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cheebdragon's avatar

Effects of divorce on young children vs adult children?

Asked by cheebdragon (15608 points ) February 16th, 2014 from iPhone

Is it more traumatic for young children to see their parents get a divorce than it is for an adult?

My parents divorced when I was young and I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time so it wasnt that bad in my opinion. My step brother was older when his parents divorced (out of high school) and his parents divorce was pretty hard for him to deal with, I guess because it was out of left field.

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8 Answers

janbb's avatar

From what I’ve been reading, it is easier on the kids if the parents divorce when the kids are young. Of course, this is a broad generalization because there are so many factors – like money – that enter into it.

Coloma's avatar

My daughter ( who is now 26 ) experienced her dad and I’s split at age 15.
No age is optimum for a family split but only having my experience of a divorce along with teenage rebellion, well…it was hard. Ages 15 to about 19–20 were difficult years with my daughter but around age 21 she really matured and we have had many talks about what went down during those crappy years. I am confident that she harbors no resentments and understands the reasons for the divorce.

Personally I think the younger the better but nobody can divorce without impact regardless of age. We have become very close in her adult hood now and I am grateful those dark days are behind us.

zenvelo's avatar

My kids were 7 and 10 when my ex and I separated. It was harder on my daughter, yet they had been through so much turmoil in the house it was also a relief to have the conflict reduced.

The trauma on young children is more dependent on how such they see each parent, so that the connection between child and parent is maintained. If both parents remain present for the child, they feel more secure.

The trauma on older kids is more about the breakup of the nuclear family, because they are in the process of separating from the family as a unit, and when that unit falls apart, they become unsure of their role. They are also at an age when they are learning to evaluate complex interpersonal relationships, so they feel obligated to “choose” a parent.

Cupcake's avatar

My parents separated when I was in kindergarten, which was terribly traumatic for me. Then again, they didn’t handle the separation/divorce in a child-centered way.

hearkat's avatar

My ex and I separated a few months before my son turned 5, divorced just over a year later, and his father died a few months after he turned 7. The instigating factor to our split was that my son’s day care provider (with whom he had been for over a year) called me and asked if something was wrong because he was acting depressed. My formerly gregarious, joyous child was withdrawn and sullen at day care. If he actually was doing something and another kid came and took it away, he wouldn’t even protest.

This was a wake-up call to me and brought my own depression to the forefront – I didn’t even realize how miserable I was until I saw it reflected in my child. This situation replayed itself a few times over the years – when he started to act up or seem down, I would step back and look at the big picture of our situation and realize that something needed to change.

I guess my point is that dysfunction will impact kids at any age, whether it occurs within a marriage or as one comes to an end. Growing up, I had a classmate who knew his parents stayed together “for the sake of the kids” and he learned to manipulate the situation and play them against each other. We can’t know for sure, but it seems to me that it would have been healthier all around if the parents had split and perhaps found their own happiness than staying miserable together and having the kid pulling all the strings.

Generally speaking, the younger a child is when presented with any adversity, the more they normalize it and take it all in stride. Not long ago, someone asked a question here about a school-aged child dealing with chronic illness, and I recalled my observation from working in a Children’s Hospital that the kids often had a much more matter-of-fact attitude toward the illness than the parents, because that was their “normal”. The same applies toward a dealing with ‘broken’ family or death, based on my experiences.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I know people whose parents divorced much later in life, sometimes when the “kids” were middle-aged or older.

I haven’t noticed any trauma at all. The “kids” watched their parents be unhappily married for many years, from a mature perspective and with the wisdom that comes with age and experience. When the parents finally divorced, the “kids” are generally relieved that they no longer need to see Mom and Dad bicker or be pulled into their parents’ conflicts.

talljasperman's avatar

I believed that it was my fault for my parents divorce, I had picked up the toilet lid to see what was inside I dropped it in the tank and it shattered. It cost $12,000 water damage for a $48,000 house. I was 2.5 years old the divorce was within weeks.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

My oldest was young when his father and I divorced and because his father wasn’t really ever involved and hasn’t been since and I was with a new person, my current husband, very soon after our break-up, he’s never really thought of it. He’s 7 now and, tbh, he has no clue that it’s an issue, that his bio-dad and I aren’t together.

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