Implications Support Policy Development


Divorce has become a common occurrence in many people’s lives. Marriages are now easy to dissolve, and less stigma is linked to people who are divorced. However, many people still undergo traumatic and adverse experiences after divorces. In the previous three decades, almost half of the married couples divorced. Further, half of about 1 million children that their parents form the yearly divorce rate are not older than six years during the divorce period (Wallerstein and Lewis, 2004). Not only does a divorcing couple go through suffering but also the children become affected. In the previous decades, most concerns were on the parent’s problems, and however, today, there has been an increasing concern on how children get affected by their parent’s divorce. The growing interest has been mainly with the professionals working with the children who experience problems or the aftermath of the divorce. A belief that is generally accepted is that divorces have many negative consequences in children’s lives which are indicated in their behaviour (Donahey, 2018). Some of the factors which influence the adverse effects on children whose parents are divorced include the degree of conflict between the partners divorcing, the degree to which the partners who are divorcing demonstrate concern for their children as well as how well they prepare the children for separation, the level of attachment that a child has to his or her custodian and the child’s maturity level or their general personality. Presently, there is a knowledge gap in how children whose parents are divorced become affected and how practitioners can best help these children both at school and at home. Therefore, understanding children’s experiences after their parental divorce will not only help identify relevant themes which can be addressed in this area in terms of best practice to support such children but also a policy that can guide professionals and parents on how to help the children as well as their families socially and academically (Donahey, 2018).


Aim of the study

This study aims to examine the effect that divorce has on children (behaviourally, socially and academically).

Research Questions

How do teachers, principals, and their assistants, psychologists, nurses, and counsellors describe the experience they have when working with children whose parents have divorced?

Do the children have similar experiences? What behaviour descriptions are given for such children? What are the effects of divorce on the children (negative/positive) What age or gender of children is mostly affected by divorce? Does divorce affect the academic achievement of early childhood pupils in school? What programs and strategies can be used by the professionals to help support children and parents experiencing the effects of divorce?

To find how professionals who are working with children whose parents are divorcing describe their experiences concerning the children’s behaviour To determine the negative or positive effects which divorce has on children To determine the programs or strategies which can be used to help support children whose parents are divorcing

Literature Review

Children belonging to families where the parents get divorced usually suffer a lot of disadvantages than those whose parents are together. Evidence by Seltzer (1994) show that these children become emotionally distressed by the divorce. Young children become especially anxious and depressed. The same research also shows that children’s academic achievement and school behaviour suffer as well. Seltzer (1994) found that such disadvantages can have long-term adverse effects such as decreasing the rate of graduation from high school and reducing the schooling years that are completed. Furthermore, children that are raised with single parents are prone to delinquency as compared to their peers raised by both parents (Seltzer, 1994). According to Seltzer (1994), behaviour change can be seen in children after a divorce and that the young children suffer problems like depression, anxiety, and distress. This claim is supported by Zinsmeister (1997) who further say that divorce affects children’s academic achievement and also has long term impacts raising the rate of high school dropouts. According to Zinsmeister (1997), children’s social behaviour is adversely affected, and those exposed to the incident of divorce are more likely to re-sit a grade are more likely to be suspended or expelled as compared to other children with both parents.

Hanson (1999) postulate that conflict accounts during pre-divorce for the clear adverse divorce effects are based on the assumptions that those parents that divorce subsequently shows more conflict as compared to parents who do not divorce and that the conflict between parents reduces the well-being of a child. According to Hanson (1999), a social environment with a discretionary marriage contract and where the bond that is holding the marriage is based on much emotional exchange (where parents disagree frequently and exchange hostile interactions) is likely to lead in a divorce. In his phenomenological surveys on divorce, Hanson (1999) found that the divorce transition causes various changes which have debilitating effects on a child’s well-being. This researcher says that with an average child, the divorces are connected with residential mobility, income loss, changed friendship networks, decreased contact with the parent who is away as well as other kin and lastly, altered relationships with the present parent. Hanson (1999) referred to these changes as losses of social and economic capital.

Nair and Murray (2005) concluded that the divorce experience during early childhood or infancy has more deteriorating effects as compared to during their elementary life, middle or high school period. In their survey, Nair and Murray (2005) found that children in the first two to three years scored dismally on behavioural, social and cognitive assessment as compared to their counterparts in whole families. These two researchers also discovered that children in preschool were more distressed as compared to all other children following a divorce. They found that the children’s life of divorce and separation changed both socially and psychologically. Pardeck (1996) supported these findings by saying that divorce requires children to adjust to new relationships and roles in line with the changes within their family. Pardeck (1996) further claimed that although divorce occasionally causes relief at home from tension, it also sometimes results in more pressure, conflicting loyalties and stress for a large number of children. Hanson (1999) argue that conflict between parents can be a major stressor for young children and can take a severe psychological toll on their adjustment. He further elaborates that parental conflict can influence the behaviour of a child by a process known as social modelling through which a child can acquire similar behavioural strategies their parents used during the episodes of conflict.

Pardeck (1996) raised a different point by stating that the response of a child to divorce is age-related. This individual claim that very young children during the divorce appear to be experiencing less suffering. However, children of ages six and eight usually believe they are the cause of the separation or divorce. This individual further points out that many children, particularly boys who have parents undergoing a divorce usually experience problems in their academics. On this note, Palosaari and Aro (1994) say that divorce is generally an experience that is stressful for a child regardless of the age and that many children show behaviour problems, emotional distress and short-term disruptions in their development. According to Palosaari and Aro (1994), a child’s age at the time of the divorce has been discovered to affect their short-term reactions to their parent’s separation. Pardeck (1996) even found that these children usually turn to their teachers for comfort and help and that these practitioners need to be sensitive to young children’s needs.

In the Nair and Murray (2005) study, they found that in young children, attachment insecurity after a divorce can be the main precursor to academic problems and behaviour which is encountered later in older children. According to these researchers, young children who are seen to be insecure may also be susceptible to long-term negative outcomes. In their survey, Nair and Murray (2005) discovered that at the age of four or five, those children they classified to be insecure during infancy were extremely dependent and many times elicited adverse attention from their teachers. In comparison to this finding, children who were securely attached during infancy were less dependent emotionally at four or five. At ten years old, the researchers found insecure children to be more adult dependent and less competent socially unlike their counterparts with secure attachment during infancy. Most explanations given by Nair, and Murray (2005) concerning the impact that divorce has on children was that those consequences came from the absence of one parent, stress and conflict between the parents and adjustment problems to different living situations.

Pike (2000) raises a different point by arguing that although divorce can be deteriorating to several children, others do not get affected. In a comparison done by Pike (2000) between single-parent and two-parent peers, the researcher discovered a very small statistically substantial variation across various dependent measures. Even in cases where some substantial statistical difference was seen, children having both parents did not do as well as their single-parent counterparts. The mean score examinations showed that the children with single-parents scores on dependent measures were in the range of average-to-above-average.

Frieman (1997) found that by working together, parents, children, principals, and teachers can manage the strain of a divorce between parents. Therefore, educators need to recognize the strong effect that divorce or separation has on children and their learning ability (Frieman, 1997). Lowe (2009) support this claim by saying that teachers should guide children whose parents are undergoing a divorce both emotionally and providing them attention as well as teaching them skills of problem-solving.

Research Methodology

This research will apply qualitative approach as it will focus on understanding the participant’s thoughts on the effect of divorce on children (participant’s view on the problem being researched) (Merriam and Grenier, 2019). In addition, this survey will take place in a natural setting such as in a school where besides using interviews and questionnaires, the researcher will be able to make observations. Literature review of research on this topic will be conducted. Additionally, interviews, as well as questionnaires, will be used to collect data. Interviews will be used to provide detailed and specific information. Open-ended questions will be provided in the questionnaires to allow those participating in the study to be as honest and open as possible with their answers. In addition to the questionnaires meant for early childhood practitioners, interviews will be developed for school psychologists, principals and their assistant, and the adjustment counsellor to obtain specific data on the effect of divorce on the behaviour and academic achievement of children. The participants in the study will include Kindergarten teachers, elementary school teachers, and first-grade practitioners. All the participants will be recruited using word of mouth or contacted directly (Merriam and Grenier, 2019).

Ethical Consideration

All the participants will be debriefed before they take part in this research. They will be provided with a form of informed consent which they will be advised to read. The consent form will assure them of not being harmed during the study. The informed consent letter will also show that the participants are not forced and are not obliged to take part in the research and that any of them can leave whenever they wish. The consent letter will also show participants they are free to leave blanks on questions that make them uneasy or uncomfortable. The research will also maintain a high level of confidentiality by changing individual participants’ and school names. The information provided will also be kept private (Forsberg, and Autonen-Vaaraniemi, 2019).

Time Scale of the Study

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  • Donahey, K., 2018. Effects of divorce on children: The importance of intervention. Intuition: The BYU Undergraduate Journal in Psychology, 13(1), p.3.
  • Forsberg, H. and Autonen-Vaaraniemi, L., 2019. Moral Orientations to Post-divorce Fatherhood: Examining Finnish Men's Descriptive Practices. Families, Relationships and Societies, 8(1), pp.23-36.
  • Frieman, B.B., 1997. Two Parents--Two Homes. Educational Leadership, 54(7), pp.23-25.
  • Hanson, T.L., 1999. Does parental conflict explain why divorce is negatively associated with child welfare? Social forces, 77(4), pp.1283-1316.
  • Merriam, S.B. and Grenier, R.S. eds., 2019. Qualitative research in practice: Examples for discussion and analysis. Jossey-Bass.
  • Nair, H. and Murray, A.D., 2005. Predictors of attachment security in preschool children from intact and divorced families. The Journal of genetic psychology, 166(3), pp.245-263.
  • Palosaari, U. and Aro, H., 1994. Effect of timing of parental divorce on the vulnerability of children to depression in young adulthood. Adolescence, 29(115), p.681.
  • Pardeck, J.T., 1996. Recommended books for helping children deal with separation and divorce. Adolescence, 31(121), pp.233-238.
  • Pike, L.T., 2000. Effects of parent residency arrangements on the development of primary school-aged children. Family Matters, (57), pp.40-45. Seltzer, J.A., 1994. Consequences of marital dissolution for children. Annual review of sociology, 20(1), pp.235-266.
  • Wallerstein, J.S. and Lewis, J.M., 2004. The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: Report of a 25-Year Study. Psychoanalytic psychology, 21(3), p.353.
  • Zinsmeister, K., 1997. Why the traditional family will never become obsolete. The American Enterprise, 8(2), pp.28-34.

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