You may notice behavioral issues following a divorce.

How Divorce Affects a Child's Behavior

by Kathryn Hatter

Cruising through a divorce unscathed is not likely to happen, especially for the children caught in the middle. Divorce can be challenging and devastating for a child, and it’s hard to predict exactly how he might react to the upheaval. It’s common to notice behavioral issues and changes in a child during and after a divorce.

Loneliness and Abandonment

It’s common for a youngster to feel a sense of loneliness and abandonment after divorce, according to a report published by the Utah State University Cooperative Extension Utah Divorce Orientation. This loneliness may come from the physical removal of one parent from the home and the remaining parent adopting a more demanding work schedule. It’s also possible that a child will lose some contact frequency with extended family because of the divorce. If loneliness progresses and intensifies, it could lead to intense sadness, depression and misbehavior.

Anxiety and Worry

Anxiety and worry often accompany the feelings of loneliness and abandonment. A little one might worry about a variety of issues, such as living arrangements, extended family visits, choosing one parent over another, celebrating holidays and daily routines, according to a document published by Iowa State University. If a parent does not reassure a child and help diminish worries and anxiety, she may escalate these behaviors into more intense coping mechanisms that could involve misbehavior.


A child may feel betrayed and deceived by parents as a result of divorce, according to the National Network for Child Care. He may harbor an intense and unwavering hope that his parents will reunite and life will return to “normal.” In the process of mourning the departure of one parent, a youngster may experience feelings of rejection by this parent. One or more of these feelings may lead to depression, in which a child stops sleeping and eating normally. He may also stop trying at school, may have difficulty concentrating, may cry frequently and could exhibit an overall feeling of hopelessness that affects behavior in general.


The tentacles of unresolved anger – often feelings the child does not even understand – have far-reaching effects on behavior. She might blame one or both parents. The child might also blame herself and assume inappropriate guilt in connection with the divorce. Anger might lead the youngster to begin acting out aggressively toward others. The child might also become defiant or confrontational with parents due to the unresolved anger.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

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