is missing a critical perspective: that of the child of divorced parent
s. The child who goes through a divorce has to deal with the emotional burden not only during the period during and immediately following the separation of parents, but has the unenviable
opportunity to carry around the emotional baggage well into adulthood.
The reaction of a child to divorce can vary with the age of the child and the level of acrimony between the parents. Here is a breakdown of what I believe to be more or less typical reactions based on the child's age.
0-2 years old: The child is not sufficiently aware of his or her immediate surroundings to understand anything more than the fact that one parent goes missing. Being trafficked from one home to another will likely stunt early social development, especially given that there will be inconsistencies in the rules in the two homes.
2-6 years old: The child is aware that one parent is gone, and that that parent now lives in another place. Extreme bouts of anger and frustration are normal, given the massive upheaval in the child's environment and the fact that the child probably cannot place a cause to this change.
6-12 years old: The child has now sufficient maturity to understand that some cause was responsible for the fact that mommy and daddy don't live together any more. Unfortunately, most children of this age believe that the cause is them.
12-adult: The child can now begin to understand that the cause of the divorce is likely not them, but is instead due to the sometimes fickle nature of love and the difficulty inherent in having two adults living together. This will often result in an intense fear of intimacy which can affect early romantic development.
The longer term effects of divorce on a child are most widely recognized as a fear of commitment when establishing serious relationships with a romantic partner, and once a serious commitment has been made, a nearly paralyzing fear that this relationship will end suddenly without any warning or apparant cause.
Now, I would like to state that I have painted with a very broad brush here. Human beings are complex, and no two will react to a stimulus in the same way. What I have tried to list above is simply what I believe to be the most common reactions.
I should also note that I am neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist. What I have written above comes from personal experience and my observations of dozens of close friends who are also children of divorce.
Man, I just reread what I wrote a year and a half ago, and while it might be correct, it certainly is dry
. I just thought I'd add a little context
for those wondering how I came to the ideas presented above, and why I bothered to write anything at all in this node
My parents separated when I was eleven, and my brother was three. I did not react well, as can be expected. I don't have a lot of direct memories of the years following their separation, but my mother tells me that I lost around ten pounds in less than a month, which is particularly worrisome given that I can't afford to lose ten pounds now, let alone then. I spent all of my middle school years unable to speak to other people, especially those of the opposite sex. I spent my school hours desperately hoping that no one would talk to me, let alone tease or humiliate me. I broke down into tears regularly, for no apparent reason. I still thank both God and my genes, to this day, that I grew to be six feet tall at the age of 13, so the fucking morons at school would leave me alone.
But that wasn't the worst. Not even close. It wasn't even in the fucking ballpark. The worst thing, by far, was having to hear my brother cry and scream and bash the walls with his feet and hands, to the point of bruising. To this day, I can still hear his little voice asking "Where's Daddy? Why isn't Daddy here? Why!?" The worst thing was that my mother was so distraught that she could barely take care of herself, let alone the two of us. The worst thing was that I was so paralyzed, so numb, so cowardly that I couldn't give my brother the comfort and explanations he needed so badly. The worst thing was that that poor, innocent 3 year old didn't get the answers to his questions.
The worst thing about divorce is that there were no answers to give.