The Effect of Divorce on Child’s Behavior

Category: Psychology


It is widely known that a divorce is a great blow to a child’s psychology. That is why children often start behaving badly after the divorce. Divorce that takes place more and more often in the contemporary society influences badly not only the direct parties, i.e. a wife and a husband, but also the involuntary one – a child. Nowadays scientists can surely say that a child is strongly affected by the parents’ separation. A child gets used to living together with the dearest people in the world, his mother and father, and suddenly one of them has to leave home and live somewhere else. Instead of being with a child all the time, a father is usually given the right to have visits once a week. Children often get angry at their parent because they make them feel ‘defective’. In order to maintain sound relationship with a child, it is necessary to take into account several factors that are described further in this essay.

Maintaining Good Relationship with a Child

The problem about how to maintain good relations with a child arises. As a rule, a child stays with a mother; it is generally believed that she can provide better care for him or her. Visiting a child once a week only can quickly turn a father into a stranger to be afraid of. When a child is in his or her teen years, the divorce can lead to psychological alienation from a parent.

On one hand, the divorce implies the end of any relationship between parents, but on the other hand, relationship with a child is to be supported, since parents cannot imagine their life without their child. “She has to deal with the emotional trauma of splitting up with a spouse; in contrast, he has to deal with a loss of a long-term relationship with his spouse… He also has to deal with a loss of normal relationship with his children, which may have been closer and far more intense than the spousal relationship ever was” (Hoult 2006). Sometimes parents may stay together, since a father doesn’t want to live separately from his child. Then spouses proceed to torturing each other and pretending to a child that they are still in love. A child definitely feels that something is wrong in the family, and he or she becomes nervous and alert. This situation is even worse than a quick divorce with a child being explained what has truly happened.

The fathers who leave tend to fear that his ex-wife will forbid seeing his child attempting to revenge herself on him, or that a child may call another man his or her father. Even if this doesn’t happen, a child him/herself can throw tantrums feeling offended that a father has left. Very often fathers’ relationships with children end in paying alimony and giving other financial support. This way a father tries to prove that he is still a parent and fulfills his functions.

Importance of Healthy Communication with a Child After Divorce

Typically mothers refuse to let fathers spend more time with their children with an argument that it would disturb children greatly, given that they are getting used to live without a second parent. The more time passes after the divorce, the less painful it becomes to part with children. Seeing their children on occasions only and realizing their deprivation, fathers may experience pain from these visits that makes them subconsciously try to escape those meetings.

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Some courts give a child an opportunity to choose a parent he or she wants to stay with. In such cases a child may leave a parent who abused him/her or made him/her unhappy. In most cases this question puzzles a child, since both parents are dear to him/her. Accepting one appears like betraying another. “As more and more abused women lose custody to batterers in family courts, they are wrongly embracing the very ideas that enabled their abusers to gain custody in the first place” (Hoult 2006).

The feeling of bitterness is so great after divorce that a father and a child often cannot cope with it, trying to fight against the system and the circumstances. “After accepting the loss, they often can re-negotiate a relationship with the alienated parent - but only when the child is ready” (Meier 2009). After the divorce, parents usually try to find new life partners, and then having their own children. This only complicates the emotional state of the divorced child.

At first, a child starts behaving badly trying to draw a parent’s attention. He feels sad, because he was raised without his father, and a newborn takes away mother’s and stepfather’s attention. Sometimes this situation is resolved in a destructive behavior.

According to Saccuzzo, "such behavior should be dealt with fairly, and then, dismissed immediately. Making choices between what is truly inappropriate and what is merely irritating you because you've just about had enough...this is one area where a set of personal guidelines combined with outside feedback can be helpful".

Parents have worked out the advice about how to cope with a child’s anger. First of all, it is intolerable to have a child being aware of his parents’ dates until their after-divorce life has stabilized. It is necessary to keep in mind that early dating can offend an ex-spouse and he/she may react setting a child against the other parent.


It is necessary to try to become close with a child in those moments when he/she is with a parent. It is necessary to prove that a parent still loves him/her despite living separately from an ex-spouse. Ask him/her about school days and infatuations, hobbies and desires. One should not be an overly kind parent by any means. In this case, a child will suspect that a parent tries to flatter him/her for not being with him/her. It is necessary to be strict when it is necessary, e.g. punishing him/her if it is necessary. Not always being kind will characterize one as a real parent.

The next step is to introduce a child to a new wife or partner in order to demonstrate that a new family will be glad to see him/her on any occasion. As a rule, a child is afraid of being discarded by a new family of a distant parent. That is why it should be a goal to show that no one despises him/her and definitely does not hate.

The last tip is to start communicating with an ex-spouse, because knowing this a child will calm down. It will help to realize that his parents are not enemies, they simply do not live together. Moreover, an ex-spouse can contribute greatly to the development of the relationship with a child.

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