Teens may be especially resentful of the way this disrupts their schedules and interferes with school, friendships, work, and other usual activities (Wallerstein, 2000). And further, especially in the case of a needy, now single parent, older children and teens in particular may now face a perceived necessity of their becoming the needy parent's new and often only source of emotional support (Wallerstein). At this same time, the older child or teen's own emotional needs begin to go (and often remain) largely or entirely unmet thereafter by one or both divorced parents (Fagan).
When this occurs, the permanently life-altering; long-term damaging psychological result is often that it effectively truncates childhood or adolescence prematurely and thereby causes older children or teens to feel that they must now act like adults themselves, thus suddenly forcing them to become more independent, self-confident, selfless and self-sufficient than they genuinely feel (Wallerstein). Older children and teens may now suddenly believe they must "manage" the family themselves by caring for younger siblings or taking on some or all of the adult responsibilities of the absent parent (Fagan, May 14, 2004; Wallerstein, 2000; Fagan & Rector, 2007).
As a consequence of that, children of divorce often feel overlooked or inessential to their parents, or unimportant generally (Wallerstein 2000). Younger children may blame themselves for the divorce and come to feel that they alone must be responsible for their parents' separation and that it would not have happened except for something they said or did (Fagan). Children between eight and 11 years old are most prone to feeling this way; while adolescents are most prone to feeling angry and alienated from their parents or one or the other parent. Blaming one parent for the break-up while sympathizing with the other parent is common among adolescents in particular who have experienced their parents divorce (Gilman et al.).
According to Gilman et. al (May 2003) moreover; younger children especially may often also be used as pawns by their parents after a divorce (Wallerstein, 2000; Fagan & Rector, 2007); or one parent (or both) may try to poison the child's mind against the other parent. Gilman et al. (May 2003) further found that in cases where there has been high conflict between parents leading up to the divorce, having to have a child now move between households or figure out ways to share custody may not be preferable or even possible if conflict between divorced parents remains high.
Other negative ramifications of divorce typically suffered among adolescents include depression; anxiety; withdrawal; lowered grades; suicidal thoughts and feelings of helplessness or hopelessness (Fagan, May 14, 2004). Gilman et. al (May 2003) further found that juvenile delinquency; alcohol and substance abuse; and high school dropout rates are all higher among teens if their parents are divorced; and that such teens are less likely than those their age from intact families to do well in school; attend college, or complete college.
For all of these reasons and based on empirical research, then; it is clear that divorce harms children, not just short-term but long-term. Children of divorced parents typically suffer developmentally; emotionally; educationally; financially and in many other ways large and small. Deleterious effects of divorce on children do not become erased, either, as these children grow into adulthood themselves but instead simply manifest themselves in new ways, including these adults of divorced parents' having difficulties forming and sustaining intimate relationships of their own.
At the societal level as well as among divorced families themselves, divorce is costly, since children of divorce also tend to commit more crimes and be placed in juvenile detention facilities more often than do children of non-divorced parents. Children of divorced parents also tend to have more long-term medical problems and are more likely than the general population to seek psychiatric care (Gilman et. al, 2003). All in all, the conventional wisdom of the 1960's and decades beyond that that children are not harmed if their parents divorce has turned out in retro0spect to have been empirically untrue.
Fagan, P.F. (May 14, 2004). The social scientific data on the impact of marriage and divorce on children. The Heritage Foundation. http://www.heritage.org/
Fagan, P.F., & Rector, R. (2007). The effects of divorce on America.
Backgrounder: The Heritage Foundation, No. 1378. http:www.elsevier.com / retrieve/pii/S0194659504000061.html.
Gest, T. (November 1983) Divorce: How the game is played now. U.S. News and World Report, 21. 39-42.
Gilman, S., et al. (May 2003). Family disruption in childhood…