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A Child’s View on Divorce

Children look at the world differently than adults. Much of what they understand about divorce depends on their age. A toddler will not understand as much as a 5-year-old understands. A school-age boy will not handle his emotions the same way his teenage sister will.

Studies show that children experience the greatest impact from divorce within two or three years of its occurrence. However, research also shows that children are greatly affected by divorce throughout their youth. At each age, there are certain feelings and reactions that children will experience.

Infants

What do they understand?

How do they react?

What can parents do?

Toddlers

What do they understand?

How do they react?

What can parents do?

Preschoolers

What do they understand?

How do they react?

What can parents do?

Elementary schoolchildren

What do they understand?

How do they react?

What can parents do?

Preteens and adolescents

What do they understand?

How do they react?

What can parents do?

References

Wallerstein, Judith S. and Joan Berlin Kelly. 1980. Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope With Divorce. Basic Books.

Wallerstein, Judith S. and Sandra Blakeslee. 1990. Second Chances: Men, Women and Children A Decade After Divorce – Who Wins, Who Loses – and Why. Ticknor & Fields, N.Y.

Family Life 3

Originally developed as Parenting Apart: Strategies for Effective Co-Parenting by M. Mulroy, R. Sabatelli, C. Malley, and R. Waldron (1995), University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension. Adapted with permission for use in Iowa by Lesia Oesterreich, ISU Extension family life specialist.

Editor: Jolene McCoy

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nolan R. Hartwig, interim director, Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Ames, Iowa.

. . . and justice for all The Iowa Cooperative Extension Service’s programs and policies are consistent with pertinent federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination. Many materials can be made available in alternative formats for ADA clients.

PM-1639 / January 1996

A Child’s View (PM 1639) (PDF)

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