The Impact of Divorce on Young Children and Adolescents

Carl E Pickhardt Ph.D., December 19, 2011, Psychology Today.

Young children and adolescents can respond differently to divorce

In response to my blog about single parenting adolescents, I received this email request: “I was wondering if you could address the effects of divorce on very small children.”

What I can do is try to distinguish some general ways children (up through about age 8 or 9) often react to parental divorce in contrast to how adolescents (beginning around ages 9 – 13) often respond. Understand that I am talking here about tendencies, not certainties.

Divorce introduces a massive change into the life of a boy or girl no matter what the age. Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family circumstance in which to live. In the personal history of the boy or girl, parental divorce is a watershed event. Life that follows is significantly changed from how life was before.

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