Preschoolers tend to be "emotionally needy," have fears related to abandonment, and may display acting-out behaviors following their parents' divorce or separation. Preschooler are likely to become very distressed during visit exchanges.
Although children between the ages of about 6 to 8 continue to have fantasies about reconciling their parents, they are less likely to blame themselves for the divorce. Children at this age have been found to experience intense grief over the loss of not having one of their parents living with them. The older child (ages 9 to 12) is better able to understand their parents' divorce. They are likely to consciously express their disapproval and tend to take the side of one of their parents. Anger at their parents is conscious.
Adolescents' ability to understand and conceptualize their parents divorce will enhance their adjustment. However, they are faced with the task of integrating the divorce experience with their own developing identities.
Boys and girls tend to react differently to their parents' divorce. As a rule, girls tend to become anxious and withdrawn, while boys tend to become more aggressive and disobedient. Girls from divorced families may become sexually active earlier than girls from intact families. Interestingly, boys often adjust better when their mothers remarry, while girls have more difficulty.
The divorce revolution's collective consequences for children are striking. Taking into account both divorce and non-marital childbearing, sociologist Paul Amato estimates that if the United States enjoyed the same level of family stability today as it did in 1960, the nation would have 750,000 fewer children repeating grades, million fewer school suspensions, approximately 500,000 fewer acts of teenage delinquency, about 600,000 fewer kids receiving therapy, and approximately 70,000 fewer suicide attempts every year ( correction appended ) . As Amato concludes, turning back the family-stability clock just a few decades could significantly improve the lives of many children.
Divorce affects the grade level that children attain: High school dropout rates are much higher among children of divorced parents than among children of always-married parents. 37 Even if the children’s primary parent remarries, stepfamily life does not wipe out the educational losses generally experienced by these children. Schools may expel as many as one in four stepchildren, 38 though this ratio can fall to one in 10 if stepparents are highly involved in their children’s school. 39 Children raised in intact families complete more total years of education and have higher earnings than children from other family structures. 40 The advantage given by an intact family also holds for children in poor inner-city communities. 41