What Is The Impact Of Divorce On A Child?

child with single parent

Divorce is not easy to deal with, even more difficult if the couple has a child or two. There are many studies that highlight the increased risks of emotional, academic and physical effects to a child with divorced parents.


– – In Singapore, the divorce rate is about 7 for every 1,000 married residents and the median years of marriage for divorce is about 10 years. – –


It is becoming more common for children to be involved in a divorce and the impact to a child varies, depending on the resilience of the child, how the marriage is before the divorce, how the adjustment is managed after the change. There are many factors involved but numerous studies showed that it could impact a child’s overall well-being, for either a short or long term period in their life.



Emotion Well-being


  • Insecurity

As parents are perceived by the child to be able to handle problems, divorce shatters that belief and some children worry about their parents’ ability to care for them. Others wonder if they are the source of marital conflicts if they see their parents having heated arguments frequently. If parents start to focus on re-building their life after the divorce and spend less time with the child, the child will feel neglected. Children may feel abandoned when parents subsequently date or re-marry and have children with the new spouse.


  • Sadness and Loneliness
Older children and adolescents may experience sadness and grief. More than 40% of the children in a survey felt that they had a lonely childhood. This can be due to reduced time with the non-custodial parent, less time with the custodial parent, or not having contact with one set of grandparents and relatives. Moving home can cut off many friendships for a child who will have to adapt to being the new kid in another school.


  • Fears
Studies that track children from young to adulthood show that even as adults, there are more fears of failure, loss, change and conflict in a relationship. Forming romantic relationships are tougher for children from divorced homes and higher level of anxiety is experienced in relationships. Having come from parents with failed marriage, children grow to be adults with views that are more open to premarital sex, cohabitation and divorce.

unhappy child


Social Well-being


Children who experience the divorce of their parents may have greater difficulty socially, such as struggling to develop friendships with peers or less participative in class and extracurricular activities.




Children from divorced homes may get lower grades, exhibit behavioural problems or fall into bad company. This depends on each family and child, but the increased risks may be due to less time the custodial parent has with the child, and less income leading to less resources for the child. Adolescents may engage in risk-taking behaviours or skip school.


Physical Well-being


Studies show young children may have difficulty sleeping, tantrums and separation anxiety. Older children may develop eating disorder. Young children may take longer to toilet-train, fall sick more frequently and take longer to recover. Some of these physical problems may also stem from emotional distress and anxiety.


There are generally three periods of adjustment for children after the divorce:


(i) an acute period within the first 2 years of divorce;


(ii) adjustment period where the child transitioned from living with both parents to one parent, change of home or school, and the relationships that cease due to the divorce and


(iii) stability period


Studies show that children may not necessarily fully recover from the divorce and the impact is seen even when they enter into adulthood and have relationship of their own. The younger the child is during the divorce, the more likely the short-term period will be difficult as older children tend to be more independent. On the other hand, the older the child is during the divorce, the likelihood of long-term impact is higher. Without judging, children thrive better in a two-parent home but for couples who have decided on divorce, there are steps to take to support the child to reduce the impact on their life.


Written by Mei

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