Kids and Divorce

Are children better off with divorced parents? As a marriage dissolves, some parents ask
themselves, “Should we stay together for the kids?” Divorce creates emotional turmoil for the
entire family and the situation can be quite scary, confusing, and traumatizing. And 30 years of
research continue to reveal the negative effect of divorce on children. Depending on how well
the parents explain to their children why they will no longer live together as husband and wife,
these effects may not occur in every child. But divorce does greatly increase the risks. Research
indicates the following:

  • Children from divorced homes struggle academically. They also experience high levels of behavioral problems.
  • More stress is often created in the custodial parent because of a drop in income or managing a schedule being a full-time parent and also working.
  • Teens from divorced homes are more likely to suffer from symptoms of psychological distress(trauma).

Obviously, not every child of divorce suffers from the above symptoms, although their parents’
divorce may very well color their view of the world and relationships. Consequently, my belief is
that every couple in crisis should do all they can to heal and save their marriage, which I believe
most can be with the exceptions of emotional and physical abuse, addictions and ongoing
infidelity.

I emphasize this because the nuclear family is said to be the basic unit of society but is itself
under extreme pressure in our modern society. Divorce rates have soared. Divorce is a double
whammy for kids because it creates competing attachments as well as attachment voids.
Attachment with loving, emotionally present parents is a primary need. Children naturally like
all their working attachments to be under one roof. The togetherness of the parents enables
the child to satisfy their desire/need for closeness and contact with both parents.

Also, parents who compete or treat the other parent as persona non grata place the child, (or
more precisely, the child’s attachment brain) in an impossible situation: to be close to one, the
child must separate from the other, both physically and psychologically. Also, children of
divorce may turn more toward their peers for connection or become more withdrawn and less
active(depressed), and/or become absent and/or disruptive at school.

Obviously, divorce is a very serious matter for young children. Depending on how the parents
explain divorce to their children and how they remain involved and connected to their children,
divorce, while disruptive in the short term, may offer a healthier and happier environment for
the whole family in the long run.

Picture of Jim Covington

Jim Covington

Jim Covington (M.Div. MA, LMFT) has been helping couples improve their relationships for more than 30 years. He holds degrees are in psychology and theology, is a licensed New York marriage and family therapist, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and has been trained in multiple approaches to marital/couples therapy and family therapy.

He has completed Level 3 Practicum Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, externship training with the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program), and employs Solution Oriented Brief Therapy as taught by Michelle Weiner-Davis.
Picture of Jim Covington

Jim Covington

Jim Covington (M.Div. MA, LMFT) has been helping couples improve their relationships for more than 30 years. He holds degrees are in psychology and theology, is a licensed New York marriage and family therapist, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and has been trained in multiple approaches to marital/couples therapy and family therapy.

He has completed Level 3 Practicum Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, externship training with the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program), and employs Solution Oriented Brief Therapy as taught by Michelle Weiner-Davis.