At what age do the parents divorce

Psychiatry, psychosomatics & psychotherapy

It is undisputed that children and adolescents are affected by the usually long-lasting conflict between their parents before, during and after the separation and can suffer extremely as a result. The family atmosphere is extremely tense at this time and is often characterized by bitterness and arguments. Children and adolescents are often neglected emotionally and in real life. At the same time, they are often abused by their parents to consolidate their positions of power. They become a bone of contention or plaything in a dispute between parents, which is often continued in court in disputes about custody, maintenance and visiting rights. In the divorce phase, the inner turmoil of children between father and mother is greatest, because they are made directly or indirectly judges in marital disputes under their loyalty requirements.

Because the parents are completely absorbed by their own feelings of failure, hurt, frustration and defense against feelings of guilt associated with the separation, the child of divorce is mostly left alone to experience the separation. The more drastic it reacts with behavioral problems, the more likely it is to regain at least the attention of one parent, whereby emotional distress is almost always "overlooked" in children who react with depressive lack of drive and depression or anxious overadaptation. A depressive response to the loss of a parent differs from a normal grief response in that feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and resignation are added to feelings of sadness and pain. This is often the case with the divorced child because he is left alone with the life of loss and has not been able to prevent the parents from separating. All of this also applies to children and young people who “only” experience the separation of their parents. In the meantime, almost a million children and young people in Germany are growing up in partnerships that will not legally get divorced if their parents decide to separate.

Reactions from children

Children respond differently to emotional pain. The scale can range from angry, protesting disregard of the painful condition to passive, resigned behavior. Depending on the individual fear, feelings of guilt and the ability to ward off the experience of helplessness, aggressive, sudden anti-social or even "criminal" behavioral reactions such as theft or running away, but also clowning, precocious, pseudo-adult behavior or psychosomatic reactions such as stomach ache, nausea can be observed Recognize vomiting, headaches, or wetting as attempts to defend yourself against the depressive experience.

Reactions from teenagers

Young people, whose activities tend to be outside the family for development reasons, experience the incomplete family as a shameful deficiency. By witnessing the failure of their parents, who served them as “role models”, they feel damaged in their need to gain social competence and recognition. Feelings of shame can be warded off in a compensatory way by concentrating on the performance area, or, if this does not succeed, also lead to withdrawal from social contacts. The main effect of separation and divorce at this age is the loss of a security and supportive family structure that enables the young person to move back and forth between independence and still child dependency so that he can cope with his developmental tasks.

Extreme developmental courses can be in adolescents:

  • Emotional withdrawal: The young people withdraw into themselves, avoid social contacts and defend themselves against the developmental demands of growing up.
  • Accelerated development process: The young people show pseudo-adult behavior and sexual prematurity after losing external values ​​and control or neglecting their own (young people) needs. Some seem to take on adult decisions and take responsibility for their parents, burdened and withdrawn during the crisis.