Effects of Divorce on Children’s Future Relationships

Divorce will affect more than the couple involved. Their children will likely feel less comfortable with intimacy and will be less secure in their own relationships.  Children whose parents had divorced are more likely to avoid closeness and have less secure attachment styles than those who did not experience a divorce.

A study at Baylor University led by Maria Boccia, Ph.D.A, found that the hormone Oxytocin, which affects social bonding, can be lower in children whose parents have divorced. This hormone can change how these children respond to relationships when they are young and throughout their life. During these studies, participants were asked about their attachment style. Those who tested with a lower Oxytocin level were more likely to recall their parents’ unstable marriage.

When Parents Divorce

The study showed that people whose parents were divorced had difficulty in getting close to others, preferred to avoid social situations, and did not feel secure in the relationships they did allow themselves to have. As stated, these participants showed a much lower level of oxytocin in their urine tests. These same participants remembered being less loved by their parents, whom they recalled as being indifferent. The researchers in the study concluded that children of divorced parents showed actual physical changes in their bodies that changed their social behavior. The Baylor University study concluded, “oxytocin activity may be a mediator of the effects of early parental separation on later maternal, sexual and other behaviors … a possible mediator of the observed effects of divorce on children.”

According to this study, children suffering from depression or anxiety are far more likely to be children of divorced parents. These feelings of social anxiety would continue into adulthood and did not simply disappear with time.

Other Factors that Affect Children’s Future Relationships

As devasting as divorce can be for children, it does not mean their social destiny is written in stone. Additional factors can make bonding with others easier for children. Parental behavior, such as being loving and firm with the children, can help mitigate some of the negative effects of the divorce. 

Another important factor in the future relationships of children of divorced parents is that if these children were repeated witnesses to chaos at home, a divorce and an eventual end to the daily family difficulties actually helped children recover. It seems the daily chaos can actually have a more devastating effect than the divorce itself. These children were eventually able to form healthy social relationships. The reason for this is that while the divorce is traumatic, it can be more traumatic for a child to witness the daily bitter behavior between his or her parents. 

The fact is, while divorce can make it problematic for a child to form positive attachments, there will be other influences in his or her life that can change how such a person continues to behave. Finding meaning in life, overcoming challenges, or becoming a parent can all make it easier for children of divorce to socialize and bond. Most people tend to be adaptable in their attachment style. The lucky ones understand that their behavior is a choice, not determined by fate.

The bottom line is that children will be affected by a divorce. However, as children grow up, they do have options. They can seek counseling, examine their thinking, and otherwise change their mindset. Our destiny will always involve choices.

Those who make good choices are able to maintain meaningful relationships. Parental divorce is not an emotional sentence. It is a challenge that can be overcome.

Effects of Divorce – Long or Short Term

Until recently, the professional consensus was that divorce affected children only on a short-term basis. However, with further study, it is believed that parental divorce can have a lasting effect on adulthood. The major finding has been that children of divorce are more likely to get a divorce as adults.

A study at the University of Helsinki followed the lives of over 1,000 teenagers. This 16-year study confirmed that those who had divorced parents were at greater risk of being divorced themselves. It also determined that women of divorced parents showed a higher inclination to remain single. The same did not prove true for men.

While the Helsinki study confirmed the negative effects of parental divorce, the same study indicated that women’s attitudes toward romantic bonding and marriage were even more closely linked to the adolescent girl and mother relationship. When the relationship was satisfactory, the girl had greater self-esteem, a securer support group and was better able to maintain significant relationships. 

These conclusions line up with the Baylor University study, which found that while divorce adversely affected children, divorce was not the only factor involved. The general parental relationship with the children also played had an important role in how comfortable these children became at handling closeness and intimacy in a relationship. Again, the effects of a divorce on a child are not necessarily written in stone. With the support of both parents, the child will have an easier time establishing his or her own romantic relationship.

Conclusion

Florida is a no-fault divorce state. With all these divorces, it is increasingly likely that one or both partners in a marriage will have had parents who were divorced. This increases the divorce risk by 50 percent if one partner has divorced parents, and it increases the risk of divorce by 200 percent if both partners come from a divorced home.

The undeniable fact is that parental divorce does and will affect a child’s adult ability to establish his or her own successful relationships. However, it has also been proven that if parents maintain an encouraging, supportive, and positive relationship with the children while divorcing, the children are more likely to recover, and the effects are likely to be more limited. Also, children of divorce may be more able to spot an unsuitable partner and will become more adept at avoiding bad relationships.

As has been previously stated, in the long run, much of how children of divorced parents handle romantic adult relationships comes down to choices made and taking personal responsibility.

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