Staying Together vs. Splitting Apart: How Divorce Alters Parenting and Your Child’s Future

How divorce changes parenting patterns and how it affects children

Raising children alone is hard. The absence of a second parent leads to many challenges, such as monitoring their children’s behavior and whereabouts. A single parent struggles to maintain financial security, educate the children, and attend to all the household needs. This leads to fatigue and less time with their children. This will also reduce oversight. Because of this, children may be exposed to risky behaviors, unhealthy habits, and bad peers. The lack of another parent makes it harder to maintain discipline and set boundaries.

how does divorce affect children

If the above is not scary enough, consider this: research has shown that children from divorced families suffer from more mental illness, bad social behavior, crime, and educational problems. This is compared to children in non-divorced homes. This means your life may become much harder. Not even considering the heartbreak that is happening to your children, you now have to deal with their serious problems, which includes meeting with professionals and following treatment protocols.

How divorce changes a child’s relationship with their mother

Children’s relationships with their mothers are influenced by their parents’ relationship status. Research shows that adults raised in stable, married families tend to stay closer to their mothers. A study found that 30% of young adults from divorced families have poor relationships with their mothers. Only 16% of adults from non-divorced families report similar difficulties. This shows that divorce often harms the bond between mothers and their children.

Because mothers do not have the emotional support of a husband living at home, it is very tempting to turn to the children for emotional support. When this happens, not only are children hurt, but they also may become resentful and angry at their mother. This is one of the risks mothers have as single parents. It leads to very noticeable erosion of the natural relationship between a mother and a child

How divorce changes a child’s relationship with their father

Marriage and divorce affect children’s relationships with their fathers more than with their mothers. The stability of an intact marriage enhances bonding between fathers and children. Research shows that about 65% of young adults from divorced families have poor relationships with their fathers. The rate of poor father-child relationships is much higher than the 29% reported by intact families. The pronounced difference illustrates how divorce negatively affects father-child relationships.

The relationship between fathers and their children often deteriorates. It’s hard to fix because it’s based on irreversible circumstances. This must be carefully considered when deciding to stay in a marriage or break it and leave.

It is interesting to note that the bond between fathers and their children is stronger and more resilient when they are born to married parents. Marriage after a child’s birth would also likely increase a father’s bond with his children.

How divorce changes an adult child’s support for an aging parent

When parents divorce, family commitments weaken. However, the effects of divorce and the weakening of family commitments can be lessened. This can be done by creating consistent contact and closeness after divorce. Adult children who keep a good relationship with their divorced parents are more likely to support them should this need arise.

This lessening of family commitments has a greater impact on divorced fathers. They get less support from their children than mothers do. When a family suffers through a divorce, this has a long-term effect on how adult children interact with their elderly parents and care for them. Because of this, aging parents may have a harder time getting the help they need.

Stepparents and blended families can further complicate these dynamics. The chaos of a blended family often leads to children seeking a life away from their natural family, and this estrangement is not easy to undo.

How does divorce affect children and their parents?

Based on the above research, it is clear that divorce has a negative impact on everyone in the family. However, there are two alternatives to divorcing. One is staying in a marriage that is ‘good enough.’ The other is fixing the marriage when possible. Then, it will be healthy, respectful, and loving. Either option is usually better for the children. It protects them from many potential harms.

How staying in a ‘good enough marriage’ is good for children

If your children grow up in a family where both their mother and father are involved in their development, this will give them a secure foundation. This is crucial for their emotional health. Your child will feel a sense of belonging, safety, and confidence, which happens when both parents take part in raising them. Your child benefits from the unique contributions each of you brings to parenting.

An intact family provides security and stability. This creates a predictable environment, which is key for a child’s emotional well-being. Consistent family routines and emotional support lead to positive attachment to others. Research has linked the attachment between parents and children to positive school results. It also helps with social relationships and emotional regulation.

In an intact family, your child does not have to experience the pain of choosing sides between parents. This is a common issue in cases of divorce or separation. This stable environment allows them to keep good relationships with both parents. It is free from the stress and divided loyalties that can hurt their well-being and result in anxiety and depression. As well as many other risks.

The protective environment of an intact family shields a child from various potential dangers. Both parents paying attention to their children helps. It means your children are better supervised. They are less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors and befriend troubled children. The emotional support from an intact family helps a child develop healthy self-esteem.

The contribution of a father significantly decreases when the family breaks in two. When parents choose to live in a ‘good enough’ marriage, the fathers maintain their positive influence on their children.

In summary, growing up in an intact family offers your children the best environment. It helps them become healthy, independent, and successful adults.

Learn more:

How to fix my marriage: The 7 Types Of Couples Therapy 

I have a dead marriage: Is My Relationship Toxic Quiz? 16 Easy Questions For A Better Relationship

How to fix a marriage: How To Fix A Broken Marriage Or Committed Relationship

I have a failing marriage: How To Fix A Broken Marriage Without Counseling

Marriage struggles: How To Fix A Broken Marriage Or Committed Relationship

How to repair a marriage: Relationship Healing Toolbox


Inspired and informed from the following sources:

Berman, C. (1991). A Hole in My Heart: Adult Children of Divorce Speak Out. Simon and Schuster.

Institute for American Values, National Marriage Project. (2011). Why Marriage Matters, Third Edition: 30 Conclusions from the Social Sciences. Report from Family Scholars.

Kass, A. My clinical practice as a marriage and family therapist for over 30 years.

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abe kass

Abe has helped thousands of individuals, couples, and families for twenty-five-plus years. When it comes to relationship expertise — Abe is the real deal and can be trusted!

abe kassProfessional Therapist Abe Kass MA RSW RMFT

Abe has helped thousands of individuals, couples, and families for twenty-five-plus years. When it comes to relationship expertise — Abe is the real deal and can be trusted!