Each year over 1 million children experience divorce, but many pediatricians may only learn of this agonizing crisis from their patient's behavioral reaction or if the family, as a consequence of the divorce, moves to a different community. Since the average length of marriages that end in divorce is just under 7 years, many of the children affected are young. The combination of out-of-wedlock births and divorce will result in 61% of all children living with a single parent.1,2
Divorce may be a solution to a discordant marriage and any decrease in intrafamilial hostility may be constructive; however, for many children, the tensions continue and the entire divorce process is a long, searing experience. Divorce is the termination of the family unit, and, like termination of any important relationship, it is often characterized by painful losses.3 Approximately half of all children do not see their father after divorce and few have spent a night at their father's home in the past month.4
The divorce itself is usually only the first of a series of major changes in the lives of affected children. Their sense of loss is ongoing and may re-emerge especially on holidays, birthdays, special school events, and when attempting to integrate multiple new family relationships.
The custodial parent may have to start work or work longer hours, the family may have to move to a new community, and there may be secondary losses of relatives, local friends, and a familiar school. The family home may have to be sold.
- Copyright © 1994 by the American Academy of Pediatrics