Psychological Effects of a Divorce on Children


Even when implemented in a manner as delicate and expeditious as possible, divorce leaves quite substantial marks on all those involved, children being the most vulnerable parties involved. Apart from the challenges linked to ensuring that communication between parents and children remains uninhibited and clear, the problem of the family law containing significant flaws should be mentioned as one of the core factors in shaping the mental, emotional, and even physical well-being of children of divorcing or divorced parents (Vogel 3). Therefore, a more in-depth look at divorce’s effects on children, and the manner in which the current legal standards exacerbate the adverse outcomes, is required. Although the current legal standard concerning divorce and the further allocation of responsibilities for parents allows addressing the problem of women’s vulnerability, it leaves an open the door to children developing mental and physical health issues, as well as places them at risk of developing juvenile delinquency, which suggests that standards regarding parental rights, legal custody, visitation hours, and social services for children must be reconsidered to reduce the threat of health issues in children of divorced parents.


Divorce: Legal Standards

The current legal standards for managing divorce vary extensively depending on the state; however, certain homogeneity in the frameworks for addressing divorce-related proceedings can be observed. Specifically, according to the current U.S. standards, the divorce can be initiated by either party (“Divorce”). Furthermore, the rationale for divorce may include both fault-based and faultless scenarios (“Divorce”). According to U.S. standards, a couple seeking to initiate a divorce must seek court judgment to get divorced (“Divorce”). As soon as a couple receives a judicial decree, their marriage can be considered dissolved under U.S. law (“Divorce”). Additionally, issues such as the division of resources, children, child custody, related spousal support, visitation hours, and other pertinent issues are discussed during court proceedings, with the verdict clarifying the described concerns (“Divorce”). Therefore, in the U.S. legal framework, the divorce process is regarded purely as a termination of marriage, which implies a certain narrowness of the perspective, primarily with regard to children’s needs.

Among the main issues that the current divorce regulations represent the lack of emphasis on the role of fathers in supporting children and playing a parental role in their lives must be mentioned. At the same time, studies show the misguided nature of the specified assumption by proving the significance of fathers in children’s lives (“Divorce”). Namely, Henry et al. have concluded that, with due interventions and guidance, fathers are capable of forming a robust and powerful emotional bond with their children. Moreover, the study has confirmed that “strengthening interpersonal interactions and focusing on father-child relationships again appear to be important, this time in promoting positive outcomes for children” (Henry et al. 26). Therefore, the current regulations contain a significant dent in regard to ensuring fathers’ rights to retain their bond with their children. Additionally, the problem of children developing mental health issues as a result of their parent’s divorce, particularly, causing emotional trauma followed by PTSD, could use better representation in the current law.

Furthermore, multiple research papers on the issue of trauma experienced by children whose parents are going through divorce have indicated that mental health concerns are remarkably common in the described scenario. Namely, children of parents that are currently undergoing a divorce are particularly prone to anxiety and depression (Demir-Dagdas et al. 471).

Finally, one must mention the threat of juvenile delinquency in children of divorced parents as a response to changes in the dynamics of their relationships with parents. Being particularly prominent in boys, the issue of juvenile crime is typically explained as the direct outcome of failing to cope with trauma coupled with the absence of a father figure whose example they could follow (Demir-Dagdas 472). Namely, the study by Mwangangi confirms that the issue of juvenile delinquency is especially common in children of divorcing or divorced parents: “Parental divorce has been cited as a consistent predictor of juvenile delinquency and a major parent-related risk factor for criminal development in childhood and adolescence” (Mwangangi 54). The observed change can be explained by the emotional trauma that a child experiences after severing a strong emotional bond with one of the parents, typically the father (Demir-Dagdas 478). Therefore, the current regulations regarding divorce, in general, and fathers’ rights in relation to custody and visitation, in particular, must be revisited.

Supporting Claims

Health Issues

Multiple pieces of evidence indicate that the reinforcement of paternal rights and enshrining them in the current legal standards for divorce in the U.S. will benefit children significantly. For instance, by increasing the number of visitation hours and the extent of legal guardianship fathers have over their children, one will create an environment where children will consistently have a strong father figure in their lives. As a result, both parents will be able to contribute to raising the children (Demir-Dagdas 476). Consequently, children will not feel emotionally devastated due to the guilt over the rift between their parents.

Moreover, the connection between the probability of juvenile delinquency in children of divorced parents and the opportunities for fathers to participate more actively in their children’s lives despite the divorce are apparent. For instance, according to the study by Boccio and Beaver, “Due to the negative consequences associated with parental divorce, some scholars contend that experiencing parental divorce in childhood or adolescence may be linked with adjustment and behavioral problems, including criminal behavior” (2). Although the conclusion above does not emphasize the importance of fathers, specifically, it does point to the negative implications of divorce on children. Therefore, the specified outcome suggests that the existing legal standards for divorce proceedings must be improved significantly to prevent children from developing trauma.

The range of health issues that children are likely to experience is quite vast; moreover, the specified health challenges can be seen as the outcomes of the divorce and the failure of children to retain connections with their fathers. Specifically, the study by Boccio and Beaver explains that a significant percentage of children with divorcing or divorced parents are likely to develop mental health issues such as PTSD and anxiety (21).

Juvenile Delinquency

Additionally, the effects of fathers’ lower involvement rates in their children’s development due to a divorce and the complete removal of fathers from their children’s lives lead to multiple negative implications (Boccio and Beaver 21). Apart from the emergence of mental health trauma, children of parents undergoing a divorce or divorce are prone to developing propensities toward juvenile delinquency (Boccio and Beaver 25). As confirmed by a study by Boccio and Beaver, the specified outcome implies that the current legal standards for divorce need to be revisited. Specifically, although the causation between the drop in the amount of time spent with their fathers and the extent of juvenile crime rates among children of divorced parents has not been confirmed, the correlation is quite evident (Boccio and Beaver 26). Thus, the existing legal framework requires thorough and meticulous reconsideration.

Arguably, the outlined effects of divorce on children can be explained not only by severing their relationships with their fathers but also by the introduction of stepparents. Particularly stepfathers, into their lives. Boccio and Beaver assert that “remarriage or cohabiting with a new partner may redirect the custodial parent’s attention to the new partner and decrease the amount of attention directed toward their children, leading to less supervision” (91). Indeed, with the shift in the focus of the parents, the trauma experienced by a child whose bond with the father has been severed remains unattended to, which causes further spiraling into mental health problems and the resulting delinquent behaviors as an unhealthy coping mechanism (Boccio and Beaver 92). Exacerbated by the feeling of abandonment, the described outcome is likely to entail an increase in participation in criminal activities in children of divorced parents.

Exposure to Abuse

The threat of children of divorced parents becoming exposed to abuse also rises significantly. An article by Brown et al. proves that the specified demograp0hic becomes exceptionally vulnerable to abuse: “Prior research indicates that sexual abuse co-occurs with other family-level risk factors, including domestic violence and substance use” (Brown et al. 9). Given the emergent threat of substance use as a potential damage to children’s developing mental abilities, the described outcomes indicat6e that children of parents that are undergoing a divorce or have already divorced face substantial danger.

Namely, their mental health and psychological well-begin are heavily jeopardized by the emergence of threats such as possible exposure to substance misuse and the possibility of an assault, including that one of a sexual nature (Brown et al. 2). Specifically, Brown et al. confirm that “most research has focused on the co-occurrence of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as well as of physical and supervisory neglect” (2). Therefore, there are strong reasons to believe that the absence of a parent, namely, a father, and the following introduction of a stepparent, particularly a stepfather, may entail a plethora of risks for a child, including the possibility of a sexual abuse form the step-father. For this reason, limiting the presence of fathers in children’s lives in case of a divorce seems not only unreasonable, but also highly dangerous for a child. Particularly, the risks to the child’s mental health and the development of severe trauma along with the resulting PTSD becomes a vital argument against the current regulations regarding divorce. Namely, the role of fathers in the lives of children, including the length of visitation hours and the extent of fathers’ presence, in general, needs to be reconsidered, with greater opportunities for fathers to participate in the lives of their children being enshrined into the law.

Statements of Opposition

Even though there are strong assumptions to assert that the enhancement of the extent of fathers’ presence in the lives of children in divorced families is likely to produce a vastly positive outcome, one must admit that the current legal standards have been designed for a reason and serve to protect those the most vulnerable. Namely, by reinforcing the extent of fathers’ presence in their children’s lives after the divorce legally, one may create a setting in which abusive men could continue to damage their children and their former wives.

Additionally, addressing the one-sidedness of the current divorce-related regulations by increasing the involvement of fathers may not necessarily lead to a rise in fathers participating actively in child upbringing. According to a study performed by Vogel, the willingness to continue to begin active in child rearing and the support of children post-divorce is substantially low in a significant portion of divorced fathers (Vogel 2). Admittedly, the author of the study clarifies that the lack of willingness to continue participating actively in a child’s life is defined by a range of extraneous socioeconomic factors for a father (Vogel 5). Specifically, the study cites employment issues, gaps in literacy, and the presence of criminal history as the most common impediments for fathers to continue supporting their children and communicating with them after the divorce (Vogel 11). Nevertheless, the described concern does not justify the presence of one-sidedness in the current legal framework for managing divorces, which prevents fathers from continuing to support their children and, therefore, contributes to the prevention of mental health crises in the target population.

Furthermore, the threat of post-separation violence or, at the very least, significant strain in the relationships between the parents of a child is unlikely to produce positive outcomes for the child’s mental health, psychological development, and emotional well-being. Research by Francia et al. demonstrates that the current family law standards demonstrate substantial biases toward divorcing or divorced mothers: “the lawyers included in James and Ross’s study believed that women make false allegations as a playing card in child custody disputes, and that family violence received too much attention” (20). Therefore, the lack of support that mothers receive, along with the absence of understanding of the overarching threat to women’s and children’s mental and physical well-being, represents one of the key arguments in favor of continuing the application of the current standards. Specifically, Frances et al. assert that “in the broader professional family law community, ongoing professional development focused on family violence may be beneficial in overcoming a lack of understanding or misconceptions of family violence and conflict” (2). Therefore, before introducing changes of the described magnitude to the current family law, possible adverse effects of the alterations I question need to be mitigated.


Nonetheless, the current legal standards remain admittedly skewed, with fathers suffering from the absence of continuing to communicate with their children and provide them with the necessary care. Though the current legal system safeguards children and their mothers from abusive fathers, it still fails children in offering them emotional security, generating multiple sources for emotional and psychological trauma. The rapid and abrupt cessation of communication with the father and the following failure to provide a child with a father figure that would substitute the emotional emptiness left as a result proves that the current framework for managing divorce needs improvements, particularly in regard to retaining the father-child bond.

More importantly, the fact that the current regulations regarding the management of divorce and the further custody of the divorced parents’ children appear to focus primarily on the bond between a mother and a child as the quintessential issue while largely ignoring the significance of a father-child connection indicating that deserves closer scrutiny. Specifically, the correlation between the propensity toward the development of mental health in children of divorced parents and the extent to which fathers participate in their children’s lives appear to be linked, which suggests that the existing standards for child custody and visitation hours for fathers need to be revisited. Particularly, given the strong suspicion regarding the likely connection between a severed father-child bond and the tendency in the latter to develop mental health issues that may spiral into the further rapid deterioration of a child’s emotional and mental well-being indicate the necessity to revisit the existing standards for divorce and the management of custody issues.

Although the problem of abusive fathers that will exploit the available legal loopholes must be prevented and addressed accordingly, the observed issue with children’s mental health indicates that the existing regulations need to be improved significantly. Namely, a stronger emphasis must be placed on the role of fathers in support of children post-divorce. The specified change should include extended custody rights and fathers’ opportunity for longer visitation hours. It is expected that the specified alteration in the current legal standards for child custody will help address the problem of mental health issues in children of divorced parents. Specifically, the expansion of the rights to custody over their children for fathers is likely to contribute to keeping the bond between a child and a father, leading to better opportunities for preventing mental health issues in the target demographic.


Due to the problems in the current legislation, particularly the framework for addressing the needs of divorcees’ children, the latter become exceptionally prone to the development of a variety of health issues, primarily the ones related to mental and emotional health, which implies that the current laws regarding the parental rights, visitation hours, custody, and the provision of the relevant social services to children must be revisited and shaped accordingly. Particularly, the emphasis on tending to the needs of children and ensuring that their PTSD caused by the parents’ divorce is managed accordingly must be placed strongly. The specified change will require a shift from the focus on mothers as the default parent for the child to stay with after the divorce, as well as the introduction of longer visitation hours for parents in scenarios that involve joint custody. Similarly, the latter option should be regarded as the basis for promoting better management of children’s needs in divorced families.

Thus, respective changes should be introduced to the current legal standards along with the framework for offering social services to children of divorced parents. It is worth noting that the proposed change should not be incorporated into the legislation in a way that could potentially target vulnerable women, especially in scenarios that involve family abuse. Namely, the changes to the current legal framework and the resulting approach to shaping therapy strategies for children of divorcees must not create loopholes for abusive men to continue bringing harm to their spouses and kids. Instead, the focus of the legal changes to be implemented must be placed on ensuring that children’s needs, particularly the need for love and support of both parents, should not be overlooked during the divorce process. Thus, major health issues in the target demographic will be avoided.

Works Cited

Boccio, Cashen M., and Kevin M. Beaver. “The influence of family structure on delinquent behavior.” Youth violence and juvenile justice, vol. 17, no. 1, 2019, pp. 88-106.

Brown, Samantha M., et al. “The Co-Occurrence of Adverse Childhood Experiences among Children Investigated for Child Maltreatment: A Latent Class Analysis.” Child abuse & neglect, vol. 87, 2019, pp. 18-27.

Demir-Dagdas, Tuba, et al. “Parental Divorce and Children from Diverse Backgrounds: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Mental Health, Parent-Child Relationships, and Educational Experiences.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, vol. 59, no. 6, 2018, pp. 469-485.

“Divorce.” Legal Information Institute, n.d., Web.

Francia, Leanne, Prudence Millear, and Rachael Sharman. “Addressing Family Violence Post Separation – Mothers and Fathers’ Experiences from Australia.” Journal of child custody, vol.16, no. 3, 2019, pp. 211-235.

Henry, Joi B., et al. “Fatherhood Matters: An Integrative Review of Fatherhood Intervention Research.” The Journal of School Nursing, vol. 36, no. 1, 2020, pp. 19-32.

Mwangangi, Rosemary Kakonzi. “The Role of Family in Dealing with Juvenile Delinquency.” Open Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 7, no. 3, 2019, pp. 52-63.

Vogel, Lisa Klein. “Help Me Help You: Identifying and Addressing Barriers to Child Support Compliance.” Children and Youth Services Review, vol. 110, 2020, pp. 1-14.

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PsychologyWriting. "Psychological Effects of a Divorce on Children." April 4, 2023.