Effects of Divorce and Poverty in Families

Table of Contents


In our modern society, divorce has become very wide spread among married couples. Children from poor backgrounds caught in the midst of a divorce lead miserable lives. This can be attributed to a number of factors both economical and social. Society in most cases associate divorce with a rise in depression due to the loss of a partner. Family dreams and ambitions are also destroyed and their lifestyles are changed.

In the event of a divorce children are tremendously affected and in most cases attention is not given to them the way it should. Many of these children are not prepared when the divorce happens and they don’t get much support from the adults. The divorce has adverse effects on the children both socially, mentally and emotionally. (McDaniel&Tepperman, 2003, p.604)

In recent years, research has shown that children who are living within stable families are better than children from divorce families. In school, these children experience problems with their behavior as well as coping with their peers. Worse still, they have problems in associating with their parents.

Children who are at the adolescence stage from divorce families have a higher rate of rebellion than those who are in stable families. Often, they possess problems that require professional help. (Gottman& DeClaire, 1998, p.236)

Children at different ages exhibit different ways of coping with the divorce of the parents. When they are between three to five years, they may experience regression in their development and the habits they had learnt earlier may be forgotten.

They may also have problems of sleeping and fear of being separated from parents. At the age of six to eight years, they may have fantasies of their parents reconciling and they will openly mourn for the parent who is gone. Those children at the age of eight to eleven years will exhibit feelings of anger and loneliness.

They will refer to one parent as good while the other may appear bad to them. At the adolescence stage, they may have suicidal thoughts and stress coupled with depression. They may not be able to commit in relationships of their own because they do not believe in marriage. (Gottman& DeClaire, 1998, p.237)

Emotional effects of divorce and poverty on children

Children can be affected emotionally by a divorce in situations where a divorce turns nasty and there are cases of prolonged custody battles. It can be emotionally draining to everyone involved and especially to the children who do not have any say on what is happening around them. A child’s self esteem is one of the most affected areas in a child’s life.

This is seen in the way the child views himself. The children may feel they did something bad that caused the divorce. This leaves a child depressed, sad and sometimes angry at themselves. Their emotional security is affected with the child fearing that the parents will leave and not knowing what will happen next.

This leaves a child feeling lonely especially when a parent is not there. They get afraid when they realize bills have not been paid something that was not a problem when the parents were still married. (Gottman& DeClaire, 1998, p.237)

A child may feel very angry towards other people or themselves as they may feel like they have failed to keep their parents together. Breaking of rules at any given opportunity can be a way of punishing themselves as well as abusing drugs or alcohol.

Destructive behavior is also exhibited by the children with feelings of guilt haunting them. The child may lash out uncontrollably, gets withdrawn and may avoid any social contact with other children. Others may start engaging in pre marital sex or increasing early sexual activities leading to teenage pregnancies as well as abuse of drugs.

These children don’t take responsibility for their mistakes and turn out to be very violent. Their lives change so much and the parent who has custody may not be able to support them any more causing the children to miss school and this causes friction with the school administration. (McDaniel&Tepperman, 2003, p.605)

Social effects of divorce and poverty on children

Children can also be affected socially by the divorce of their parents. When these children living in poverty become divorce victims, they fail to develop socially and hence cannot be able to reach their full potential in life.

Since they might have to live with only one parent for example living with the mother, they may lack the role model of the father. In situations where they have to arrange for parental visitations, the children will move around so much and this way they are not able to spend time with their peers and also their hobbies may be neglected.

They start to resent their lifestyles and in most cases they may feel that their parents do not want them any longer. The children may not be able to perform well in school for lack of concentration in class and the parent may not have time to help with the homework. A student who was achieving very good grades in class starts to fail tremendously. (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2008, p.728)

Also a child at a younger age who had learnt how to use the toilet may start wetting the bed or crying at night when the parent cannot come to put them to bed. The middle aged child may feel rejected when the parent doesn’t show up for school visitation. A child who had good eating habits may stop eating and start throwing away food because they are no longer happy.

This may cause resentment towards one parent by the children blaming him or her for the break up. Children from divorce families as they become young adults may not feel any satisfaction in life and especially in relationships. They may not be able to trust any relationship partners they may have in life because they have grown seeing their parents’ separated. This will lead in not committing to a relationship and may have problems with creating and maintaining friendships. (McDaniel&Tepperman, 2003, p.606)

Mental effects of divorce and poverty on children

Children get mentally affected by their families’ disintegration. This causes the child to be stressed especially when he or she has to do more responsibilities at home. They also have to work hard taking up more responsibilities since they have to help their parent to provide for their needs.

The parent who is struggling in poverty to provide for the children may in most cases reprimand the children even when they are not wrong because she is stressed. Sadness also fills their lives at the loss of their family security when they believe one parent is gone forever.

If this sadness is not managed to help the child cope with the loss of a parent, it can lead to depression on the child’s part. The child can also become hostile towards everything and everybody. Anger is another effect of depression on children due to lack of acceptance of the divorce and blame their parents for the divorce since they believe it was unnecessary in the first place. (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2008, p.730)

A child may experience constant thoughts of suicide as well as violence because they have not learnt to cope with the separation of the parents. These children start to become more independent and exhibit personal growth because they feel they cannot depend on their parents anymore.

In cases where the parent cannot provide for the children, they are forced to leave school and help their parents. Sometimes they are forced to live in the streets as street children because of the poverty. The parent cannot do anything to help the children and they have to depend on themselves for all their needs. Diseases may attack these children since they are vulnerable in the streets without any security. (Gottman& DeClaire, 1998, p.239)


Parental love and constant support is a key in the health mental, social and emotional development of a child. In the case of divorce, the children may feel extremely sad and depressed.

Many families who are living in poverty and are divorced subject their children to depressing environments and this may hinder their normal growth. Poverty and divorce are common in our society and parents should be able to protect their children from all sorts of marital problems. They should give them the security they need for them to have a normal growth.

Reference List

Gottman, J., & DeClaire J. (1998). Raising an emotional intelligent child. Simon & Schuster, 2(2), 231-240.

Kail, V.R., & Cavanaugh, C.J. (2008). Human development: A Life- Span View. (5th Ed), Cengage Learning, 1(1).698-735.

McDaniel, A.S., &Tepperman. (2003). Close Relations: An introduction to the sociology of Families. (2nd Ed), Pearson Education Canada, 5(2), 597-608.

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