The Impact of Divorce on Child Psychological Condition

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Illustration by Feri Fenoria

UNAIR NEWS – Family is the smallest unit in society which is the place and the first socialization agent in the process of building character and personality of children. Family, especially parents, are the closest scope for children to learn about the world and the environment around them. When children become teenagers, parents become a figure or part of forming their identity by becoming discussion partners in making decisions and planning for the future. Thus, the family becomes an important factor that influences the child’s growth and development process, both physically and psychologically.

One of the psychological well-being of children is determined by the level of family harmony. Harmonious families will be able to carry out their functions and roles in optimally building children’s character. However, social reality shows that not all families are able to condition and maintain a harmonious and comfortable home for children. Sometimes, a divorce happens to end conflicts or problems.

Data from the National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN) and Tempo Interaktif (2018) showed that divorce rates in Indonesia were deemed very high. It is estimated that every one hundred people get married, ten end in a divorce.

Lecturer of Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Airlangga, Dr. Nurul Hartini, S. Psi., M. Kes, conducted a study on the effect of a divorce on the psychological well-being of adolescents. In the study, Nurul explained that parental divorce caused changes in family life, such as emotional separation, legal separation of marriage, economic or financial separation, separation as a parent, family separation as part of the community, and physical separation by avoiding meetings with the conflicting parties.

Therefore, changes that occur after divorce often become a source of stress for the parties involved. Psychologically, parental divorce will cause adolescent children to lose the function and role of parents as managers in the family, friends who help them in making decisions, and they lose the determining factors in the process of building self-identity.

“Children who are in their teens and have to face the fact that their parents divorced are more at risk of experiencing psychological disorders and behavioral disorders,” explained Nurul.

Adolescence, she continued, is the stage where there are major changes in physical growth cognitive, emotional, social, and personality. Internal changes can basically cause adolescents to experience psychological disorders and behavioral disorders, such as decreased academic achievement, resistance, smoking, and so on.

However, in the paradigm of positive psychology, parental divorce does not always have a negative impact on children. Parental divorce can apparently have a positive effect on improving psychological well-being or psychological well-being of children and adolescents.

Some psychological studies have shown the data on the improvement of psychological well-being of children in three different cases. Improving psychological well-being of children occurs when, first, conflicts or disharmony in parent relationships have been going on for a long time and children often witness their parents’ disputes. Then divorce can reduce the risk of the child witnessing the parents’ quarrel as his idol figure. Second, divorced parents then get married and build a harmonious family with a new partner, and can play a wise parent figure for children. Third, parents who do not remarry after a divorce and focus on caring for and looking after their children properly.

“The psychological paradigm so far has always shown that parental divorce will still be a source of stress on the child and not all children can provide a positive stress response. A negative stress response will usually lead to negative behavioral changes, “said Nurul.

Although in some cases divorce can improve a child’s psychological well-being, divorce does not necessarily become the only primary path a parent must take when there is conflict with spouse. The decision to divorce needs to be carefully considered by considering the impact of divorce on a child’s psychological well-being. (*)

Author: Zanna Afia

Editor : Khefti Al Mawalia


Nurul Hartini, Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Airlangga, Surabaya–Indonesia. Complete Family and Teenager’s Well-Being. Published in Journal of Advance Research in Dynamical & Control Systems, Vol. 11, Special Issue-05, 2019. p. 1302-1307


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