Children of Divorce: 5 Long-Term Effects of Broken Marriages

A broken marriage can be a scary, ugly, and confusing thing—especially for the children of divorce.

But, the tumultuous time of divorce isn’t the only thing couples need to worry about. A broken marriage can have lasting, long-term effects.

Some divorces end peacefully. Two people can agree their relationship didn’t work out. And some parents can co-parent their children just as well, making a favorable situation for everyone.

Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

In a drawn-out, angry divorce that started with a broken marriage, kids can bear the brunt of the long-term effects. Let’s look at a few of those, and the problems they can cause later in life.

1. Anxiety

Did you argue with your spouse in front of your child? Are the arguments about them? Do you confide in your child about your problems with their other parent?

Children in the middle of a broken marriage can develop anxiety if things aren’t handled the right way. Your child should not be your “friend” or therapist when you’re going through a divorce or separation. Additionally, they shouldn’t have to hear you argue with your spouse about them.

If they do, it can lead to a lot of guilt. They might start to resent the other parent. Or, they might feel as though they are the root of the problem.

2. Depression

A broken marriage can cause depression if a child takes the blame for it. Or, if their life suddenly changes and things aren’t the way they used to be, it can create an overwhelming feeling of sadness.

Signs of depression in a child can include isolation, problems sleeping, or sudden difficulties at school—both with their education and in their relationships with friends.

Survival is science. Living is art.

3. Fear of Abandonment

When children of divorce witness a marriage falling apart, it’s easy for them to take what they’ve experienced and apply it to their own life, even if it’s years in the future. They might develop a fear of abandonment in their romantic relationships later in life.

This mindset can lead to relationships where they are dependent on the other person for their happiness. Unfortunately, extremely dependent people can get into relationships that are emotionally or physically abusive.

4. Fear of Commitment

Some children may take the opposite route in their romantic relationships when they get older. They might be hesitant to get into a serious relationship with just one person because they’ve seen how easy it is for things to go wrong.

No one wants to get into a relationship, assuming it’s going to be doomed from the start. If a child has been through a particularly ugly divorce between their parents, that experience can steer them away from committing to someone. As a result, they may not easily be able to have a healthy relationship.

5. Inability to Cope

A lack of commitment doesn’t just affect relationships. When a child grows up thinking they can “walk away” from their problems because they saw their parents do it (or one of their parents), it can eventually become difficult for them to deal with the hardships of life.

If they lose their job, someone breaks up with them, or some traumatic event happens, a person who has learned to avoid confrontation, commitment, and problematic situations their whole life can have an incredibly difficult time dealing with things like these.

The good news? None of these long-term effects have to happen—even if a divorce does play out.

Again, a broken marriage is hard for everyone. A crucial thing you can do when you’re going through a split is to communicate with your child. Let them know it’s not their fault, and don’t use them as a substitute therapist.

If you see that they’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

Sometimes, a therapist or counselor can be the best way to help children of divorce work through the struggles they’re dealing with at home. Please, contact my office today or visit my page on children and grief counseling to learn more about how I can help.