The impact of divorce on children: a timeline

The impact of divorce on children is something to think about. Everyone processes their emotions differently, and children are no exception. There’s no right or wrong way for a child to react to divorce, and there are a number of factors to influence how they do. For example, their age, or their ability to process their circumstances.

There are, however, some common behaviours and reactions that children of certain ages may display if their parents divorce. And here, we’re taking you through some of the things to look out for.


Even during infancy, babies can feel tension in the home. They might also feel the disruption of a changed routine. Added to that, they won’t understand why this change is happening. They might become irritable and clingy, and have more emotional outbursts, especially around new people.


As with babies, the centre of a toddler’s world is their home-life and the bond with their parents. If that routine is suddenly disrupted, it can cause distress and confusion. At this age, children might also feel responsible for their parent’s separation.

They might become more defiant, for example resist toilet training or refuse to sleep alone. They might also show signs of emotional distress like crying, nightmares and separation anxiety.

School age children

School children often feel a sense of abandonment if their parents divorce. They can’t fully understand what’s happened and that confusion can lead to frustration and anger. They may blame one parent and choose to take sides. That anger could cause behaviour changes, like lashing out at school or becoming withdrawn.

Or they might take it upon themselves to try and rescue their parent’s marriage. The Parent Trap is more based in reality than you’d think!


One of the most common effects of divorce on teenagers is anger. Often, they’re old enough to understand some, if not all, of what’s going on, but they still have little control over it.

Teenagers also have the added pressure of other changes happening in their life, whether that be socially or in school, which doesn’t make dealing with the divorce any easier.

A change in behaviour?

No matter how old a child is when their parents divorce, there will be emotional repercussions.. A recent 2019 study suggests that regardless of age, gender, culture or age, children with divorced parents experience psychological problems at a higher degree than peers with happily married parents In particular, reports have indicated increased rates of anxiety (specifically separation anxiety) and depression.

No two children are the same. And although there are common reactions from children with divorced parents, ultimately, every child will respond differently. The important thing to remember is that there are ways to help children to deal with the process of divorce, and ways to ensure that they’re getting the contact they need to have in the right way.

At Starting Point, we know that every family is going through circumstances unique to them. There’s no one-size-fits all solution, which is why we focus on tailoring our support to each individual.

We’re here to help. Get in touch with us today to find out more about our services.