The Effects of High-Conflict Divorce on Children: Exploring the Long-Term Consequences and How to Help

High-conflict divorce can have long-term consequences on children's well-being. Here’s what research has to say.

Divorce is a difficult process, especially for children. High-conflict divorce can have long-term consequences for children that can impact their emotional and psychological well-being. This article explores the effects of high-conflict divorce on children and the long-term consequences they may face.

The Impact of High-Conflict Divorce on Children

Studies from the American Psychological Association reveal a correlation between high-conflict divorce and child distress. Depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues become more probable in such cases.

The psychological stress from parental discord during and after the divorce can lead to a child’s emotional instability.

Psychology Today reports that young children may show varied negative emotions during high-conflict divorce. This may include anger, guilt, and confusion.

Such negative emotions can result in long-term issues, such as forming relationships and emotional regulation struggles.

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, high-conflict divorce impacts children deeply. These effects include lowered academic performance, social challenges, and an increased risk of substance abuse.

Importance of Mitigation

Parents must comprehend the potential long-term impacts of high-conflict divorce on children and mitigate them. Seeking mental health professional support, practicing co-parenting strategies, and creating a stable environment for children can all be beneficial.

Here are some other ways to help children through high-conflict divorces:

  1. Encourage open communication: Make sure children know they can talk to both parents and express their feelings without fear of judgment or criticism. 
  2. Keep routine consistent: Maintain a predictable routine and provide structure in the child’s life as much as possible, as it can help them feel more secure. 
  3. Minimize conflict: Limit the exposure of children to parental conflict and avoid using them as messengers between parents. 
  4. Seek professional help: Consider seeking help from a family therapist or counselor who can help both parents and children manage the emotional challenges of the divorce. 
  5. Reassure children of love and support: Remind children that both parents love them and that the divorce is not their fault. (Psychology Today)
  6. Encourage healthy coping mechanisms: Help children develop healthy ways of coping with stress and emotions, such as talking to friends or family members, journaling, or practicing mindfulness exercises. (NICHD)
  7. Avoid bad-mouthing the other parent: Refrain from speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the children, as it can cause them to feel torn between loyalty to both parents. (APA)
  8. Consider co-parenting strategies: Work with the other parent to develop a co-parenting plan that prioritizes the children’s needs and ensures consistent communication and cooperation. (Psychology Today)
  9. Stay informed about children’s emotional wellbeing: Monitor children’s emotional wellbeing and seek professional help if necessary, especially if they show signs of depression, anxiety, or behavioral problems. (NICHD)
  10. Practice self-care: Remember to take care of yourself as a parent, both physically and emotionally, so that you can better support your children through this difficult time. (APA)


The effects of high-conflict divorce on children can be long-lasting and have a significant impact on their well-being. It’s important for parents to understand the potential consequences and take steps to protect their children during the divorce process and beyond.

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