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The Effects Of Divorce On Teens


teens upset by divorce

Divorce has become largely normalized in American society and had been steadily increasing up until 2019. The National survey results compiled from the American Community Survey data from the Census Bureau point to a slight decline in the divorce rates in the United States, asserting that in 2019 for every 1,000 marriages only 14.9 ended in divorce. This is the lowest divorce rate American has seen in the past 50 years, including lower than in 1970 when out of every 1,000 marriages 15 ended in divorce. Even though the overall divorce rates appear to be declining, still, according to American Psychological Association about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in America end in divorce. All children will react differently to divorce, but psychologists have found that children also react differently according to age. For example, it is not uncommon for preadolescents to become overly attached, experience grief and react with sadness upon learning of their parent’s divorce, while adolescents typically view divorce as a betrayal and will distance themselves from their parents. Young people are resilient, and while the effects of divorce can be long-lasting for some children, research suggests that a relatively small percentage of children experience serious problems in the wake of divorce or later in life as adults. 

Common Effects

All teenagers are unique, and each will navigate divorce distinctly. Teens whose parents are divorced will experience a wide range of emotions, some of which can manifest as disruptions in their lives. An article published in World Psychiatry, titled Parental Divorce or Separation and Children’s Mental Health, lists common examples of how divorce may adversely impact a teenager. These effects could include, but are not limited to any combination of the following:

  • Depression
  • Defiance
  • Increased stress
  • Difficulty forming intimate relationships
  • Academic decline
  • Behavioral problems
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anger and/ or sadness directed at one or both parents
  • Trouble getting along with others (e.g., siblings, parents, peers, etc.)
  • Substance abuse

Teenagers of divorced parents are also 1.5 to 2 times more likely to engage in risky behaviors (e.g., early sexual activity, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, etc.). The Journal of Adolescent Health explains that conflict between divorced parents can increase the risk of mental health problems in children, specifically as it relates to a child’s fear of abandonment. Hence, the way a teen’s divorced parents interact with one another plays a significant role in how the teen will react to divorce. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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