Child psychologist reveals the age when children are most affected by divorce

Divorce is a hard thing for children to process and for families to deal with no matter how old the kids are, but a child psychologist has revealed that there is an age when the potential for emotional trauma children after divorce is at its ‘peak’.

Whatever the reasons for divorce are, and whether a child can understand them or not, a breakdown of a relationship followed by the separation of the parents is always going to affect a family unit.

However, child psychologist Dr. Scott Carroll has revealed to fatherly.com that the impact on a child individually will depend on their age.

Children under the age of two, for example, are more likely to be left with ‘no meaningful impact’ after the divorce because of their young age, unless there is a breakdown between the parents as the child gets older (such as the parents communicating only through the child, or speaking negatively of their ex-partner in front of the child).

Similarly, after puberty, teenagers have developed a wider understanding and ability to process information, so will be able to better grasp the reasons behind their parents divorce.

‘Once a child goes through puberty there’s more potential to accept and understand a parent’s divorce,’ Dr. Scott Carroll said. ‘I’ve had teenagers advocate for their parent’s divorce. Sometimes they’re the smartest in the room.’

Dr. Scott Carroll explains that the potential for emotional trauma in children because of divorce is at its peak when kids are around the age of 11. This is made worse if the parents have a particularly messy divorce, fraught with conflict.

‘The divorce itself is not the hardest part,’ he added. ‘The hardest part is the conflict.’

There is also potential at this young age for children to internalise the conflict and separation, believing that they are the reason a parent is leaving or not being as involved in their upbringing after a divorce.

‘The absolute worst thing for a kid is if, after a divorce, a parent just isn’t involved,’ stressed Carroll. ‘If you want to see a depressed kid, look at what happens when a parent doesn’t show up.’

His advice to parents dealing with divorce around children? ‘Learn to work together. Because you’re parents. You’ve got to work together,’ he said.