Divorce May Impact Girls More Than Boys

Divorce | DivorceAdviceForChildren.comGirls tend to define themselves through relationships, connection to others, and bonds with friends and family. When divorce between their parents takes place, the structure of a family, a structure they’ve known throughout their lives is disrupted and an internal structure for that young girl is also at risk for breaking down. It’s important for all children to have structure. When the foundation of a family is threatened, the psychological and emotional well being of a child can also be threatened. In this way, divorce can lead to intense emotions of loss, depression, sadness, anger, and resentment. For girls, specifically, there can be a special kind of emotional and psychological reaction to the divorce between parents. For instance, some girls tend to be socialized by their mothers and therefore tend to be more obedient and responsible than boys. Of course, not all girls have these traits; however, for those who have been significantly influenced by their mothers, they may take after their mothers in many ways and side with their mother during the separation. Girls might keep their emotions to themselves. They might conceal how they are really feeling in order to tend to their mother’s adjustment to the change and make the appearance that everything is all right. However, even though they may conceal their feelings, girls may also have a delayed reaction to their emotions, which might later come on quietly. They might later experience depression and/or anxiety. For instance, some girls might feel shame, which can lead to low self-esteem, and self blame. This might also lead to later choosing partners that do not treat them the way they should be treated and having unhealthy relationships. Furthermore, their inner reactions to the divorce during or after their parents are separating might contribute to:

  • Academic problems
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stress and worry
  • Sadness or anger towards one or both parents
  • Acting out behaviors, such as self harm or self injury
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Ideation and perhaps attempts
  • Trouble getting along with siblings, peers, and parents
  • Getting involved with sexual activity

The research also supports the face that divorce can have a stronger negative impact on girls. In her book, For Better or For Worse, author E. Mavis Hetherington points out that the strong relationships a daughter has with each of her parents can provide a buffer to the intensity of a divorce. The relationship she has with her mother is significant. For some, the mother daughter relationship suffers after divorce. However, for those who have a strong bond from the beginning, that bond can serve as a protective factor during the split. This is also true for a girl’s relationship with her father. Many girls, because of their social conditioning, will side with their mother during a divorce. For this reason, a young girl might have significant issues of trust if she is not able to heal her relationship with her father before, during, or after a divorce. Certainly, supportive parents can help weather the stormy home life of a divorce. They can help maintain or at least re-build the stability that children need. It’s important to remember that families that also experience domestic violence or other forms of family violence, such as child abuse or emotional abuse, will find it more challenging to create the steadiness that young females need to move through childhood, adolescence, and successfully enter adulthood. Also, it’s important to know that divorce can be a more challenging event for children than moving, a new sibling in the family, the death of a family member, or illness. Although initially, divorce might create a tumultuous home environment, parents can remember to put the emotional and psychological needs of the children first. Although it’s challenging to put the enormous tension between divorcing parents aside, doing so can help reduce the negative emotional and psychological impact of divorce on their daughters.