In 2008, there were over 70,000 divorces granted in Canada, a decline of 4% from the year before. The number of divorces has shown recent declines; however, in 2008 it was estimated that 41% of marriages will end in divorce before the 30th year of marriage (Statistics Canada 2012).

Additionally, there is a significant amount of research and clinical data that outlines the impact of ongoing discord between parents in the context of separation and divorce for young children, especially in the cases of shared/joint custody arrangements.  Children can experience significant emotional, social, and behavioural challenges.  Children also need to deal with adjusting to a new living situation.

Data shows that meeting with a professional close to the time of parental separation allows a child and his or her parents to receive some support and clear direction to minimize the long term impact.  Also, responses from children vary according to their developmental stage, and can require different strategies and approaches.

Possible Short-Term Effects of Divorce on Children:

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Anger and aggressiveness
  • Depressive symptoms including low mood, sadness, tearfulness, irritability
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Feelings of resentment toward parents
  • Decrease in academic performance

Behavioural Intervention for Children and Families Dealing with Divorce

  • Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) – a multilevel system of behavioural family intervention, which aims to prevent severe behavioural and emotional problems, by enhancing positive relations among family members and increasing family protective factors.
  • Behavioural management strategies for parents with children exhibiting emotional dysregulation (sadness, frustration, anger), including incentive programs and positive reinforcement.
  • Programs should focus on the importance of consistency of implementation of parenting strategies between homes.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy for children and adolescents exhibiting emotional issues as a result of parental separation/divorce.