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The Effects of Divorce on Children

Medically reviewed by Maribel Dominguez MD, PhD · Psychology

Written by Fred Layno · Updated Nov 15, 2022

The Effects of Divorce on Children

While divorce is not yet legal in the Philippines, the reality is it still happens through annulment or separation. Some consider family stability to be a major public health issue for children. Others consider divorce or separation to be relatively harmless and even a positive change. This is especially true for women in abusive marriages and children in the middle of the conflict. And though the effects of divorce on children are largely up for debate, psychology has a clear answer.

It is important to note that most children whose parents have divorced are resilient and have no obvious psychological problems. But it can also be recognized that even the resilient children of divorced families report painful emotions and encounters. This often happens during events such as graduations, family gatherings, or weddings attended by their parents. 

Effects of Divorce on Children: Poverty

Children of divorced or separated parents are more likely to live in poverty, and grow up experiencing their own family instability. 

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology stated that parental separation has a significant negative impact on the income of families, increasing the likelihood of falling below the poverty line. 

Data gathered from 346 children and adolescents (173 from separated parents, and 173 from parents who were still married) shows that  33.9% cited parental separation as a contributor to falling below the poverty line.

Psychological Implications of Divorce

Children of divorce may have challenges in psychological adjustment. 35.5% of these children are likely to develop anxiety, depression, and hostility. They may also feel paranoid or be detached from the people around them. 

Studies show that children of divorced parents are at risk of developing clinical depression. What is even more worrisome is that some people are at increased risk of suicide threats and attempts. These problems can affect children of all ages, most especially children over the age of 11. Also, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, boys are at higher risk of attempting suicide compared to girls. For this reason, the support of qualified mental health workers is essential. 

Parents may also find that their once sociable child has now become quite withdrawn or anxious. They may appear uninterested or even afraid of social situations, such as socializing with friends or attending school meetings.

Having low self-esteem and social isolation can also be associated with the effects of divorce on children. During these times, it is important to increase a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem to help them recover.

Effects of Divorce on Children: Risky Sexual Behavior

The likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behavior is another of the effects of divorce on children. This is another psychological implication of divorce in children. 

Children of divorce are also likely to engage in alcohol and substance abuse, aggressive behavior, and early onset of sexual activity. A study shows that young teenage girls tend to have sex at an earlier age when they live in a household without the father. This early “sexual debut” can be due to several factors, including a change in perceptions about marriage and thoughts about motherhood. 

In addition, 43.2% of children in divorced families were more likely to have exposure to gender-based violence. Studies do not show the same risk to boys.

Academic Problems

Studies show that there is a link between divorce/separation and a child’s academic problems. Children of divorce are more likely to have lower grades or drop out from school. 

Some of these behaviors can occur as early as 6 years of age, but are more noticeable in children aged 13 to 18. There are several possible reasons for this link. It may include the fact that a child can feel abandoned, depressed, or be distracted by the greater conflict between parents. Over time, the diminished interest in their studies at the high school level can lead to less interest in education in general. 

How to Help Your Children When Going Through a Divorce

It may be useful for divorced parents to plan ahead and keep their children informed. Children benefit from honest discussions about family changes.

In many cases, sudden changes can be difficult for a child. The earlier children are informed and aware of important events such as one parent moving out, the better. It may also be useful to limit the changes as much as possible in the coming  years after divorce.

Learn more about Parenting here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Maribel Dominguez MD, PhD


Written by Fred Layno · Updated Nov 15, 2022

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