Divorce is a challenging time for everyone involved.
For children, it can be uniquely difficult.
Children are affected by divorce more often today than in the past, with the number of children living in single-parent households having tripled in recent decades.
The family is the only home environment kids know before a divorce. Divorce creates big changes in this known environment and brings uncertainty. The separation of parents and changes in custody will lead to new living arrangements for children.
In addition to this, conflict and fighting between parents will be felt by the whole family. A knowledgeable child custody attorney Los Angeles will have experience helping families navigate custody arrangements during a divorce.
How do these new circumstances affect children’s mental health? We will dig into the research to learn how divorce impacts children.
Psychological problems and divorce
Children whose parents went through a divorce tend to have more psychological problems. Compared to children in a family where their parents live together, children of divorced families more often have mental health issues.
According to a 2018 study, psychological issues that become more common after divorce include emotional, hyperactivity, conduct, and other problems. This involves a greater risk for depression, anxiety, a decline in academic performance, and other potential problems.
Children of divorced parents also tend to have more relationship difficulties as adults. The divorce rate is higher among people whose parents went through a divorce.
It is worth noting that the amount of conflict between parents in a divorce has an impact on children’s mental health outcomes.
It is important that during a divorce, the parents limit the amount of fighting and unnecessary conflict and do not drag the children into disputes and marriage grievances. An experienced divorce family lawyer can help you navigate a divorce in an amicable manner to help reduce conflict.
The child’s point of view during divorce
Children will tend to have difficulty understanding what is happening or internalize anger and spread the blame.
Younger children might not understand why their parents are getting divorced or why they have to move back and forth between homes. Also, less obvious questions can pop up in a young child’s mind: If my parents can stop loving each other, could my parents stop loving me?
Children in grade school might worry that the divorce is their fault. They might think that they did something bad or misbehaved and helped cause the divorce. Children often internalize their parent’s problems in specific ways.
Teenagers might react a little differently than younger children. Teenagers are likely to become angry because of divorce and its life-changing effects. Often, they will blame one parent for the failure of the marriage and harbor resentment towards one or both parents for the turmoil in the family. Blaming, anger, and resentment are common.
However, a child might also be relieved when they learn of the divorce. Parental separation might mean fewer fights and less stress. Every situation can be different.
The impact of custody arrangements on children
Typically in a divorce, one of two custody arrangements will be agreed upon for the children.
1 – Sole protective custody (SPC)
With SPC, the child lives with only one parent. The child may spend time with the non-custodial parent but only lives with one.
2 – Joint physical custody (JPC)
The child lives with each parent, and custody is shared. Time living with each parent may be split in different ways.
When it comes to divorce, research has shown that children in SPC tend to have more psychological problems compared to children living in JPC arrangements.
Why is this the case?
High-quality parenting time and relationships
Having more high-quality parenting time with each parent is related to better mental health outcomes for children. JPC provides the opportunity for this need for high-quality time to be met because custody is shared.
Also, children who have high-quality relationships with their parents tend to have less psychological problems. Again, joint custody provides a better opportunity for children to develop quality relationships with both parents.
While sole custody arrangements may allow for visitation and time to be spent with the other parent, this time is different in its nature.
Small amounts of time spent with one parent may seem rushed and might not be adequate to develop or maintain a strong bond with a parent. Sharing day-to-day living with a parent helps relationships develop.
However, not all divorce situations provide the best options. It may be worth noting that, in the case of abuse or neglect by one parent, this article is not advocating for joint custody. We are only looking at the research in a broad sense.
Stress and Divorce
Divorce often means a child will no longer have daily contact with one parent. Often this is the father. Less contact with a parent impacts the parent-child bond, leading to a less ‘close’ and potentially lower-quality relationship. This can be distressful for both the child and parent and lead to further problems down the road.
The child’s relationship with the custodial parent can also suffer. The primary caregiver following divorce, usually the mother, typically reports greater levels of stress due to the demands of single parenting. This stress can affect the parent-child bond in a negative way.
It is also important to know that conflict over child support and spousal support sometimes spills over into the lives of children.
Sometimes one or both parents can become resentful or financially stressed over the nature of support payments, and children can be caught in the middle of this resentment or fighting. A competent child and spousal support attorney can help negotiate support payments in a manner that is more likely to be agreeable to both parents.
Adolescents are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors, unsurprisingly. However, adolescents whose parents went through a divorce when they were five years old or less are at higher risk for such behavior. Also, separation from fathers is related to greater risk-taking behavior.
Peaceful co-parenting, where parents minimize conflict and avoid allowing hostility between parents to affect their children, is vital. Here are a couple of key points:
As discussed before, parental conflict can hurt a child’s psychological well-being. Hostility, such as parents screaming at or threatening one another, contributes to behavioral problems in children.
Don’t put your kids in the middle. Avoid giving children messages to deliver to the other parent. This will place a child in the middle of a conflict as the messenger. Don’t put kids in a situation where they feel they have to choose to take sides with one parent.
Effects of divorce on children
A divorce is a difficult and chaotic time for a family. Children are uniquely impacted when parents separate, and often in a negative way.
Maintaining the quality of relationships among family members and reducing conflict are vital goals to have in order to provide the best outcome for your children. Providing children the opportunity to maintain quality relationships and have quality time with each parent is often a good strategy.
In order to allow this to happen, parents need to ensure children are not brought into the middle of fighting and hostility and that such conflict is minimized as much as possible.
If you are considering getting a divorce and have children, it is especially important to go about the divorce in a way that reduces conflict. If you live near the San Fernando Valley, seek out the best divorce lawyers in Calabasas to help you with this goal.
Sometimes having an attorney who is too much of a ‘bulldog’ can create unnecessary conflict in the divorce process. It is crucial that you find an experienced and competent family lawyer for divorce.
Contact us to find an attorney who will advocate and fight for you, but do so in a way that minimizes unnecessary conflict.