Our Voices Matter: Exploring the Experience of Divorce for Young Children

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Virginia Tech

While divorce can be challenging for children at any age, research suggests that children under the age of six are at increased risk for behavioral and developmental delays (Emery, 1999; Hetherington, 1979, Wallerstein and Blakeslee, 1989). Despite their increased risk, the majority of research on children's adjustment post-divorce has focused on older school age children and adolescents (Jennings and Howe, 2001; Mutchler, Hunt, Koopman, and Mutchler, 1992) rather than young children. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study is to explore the experience of divorce for young children (ages 5-7 old). Results produced five themes regarding children's emotional experience of divorce, which include trying to make sense of the divorce, feelings they experience/how they describe themselves, experience and advice: "]stop fighting,"what they worry about, and coping skills/ways to distract themselves. Discussion conjectures about these themes and makes suggestions for clinical implications and future studies in an effort to mitigate short-term consequences and help children cope with their parents' divorce.

divorce, young children, play