Impact of Divorce on Children

My marriage to my husband has been a very unsatisfying thing for me. I would divorce him if it were not for my concern for our three children. What does the research say about the impact of divorce on kids?

It's now known that emotional development in children is directly related to the presence of warm, nurturing, sustained, and continuous interaction with both parents. Anything that interferes with the vital relationship with either mother or father can have lasting consequences for the child.

One landmark study revealed that 90 percent of children from divorced homes suffered from an acute sense of shock when the separation occurred, including profound grieving and irrational fears.1 Fifty percent reported feeling rejected and abandoned,2 and indeed, half of the fathers never came to see their children three years after the divorce.3 One-third of the boys and girls feared abandonment by the remaining parent, and 66 percent experienced yearning for the absent parent with an intensity that researchers described as overwhelming.4 Most significant, 37 percent of the children were even more unhappy and dissatisfied five years after the divorce than they had been at eighteen months.5 In other words, time did not heal their wounds.

That's the real meaning of divorce. It is certainly what I think about, with righteous indignation, when I see infidelity and marital deceit portrayed on television as some kind of exciting game for two.

The bottom line is that you are right to consider the welfare of your children in deciding whether or not to seek a divorce. As empty as the marital relationship continues to be for you, it is likely, from what I know of your circumstances, that your kids will fare better if you choose to stick it out.


  1. Judith S. Wallerstein and Joan B. Kelly, Surviving the Breakup (New York: Basic Books, 1980), 33.
  2. Ibid., 48.
  3. Ibid., 236.
  4. Ibid., 46.
  5. Ibid., 211.

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