and children can often behave quite uniquely, especially when emotions are high. If you require more information, we can recommend our friends in the UK and encourage you to reach out to Coles Solicitors Family Law team who can put your mind at rest and aid with all aspects of pursing an amicable divorce.

David Williamson is an experienced legal content writer and works for Coles Solicitors. He likes to write on family law, divorce related topics and other legal topics and contribute on different blogs to share his knowledge.

Coles Solicitors is located at:
96 Micklegate, York, YO1 6JX
Tel: 01904 679990

Other interesting posts written by David:




Keila M. Gilbert, Attorney-Mediator, founded Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation 18 years ago.  Alpha Center has helped over 5000 clients lower the cost, time and stress of their divorce.

If you have questions or concerns about divorce mediation in Doylestown, Newtown, Plymouth Meeting, King of Prussia, Bucks County, Montgomery County or Chester County, please contact Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation at 1800-310-9085.