When parents divorce, they have made a life choice that affects not only them but also their children. But what happens as the children grow up?

Children might be protected to a greater or lesser degree from the details of the separation and divorce, depending on how self-restrained their parents are. If they have parents who want a shoulder to cry on, or who can't resist snide digs at their ex during handover for contact sessions, the children are going to end up feeling torn between loving both parents and feeling guilty for doing so.

If the parents both make a concerted effort to protect their children from the nastier side of their separation and both make sure to reassure the children that they both still love them and always will (unconditionally) those children will have a better chance of making it through to adulthood with their sense of self-worth and self-esteem in tact. 

There are no hard and fast rules about how divorce will affect children into adulthood. If a child's parents divorce, there are so many factors at play (including how the marriage functioned when it was whole, the child's personality traits, the level and quality of contact following divorce etc.) that no study seems to be able to agree on whether divorce in childhood affects children when they grow up.

Some say that boys who grow up without their father can go off the rails. But others say that boys feel more protective of their mothers and want to make life easier for them - and not hurt them like their dad did. Apparently some girls can become promiscuous, craving attention lost when their fathers left. But it's not always the father who leaves and not all girls become promiscuous as a result of divorce (and some girls are promiscuous whose parents are still together). 

Children who have seen their parents divorce usually don't see marriage as being permanent. Some people say that this is a bad thing - how can they ever form meaningful relationships as adults if they are always assuming that it won't last? On the other hand, people who have seen their parents go through (and survive) a divorce are less likely to stay in unhappy marriages - they know that it is not only possible but actually preferable to live alone than it is to live together with someone in a bad marriage. 

Having a parent leave the family home as a child is massively unsettling. It shows a child that their parents - whom they have previously considered permanent features in their lives - can decide to leave. As adults, many are able to come to terms with this by recognising that this feeling was born from a child's perspective of life, not as it actually was. A child sees a parent leave and assumes on some level that it is because that parent did not love them enough to stay. An adult sees that the parent has left to try to make life at home less of a battleground and that although they have fallen out of love with their ex it is impossible to fall out of love with their child.

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