Divorce has profound effects on the children involved, even when the children are adults. The effects of divorce on adult children include bouts of anger, assuming responsibility for the breakup and disruptions in personal relationships. Because these behaviors can sometimes be misattributed to the more normal stresses in adult life, it is important to identify the underlying cause and seek support.
Feelings of Anger
Sharon Alexander, educator in family and consumer sciences, explains that an adult child of divorce may experience anger toward one or both parents. Although the circumstances surrounding a divorce may be easier for an adult child to understand, the tension leading to and the ultimate divorce of one's parents can be devastating. Placing blame on one parent and siding with another can have lasting effects on the parent-child relationship.
Dealing with the divorce of one's parents adds stress to an adult child's life. Family therapist Carol Hughes states that adult children do not receive the support that minor children do during a divorce. Constant worries about the well-being of both parents and feelings of responsibility for keeping the family together can take a devastating toll on the adult child.
Security and Self-Worth
The invisible effects of divorce on an adult child can take hold without notice. An individual may absorb some of the guilt and responsibility associated with the divorce. Ultimately, this can cause feelings of insecurity and a lowered self-worth. These negative emotions may lead to failure in personal relationships or the inability to cope with conflicts in relationships. Separation of a family can create feelings of animosity among family members, leading to a diminished support system for the adult child.
Beverly and Tom Rodgers, counselors and creators of "Adult Children of Divorced Parents," help adult children of divorce who struggle with issues concerning self-concept, insecurity and emotional pain. A change in lifestyle takes adjustment and acceptance regardless of age. When dealing with divorce, the sooner support is sought, the better. Counseling is a healthy and helpful option for adult children who need help coping with their parents' divorce.
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Christa Orion is a psychologist in training with focus on family and relationship health. She has years of experience working with individuals going through domestic issues.