The Mental Health Consequences for Kids Caught in the Crossfire


Although the rates of divorces are at a record low since 1973 in England and Wales, it’s still discussed quite a lot in the media. No couple plans to get divorced when they enter their marriage — it can be a tragic time for the family. Beside the devastating effect this has on the couple getting divorced, this can have serious implications for the children.

That being said, not all divorces can be disastrous and drawn out over a very long time as depicted in films, but they can cause intense distress.

For any child of divorce, regardless of age, experiencing your family ripped in half can take its toll on a child’s mental health. So, in this article, we will explore how this can affect children, and how you can minimise damage.


The amount of change that a child would experience would have undeniable, significant effects. For a younger child progressing through their developmental years, having one parent moving out of the house can be confusing.

At a younger age, the child might not really understand why one of their parents is absent and may believe that it is the child that the parent is avoiding.

Studies have shown that older children can process divorce easier than younger children. Despite this, they are the most likely to bear the brunt of the effect of change. The breakdown of a marriage could mean them moving to a new house, moving school, or no longer seeing one of their parents. It could also mean the family is less well-off financially.

This can have detrimental effects on a child’s mental health. For example, in the past, your child may have been able to go away on a school trip each year with their friends, whether it be skiing or a pre-summer break.

Due to disrupted finances, there might not be enough money that was once had to enjoy luxuries. This will irritate and upset a child who has grown accustomed to such a lifestyle.


An important issue when thinking about introducing family law solicitors into the divorce is the child’s lack of understanding. A failure to understand a situation can develop into frustration, and in many cases, this can result in anger.

In many cases, a child is likely to act up and display bad behaviour when one parent isn’t present. The child is taking advantage of the different level of discipline that one parent has. Rather than dishing out punishment for bad behaviour, try to understand the position in which the child finds themselves.

Try not to forget that your child is going through lots of overwhelming emotions, too. Therefore, be patient and take into consideration the way you are acting around them.


Children are intuitive of their surroundings and take notice of what occurs around them. So, if one parent is badmouthing another, they are likely to pick up on this and replicate it. Although the situation between both co-parents may be rather toxic, for the sake of the child’s emotional stability, communication is key. Monitoring behaviour around both parents, particularly if they are now living in different homes, is an effective way to quash any behavioural issues.


A slightly more obvious point, but a child will cope well when in a stable educational environment with structure. Research has discovered that children who grow up in a two-parent, married family are more likely to do better at school.

It has been found that children are less likely to disturb their classes, and will act less aggressive to their peers. In terms of their academic performance, children whose parents’ marriage is intact are more likely to do their work without being forced.

A study by the BBC in 2014 found that 65 per cent of children who had experienced their parents divorce received worse GCSE results than they were predicted. 44 per cent also insinuated they believe their A-Level results had suffered.


Although a nuclear family can be beneficial for a child, staying together in an unhappy marriage for the children can actually be much more damaging. Children can look to their parents on how to base their own relationships, so set a good example. Do what is best for you, but don’t forget about the effect on your children.

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