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A Child’s Psychological Reaction To Divorce

According to Stephen Ross, PsyD, HSPP, a child’s psychological reaction to their parents’ divorce varies in degree, depending upon the following three factors. The quality of their relationship with each of their parents before the separation The intensity and duration of the parental conflict The parents’ ability to focus on the needs of children throughout […]

Mark Baer
Mark Baer is a lawyer, mediator and conflict resolution consultant.

According to Stephen Ross, PsyD, HSPP, a child’s psychological reaction to their parents’ divorce varies in degree, depending upon the following three factors.

  1. The quality of their relationship with each of their parents before the separation
  2. The intensity and duration of the parental conflict
  3. The parents’ ability to focus on the needs of children throughout their divorce

According to Ross, “The key component of these three aspects is that the parents do everything they can to make decisions during the divorce process which are intended to enhance the quality of life for their children rather than trying to punish the other parent.”

Ross states that such punishment may take the form of “intended or unintended derogatory comments made within earshot of the child.” He says that, “Even subtle nonverbal cues can send a message to a child, e.g. smirking when speaking about the other parent. Children are quite astute in reading nonverbal cues.”

Gary Direnfeld, a marriage and family therapist and recognized expert on parent-child relations and child development, agrees: “The greater the conflict between the parents, the greater the risk for a poor outcome for the child. The degree to which parents can find reasonable solutions to their differences, the children are better off.”