The Mental State of the Child: Impact of Divorce

Building a family is a responsible and essential matter for every person in the context of procreation and well-being. This event is associated with many aspects that the newlyweds and, in the future, young parents should take into account and cope with. The birth of a child imposes specific new roles on parents. However, various situations lead to the dissolution of marriages, which in any case leave their mark of influence on children. Often this influence is negative; often, it leads to the stigmatization of mothers, which has various types and manifestations. Against the background of such events, children’s mental problems and traumas for life can develop. In this regard, such a medical and social field requires research that could indicate mechanisms for mitigating the risks of diseases, create coping techniques and identify the weakest points of the affected parties. Unfortunately, quite often, the stereotype of a single mother is associated with the concept of an incomplete family, which has a negative connotation in society’s perception. This work contains a research proposal to determine the impact of divorce on the mental state of the child and the possibility of developing mother stigmatization and explains the methodology based on a literature review, possible ethical considerations, and limitations.

Literature Review

Many different situations lead to a divorce or even a failed wedding at the birth of a child. Each cause imposes a specific impact on both the mother and the child. Stigmatization is not the norm; according to studies, single mothers do not make up most families in the region under consideration (Kramer, 2019). A single woman with children who does not have a job, as a result of which she is financially dependent on the state, finds herself in a complicated situation and, as a rule, is subjected to public censure, which creates an additional burden on her psychological state.

The literature devoted to the phenomenon of monoparenthood reveals the problematic field that has developed around such families from different angles. Researchers pay attention to the socio-economic situation of single-parent families, their institutional support, and the prevailing attitude towards them in society (Evans, 2022). The topics covered in the reviewed literature focus on the shortcomings of family policy, which cause material disadvantage and discrimination against single-parent families (Richard & Lee, 2019). These studies are more qualitative due to the difficulty of presenting in a quantitative form all the variables assessed. However, despite the variety of studies, there are little-studied areas, for example, the differentiated structure of single-parent families, the contradictions between the functions of care and control manifested in the activities of social support institutions for single-parenting, elements of the social well-being of a single-parent family.

Research in this field is usually medical. Sociology contributes predominantly in the form of statistics, with little to no further interpretation (Statista, 2021). The main form of sociological research is surveys of a sample of the study’s target audience or interviews (Agnafors et al., 2019; Ramos & Tus, 2020; Evans, 2022). Due to the subjective nature of the problem, many works have been carried out in the form of a literature review in an attempt to classify cases, identify terminology, and differentiate problems in mitigation practice (Zhang, 2022). Medical research, in turn, is focused on the impact of adverse events on the thinking and behavior of a child and a single mother (Song et al., 2018). Such a variety of works considers many factors of deep immersion in the problem.

The interviews are like identifying the causes and consequences of the process of stigmatization of single mothers. The stage of the onset of the process of the need to raise a child alone is critical. Young mothers are more prone to postpartum depression, which, together with other problems, affects their children’s behavior (Agnafors et al., 2019). At the same time, mothers with experienced stigmatization, where such changes were not observed, became less vulnerable to changes (Agnafors et al., 2019). According to research, stigma development is influenced by the stereotype that families with single mothers are a burden on the state due to being on welfare (Evans, 2022). However, such works seek to show the diversity of the difficulties of raising a child alone and destroy such misconceptions by broadcasting through interviews the experience of mothers (Evans, 2022). Other studies show similar diversity, categorizing a mother’s goals not only by financial issues but also by educational ones, differentiating the child’s education, household chores, socialization, and help with problems up to puberty (Ramos & Tus, 2020). The impact of divorce on children is regularly examined by scientists from various angles.

Divorce is a fairly common event in family statistics in America. More than 50% of marriages end in divorce (Zineldin, 2019). Unfortunately, not all of them have time to end with the end of a relationship without children born. A cross-sectional method with the quantitative interpretation of questionnaires is used (Zineldin, 2019; van Dijk et al., 2021). Generalized classification of impact mechanisms has been compiled into a trajectory theory of child adaptation after the divorce process (Cao et al., 2022). An association with medical effects on the child has been proven in the context of different demographics, such as parental age or divorce periodization (Cao et al., 2022). Within the framework of this model, there are a relatively large number of studies, but not all of them demonstrate an in-depth study of the post-divorce period in the context of children’s mental development in the classification by age. As a result, this research proposal proposes to fill this scientific gap, which can provide not only statistical data on the leading indicators of children’s mental health but also practical recommendations for combating the possible stigmatization of a single mother and the impact of divorce on a child.


This study proposes to retain the most popular and effective data collection and targeting method. The primary differentiation of samples of single mothers with children, as a rule, included a separation by experience in the process of stigmatization: more experienced mothers are better able to cope with possible risks (Agnafors et al., 2019). Therefore, for this work, it is necessary to limit the age of mothers to 27 years and leave only girls with one child. It is necessary since the first motherhood experience will be considered, and such a factor as brothers and sisters, which have their share of influence in education, will not affect the dynamics of mental health (Zineldin, 2019). Questionnaires and interview processes should be aimed at assessing the psychological state of mother and child, as well as their general interaction. The ranking of the ages of children in young mothers is proposed to be divided into three main groups, to begin with: breastfed infants, preschool age, and elementary school age.

It is possible to take the theory of the trajectory of children’s adaptation after divorce as the basis of the theoretical model against which the hypotheses will be formed. This model assumes that a child’s cognitive and emotional processes depend on the child’s age, the support of grandparents, and the very form of conflict between parents that leads to divorce (Cao et al., 2022). Therefore, all of the listed factors will be taken as independent variables, the central of which will be the intervals according to the child’s age. The dependent variable in this situation reflects the child’s cognitive and emotional processes that influence behavior. It is done using the CBCL Child Behavior Checklist and further medical advice from the pediatrician and CWC nurse (Agnafors et al., 2019). These scales allow the most objective assessment of deviations from the norm in the behavior of young children. Due to their development, older children will most likely deviate from the norm less often; in connection with this, a comprehensive age assessment was proposed.

Ethical Concerns

Psychological problems are often associated with personal issues and traumas, which, if remembered, can negatively affect the participant’s condition. In this regard, before the study, all potential participants will be offered a question validation, which will contain all the information about who conducts the study, the qualifications of the researchers, the responsibilities of the parties, and exclusive opportunities to use the information with the obligatory condition of keeping it confidential. The ethical side of the experiment is most important because it is necessary to make a statistically significant study in science, communicating with single mothers and interacting with their children without any potential harm to them. Their situation has already left a negative imprint to a certain extent; in this regard, it is crucial to delicately work with the information provided and the methods of obtaining it.

Statement of Limitations

Limitations in such studies are always associated with certain specific individual factors of a subjective nature. The proposed model may take into account the influence of support from grandparents and the form of conflict between parents – overt or covert, prolonged or irascible – but at the same time, there are several other influences that matter. They may be related to the influence of childhood friends at school, close family members, and other relatives who play an essential role in the child’s life. Such factors are not considered in the framework of this study and are presented as a possible vector for further study of this problem. In addition, attention should be paid to the little-studied issue of single-parent families, where not the mother but the father remains with the child. Quite a lot of research has been devoted to the stigmatization of mothers, but sometimes the situation develops in such a way that another parent and aspects of upbringing remain with the child, and other issues, partly resolved in the case of the mother, remain open in the case of the father. Further differentiation of studies can go deeper both in the listed factors and in the more significant direction of confirming or rejecting the hypotheses built on this model.


Agnafors, S., Bladh, M., Svedin, C. G., & Sydsjö, G. (2019). Mental health in young mothers, single mothers and their children. BMC Psychiatry, 19(1), 1-7. Web.

Cao, H., Fine, M. A., & Zhou, N. (2022). The Divorce Process and Child Adaptation Trajectory Typology (DPCATT) Model: The Shaping Role of Predivorce and Postdivorce Interparental Conflict. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 1-29. Web.

Evans, N. (2022). Coping with gendered welfare stigma: exploring everyday accounts of stigma and resistance strategies among mothers who claim social security benefits. Social Policy and Society, 1-11. Web.

Kramer, S. (2019). U.S. has world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households. Pew Research Center. Web.

Ramos, E. S., & Tus, J. (2020). Beating the Odds: An Exploratory Study on Single Mothers’ Lived Experiences in Child-Rearing Practices. Asian Journal of Current Research, 5(1), 58-70. Web.

Richard, J. Y., & Lee, H. S. (2019). A qualitative study of racial minority single mothers’ work experiences. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 66(2), 143. Web.

Song, J., Mailick, M. R., & Greenberg, J. S. (2018). Health of parents of individuals with developmental disorders or mental health problems: Impacts of stigma. Social Science & Medicine, 217, 152-158. Web.

Statista. (2021). Number of families with a single mother in the United States from 1990 to 2020. Web.

van Dijk, R., van der Valk, I. E., Buist, K. L., Branje, S., & Deković, M. (2022). Longitudinal associations between sibling relationship quality and child adjustment after divorce. Journal of Marriage and Family, 84(2), 393-414. Web.

Zhang, H. (2022). Re-defining stigmatization: intersectional stigma of single mothers in Thailand. Journal of Family Studies, 1-27. Web.

Zineldin, M. (2019). TCS is to blame: The impact of divorce on physical and mental health. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 10. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "The Mental State of the Child: Impact of Divorce." February 19, 2023.