How Divorce Affects Children


To a child, the divorce of their parents can be likened to a tsunami that strikes their lives and leaves destruction and havoc in its wake. Nothing is ever the same again. The divorce will affect the child for many years to come.

SadDivorce impacts future generations within the family
• In some families divorce is cyclical.
• Children lose access to grandparents and extended family.
• Family traditions are lost.
• Generational family stories are not passed on to children.

Divorce affects personal relationships
• Relationships with each parent is affected because the parents are no longer one unit caring for and concerned about the child.
• Girls in single parent homes are more likely to get pregnant as teens.
• Kids may struggle with normal peer relationships.
• Divorce can negatively impact relationships with extended family members.

Divorce affects a child’s schoolwork
• Many will have to repeat a grade.
• Some will drop out of school as teens because they are so far behind their peers in their learning ability.

Divorce affects their health
• Many will be ill simply because of the chaotic lives they are forced to lead.
• Some become ill because high levels of stress compromise their immune system.

The impact can last for years, or a lifetime

Children of divorce are more likely to pull away from church as teens and adults.

Many children turn to substance abuse and yes even elementary age children turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.

Many more teens of divorce succeed in suicidal attempts than the general population. Suicide and suicidal attempts are occurring in younger and younger children.

The landscape of a child’s life that is left after divorce is forever changed. Today we’ve only presented a short list. Stay tuned for more.

In the next few weeks we will be bringing how divorce affects children at different ages. We’ll start with infants, toddlers and preschoolers and move up the chronological age ladder.

Most importantly, we will also be sharing vital information with you on ways you and your church can counter the impact of divorce on children. These children do not have to become a lost generation. Through this blog, we will provide you with effective and proven strategies to help rebuild these precious young lives.

Want to comment?

Have questions?

Would like to see particular concerns about children of divorce addressed?

Please respond in the comment section below.


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26 thoughts on “How Divorce Affects Children

  1. Never realized what a long tail divorce has on children. Like most people, had only thought about the immediate trauma at the time of divorce, but now realize it has far reaching effects. Glad to see the church plays an active role in aiding our children…much better than what this person (Melissa Harris-Perry) had to propose.

  2. Your comment on the effects of how divorce will affect the child for many years to come is so true. It’s like a tightly woven yarn-ball that unravels slowly each and every day. I struggle with this, but pray that my children will learn what healthy relationships are, and that they will find healing with God, the church, and a strong-support system.
    Thank you Linda!

    • Sherry using the picture of a tightly woven yarn-ball is a good analogy. Hadn’t thought of divorce’s effects like that. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Congratulations! Agree with Wayne – great first article. Look forward to those to come. I have experienced the affect of divorce through two of my in-law children. It has a way of reaching out forever and touching extended family relationships also. God bless.

  4. Miss Linda,

    You truly are a Champion for our children. Thank you, and I pray that God continually blesses you in all your research, speaking, and writing endeavors!

    We need more strong voices like yours!

    I am sooo looking forward to learning more from you, and using these many tools that you are providing to help other parents as well as myself. I’ve been a single parent for about 15 yrs now, and it is the hardest job in the world. Your resources are wonderful.

    Thanks, and congratulations on your new blog!

  5. Linda,
    I appreciate the facts of the effect on children and agree. Yet, there is such a negative tone, that comes as condemnation, what do we do when it has happened and nothing can undo what has been done? That is the grief of divorce. Sadly divorce happens for reasons that one person can not change. So we share the negatives of effects to children and heap on more grief. Fully aware that is not the intent, yet in so much of the information coming forward that seems to be the tone. How can that be changed?

    • Aretha, thanks for posting. Yes it is true that divorce has a negative tone overall. Please stay tuned to this blog as I will be sharing how church leaders and others working with children will be able to change the some of the negative effects of divorce. First though, we have to educate many people including ministers and children’s people about the effects of divorce on children. If they don’t know how it really hurts kids how they can help the struggling children in their churches? I know I didn’t understand until I went through a divorce myself. I don’t want others to have experience a divorce to understand so maybe by making everyone aware we can help the children.

      We will be offering tips on how to bring back the joy and how to depend on the Lord for hope and healing. “From hurt to hope” is what we want to accomplish. Again thanks for sharing.

  6. As a childe of divorce (my parents separated, followed by divorce when I was 16) I am fully aware of the effects the event can have on the children. My younger brother and I were still in the home and my older sister had moved out, but I fully believe we all still deal with the effects of an event of which we had no choice to be involved. I can only speak for myself, but know that it affected my ability to trust others and open up to the possibility of a loving partnership with the man God has chosen for me (it has been almost 20 years). But on the flip side, as a public school teacher, I also have a tender heart for students who are experiencing this heartache themselves and pray that I am able to reach out to them with God’s grace and mercy. Thank you for this ministry. Divorce rocks the world of the children; thank you too for not forgetting that older children are affected as well and in ways that are much different than younger children.

    • Sassyczn, thank you for sharing from your heart. Sounds like the kids in your classes are blessed to have you as you truly understand the issue of divorce and how it is affecting them. Hope you’ll stay tuned.

  7. Linda, I love what you’re doing. This blog is going to help a lot of people. Your sensitivity to the hearts of single parent families is a gift. I’m grateful to partner with you. Congratulations on the new blog!

  8. Loved your new blog! Now we’ve got an online community to go and get Godly information as single parents raise their kids. Thank you for your hard work- blogging is a great way to offer connection! Kathy Fallon, DivorceCare Consultant and DC4K enthusiast!

  9. I look forward to future articles, Linda! You truly are a missionary’s missionary in the field of hurting children!

  10. Pingback: DC4K » Question of the week: How do I help a single parent with a child who screams when being left on Sunday mornings?

  11. Hi Linda, I think much of what you say is probably true. Could you please cite the research/statistics sources you used? For example: where did you find statistics that support the specific statements regarding probabilities and likely hoods, like: “Girls in single parent homes are more likely to get pregnant as teens”, and especially this one – “Many more teens of divorce succeed in suicidal attempts than the general population.” That last statement, I’m sure, is back up by specific research and statistics, given that it’s very specific about comparing the divorced children group to the general population, and the use of the phrase “many more”. Thanks, I look forward to reviewing your sources! Sincerely, Peter

    • Peter,

      There are many resources one can access for these matters. When I developed DC4K and started writing articles the best resource and where I got most of my information was from Dr. Judith Wallerstein. She studied 131 children for 5 years and wrote the book “Surviving the Breakup.” She then studied the same group of kids for 15 years and wrote, “Second Chances.” Later she wrote the book, “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, A 25 Year Landmark Study” using the information from the same group of kids. She was the first person to do a long-term study of kids of divorce.

      The second resource I rely heavily upon is Elizabeth Marquardt and her book, “Between Two Worlds.”

      Here some links I’ve used to arrive at the conclusions you mentioned.

      Suicide: Kids in single parent homes twice as likely to commit suicide,

      Suicide: 63% of kids are from fatherless home

      Teen pregnancies: “Compared with children in married-couple families, children raised in female-headed household …. to have or cause a teen pregnancy….”

      Lastly The AECF ( Kids Count Child well-Being Index tells us: “Children raised in single-parent households are more linkely to drop out of school, to have or cause a teen pregnancy and to experience a divorce as adults.”

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