Unhappiness and Depression

A 1970 study of children in a North American psychiatric facility found that virtually all of the children of divorced parents experienced depression. This was not true of the children in the facility from intact homes.  "There was a common theme of children being made to feel small, weak and incredibly vulnerable by the whole divorce process. The disruption marked by the divorce itself, as well as its management, echoed in the child for some time" (McDermott 1970).

In 1988, a survey of preschool children admitted to New Orleans hospitals as psychiatric patients over a 34–month period found that nearly 80 percent came from fatherless homes (Block et al 1988).

A more recent study by Crockett & Tripp (1996) of Exeter University based on interviews with children and parents in contrasted family settings concludes that:

Where children had experienced three or more different family structures, the 'outcomes' were generally worse than for those living (for the first time) with a lone parent or in a stepfamily. These children were more likely to describe themselves as 'often unhappy' or 'miserable'

Although severe marital conflict and financial hardship were associated with poor outcomes for children, family reorganisation(s) appeared to be the main adverse factor in children's livesOnly a small minority of children––one in sixteen––had been prepared for an impending separation or divorce by explanations from both parents.


McDermott J (1970). Divorce and Its Psychiatric Sequelae In Children. Archives Gen Psych. 23: 421

Block J et al (1988). Parental Functioning and the Home Environment In Families of Divorce. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 27

Crockett M., & Tripp J (February 1994). Children Living In Re-Ordered Families. Social Policy Research Findings No 45. John Rowntree Foundation, Exeter University. 

Wallerstein J. S, & Kelly J. B (1980). Surviving The Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope With Divorce. Basic Books: New York


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