The negative impact of divorce on children can be powerful. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service reports that divorce rates rose by 79 percent between 1970 and 1977; today, two out of every five children can expect to experience their parents' divorce before turning 18. Although divorces have become more common, their negative side effects are still significant.
Psychologist Lesley Jamison notes that young children may have difficulty coping with the reality of their parents' divorce because of their limited cognitive abilities. This struggle can become a long-term issue, and these children may suffer from adjustment issues. Because of their egocentric natures, children may blame themselves for their parents' divorce, leading to self-esteem issues and confusion. They also may feel the need to bring their parents back together.
Trouble with Schoolwork
The American Sociological Review points out that divorce can cause children to fall behind their peers academically. A study of 3,500 children revealed that those whose parents had gotten divorced when the children were between first and third grade had lower math scores and inferior interpersonal skills compared with children whose parents were still together. Divorce is a major distraction for children of this age, and can lead to sub par performance in the classroom.
Dealing with Changes
Children struggle to deal with the many changes divorce brings, such as a potentially lower standard of living, the stress of having to live in two homes, the added responsibility that may be placed on them and the potential of having to change schools. Although not all children whose parents divorce face all these changes, a large portion do, and they struggle to adjust.
Perceived Loss of a Parent
In a report published by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Dr. Wayne Matthews notes that children may view their non-custodial parent as lost. This may lead to feelings of abandonment and a sense of responsibility, which can cause long-term feelings of guilt. When a child of divorced parents has to spend more time with one parent than the other, the child may have a difficult time understanding why and feel sad at the sudden change. A lack of adequate role models at a young age can lead to security issues for children who have been accustomed to the presence of both their parents.