Divorce is often approached from the standpoint of women and children, but it significantly impacts men, too. Fathers experience emotions such as grief or loneliness during a divorce. Compared to mothers, fathers generally more often fear the loss of their children as they struggle with feelings of not being supported during the process of divorce. Though the focus is not typically on them, fathers enduring divorce have to contend with significant and powerful emotional effects.
Feelings of Grief
Many fathers feel a sense of grief and loss as they struggle with the loss of a partner and children. The end of a relationship creates unique feelings of loss, compounded by the potential separation from children. Research in a 2010 issue of "Journal of Men's Studies" indicates that men have had a more significant role in children's lives as time has passed. Men forge important bonds with their children, and these bonds are threatened by divorce. Such threats elicit feelings of loss, even if there is only a threat and not a reality of separation from children.
Feelings of Inferiority
Many men harbor feelings of inferiority during a divorce. These feelings are tied to a man's common and accepted role as a provider for his family. According to a 2009 Census.gov report, roughly 18 percent of men gain custody of their children, leaving the rest with no family to support -- outside of child support. Such a reality may create an identity crisis for a man if his identity has been strongly influenced by being a provider for his family. Such a crisis can lead to feelings of inadequacy for a man who is struggling with a new, unfamiliar role in life.
Feelings of Loneliness
Divorce leads many fathers to feel cast out by their families and legal systems. According to "Journal of Men's Studies," many fathers experiencing divorce feel as though the relationship with their children does not garner the same respect as does the mother's relationship with the children. These isolating experiences lead to loneliness, which is a major risk factor in depression and suicide, according to a 2010 article, "Parental and Social Institutional Responsibilities to Children’s Needs in the Divorce Transition: Fathers’ Perspectives," in "Journal of Men's Studies."
Coping with Stress
Stress and anxiety create significant concern for fathers during divorce. "Journal of Men's Studies" cites a range of 60 to 80 percent of men experiencing stress-related symptoms during a divorce. Stress can occur due to financial issues in divorce or issues negotiating custody. These symptoms are long-lasting and can manifest as a loss of sleep or energy. Prolonged stress can develop into anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, in which fathers feel excessive and pathological worry.
- The Journal of Men's Studies; Parental and Social Institutional Responsibilities to Children’s Needs in the Divorce Transition: Fathers’ Perspectives; J. Kruk
- Census.gov: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2009
- Psychology and Aging; Loneliness as a Specific Risk Factor for Depressive Symptoms: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Analyses; John T. Cacioppo et al.
S. Grey has a Master of Science in counseling psychology from the University of Central Arkansas. He is also pursuing a PhD and has a love for psychology, comic books and social justice. He has been published in a text on social psychology and regularly presents research at regional psychology conferences.