Psychological Effect of Adultery on Children

The negative psychological effect of adultery on children

Adultery is like a hurricane. When it hits land, you and everyone in its path are blown in many different directions. Similarly, the discovery of an affair affects everyone in your family. Your children are particularly vulnerable to the psychological effects of adultery.

Adultery injures children in many ways

Having an affair may seem private. But, it can cause a ripple effect that touches many lives. Often, the worst damage is to the family’s innocent children. The children are caught in the crossfire of a parent’s betrayal and the relationship upheaval. Adultery can leave children feeling confused, angry, and hurt. 

The psychological effect of adultery on children: 

  • Children blame themselves. Children tend to think that everything that happens in the world is personal. It’s natural for them to think that they must’ve done something when their parents aren’t happy.

  • Children feel they must comfort their parents. Children are very empathetic, especially during a crisis. They can take it upon themselves to comfort a grieving parent. This is noble. But it is also very age-inappropriate. It puts much emotional pressure on a child, especially if they fail to meet their developmental goals. 

  • Children become emotionally torn.  Children see their parents fighting and arguing. They also see them threatening, accusing, and degrading each other. Children feel pressured to pick a side. But, doing so feels like a betrayal to the parent they turn their back on. For a vulnerable child, adultery can cause guilt. It can even lead to self-hate.

  • Unwanted. When parents are struggling with the shockwaves of discovered cheating, children are often unintentionally, but nonetheless, neglected. They are loved and cherished more than ever. But, they may feel and conclude that they are not wanted. The father, who always does homework with his son, is no longer available. The mother usually cheers up her daughter each morning and sends her off to school with a smile. But now she is sad and depressed and dragging through the morning. The child has a limited understanding of what is going on. It’s not surprising that a child in a situation like this feels and concludes that he or she is unwanted.

  • Harmful behavior. Because of the psychological effects of adultery on children, they often seek extreme methods of comfort. Self-injury, like cutting, promiscuous sex, drug use, or crime, are ways a child or teen may turn to distract themselves from the family’s problems or calm themselves.

  • Anxiety. When parents are in turmoil, so are their children. A child seeing his or her parents fearful, mad, and vengeful causes insecurity and uncertainty for the future. A child’s worries can slip into acute and chronic anxiety. 

  • Depression. When anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can slip into depression, a feeling of hopelessness that nothing will ever be right again.

Ways to reduce the negative effects of adultery on children: The psychological effects of adultery on children can be overwhelming. Insisting everything is normal adds to their confusion and pain. Children need to be included in the conversations about infidelity and its aftermath. Depending on their age and what they know, they should be spoken to in an age-appropriate way and permitted to ask questions. This can help ease their fears. It gives them a sense of control in situations that might otherwise feel out of their hands. Dealing with infidelity necessitates talking honestly and openly with your children.

The harmful effects of adultery on children are increased when the affair leads to a divorce

Divorce can cause a lot of pain and upheaval, especially for innocent children caught in the middle. Studies have shown that the aftermath of divorce often leads to even greater unhappiness than a broken marriage.

Effects of divorce on children:

  • Academic failure. Working through infidelity is an event that has a start date and an end date. Divorce impacts children forever. Because of the stress divorce imposes on children, often they cannot properly concentrate when at school, leading to poor marks.

  • Emotional problems. Because divorce is a lifestyle change, not an event, the upheaval in the lives of children leads to many difficult situations that can negatively impact their mental health. For example, a simple birthday party, when two parents are at war with one another or stepparents and stepchildren are involved, can be a nightmare of negative emotional power struggles.

  • Addiction. There are many types of addictions. Initially, engaging in them is often an attempt to reduce stress. The stress of a divorce can overwhelm children, and they can become overly dependent on drugs, alcohol, or other harmful behaviors.

  • Criminal behavior. Like addiction, the emotional high from criminal behavior can reduce stress. Also, engaging in such behaviors puts these children in the company of others who are a negative influence on them.

  • Premature sex. We all seek love. When there is turmoil in the family, often children do not feel sufficiently loved, and so they seek someone to love them outside the family. This leads to inappropriate sexual behavior in an effort to bring love to themselves.

  • Remarriage. If parents remarry, children have a new set of problems to overcome. Making blended families work well for children is very difficult, and many second marriages fail because of this.

Ways to reduce the psychological effects of adultery:  When a partner cheats, it’s a devastating blow to any relationship. But if the guilty party is truly sorry and willing to work to make amends, then the couple can heal and rebuild their bond. Doing so is especially important if there are children involved. A divorce puts children at risk in many harmful ways.

Find a skilled couples therapist with experience in infidelity recovery. This is key to ensuring the healing is thorough and effective. It minimizes the harm to the children from the negative psychological effects of adultery. With time and help, you can move past even the most painful betrayal. For older children and teens, they should be offered individual therapy. It will help them recover from the family turmoil and stress caused by infidelity.

Additional steps to help you reduce common psychological effect of adultery on children:

  1. Learn more about how adultery impacts families.
  2. Learn more about how to Survive Infidelity.
  3. Professional assistance – Often the assistance of a relationship professional who specializes in infidelity is required to help you survive infidelity. Below are sources where you can find qualified therapists.

Are you struggling to recover from infidelity in your relationship?

Infidelity can be one of the most devastating experiences for any couple. But with the right guidance and support, healing and reconciliation is possible. That’s where Abe’s book, Surviving Infidelity: A Couple’s Journey, using the 7-step Recovery Map will rescue you from this relationship catastrophe.

You don’t have to go through this difficult journey alone. Abe Kass, a renowned couple therapist, has successfully helped numerous couples find their way back to each other after an affair. With his proven 7-step process, you, too, can overcome the pain of infidelity and rebuild trust and love in your relationship. Click below to learn more. Take the first step towards preventing divorce and healing your marriage or committed relationship!

surviving infidelity a couples journey using the 7 steps to recovery map by marriage therapist abe kass

7 Steps for Surviving Infidelity


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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!