How Do Boys & Girls Respond to Their Parents' Divorce Differently?

DiPietro Law Group, PLLC

There's no question that children struggle to accept divorce. Every kid is different, however, and what devastates one may not particularly bother another. Likewise, two children can be equally disappointed but act out differently. Parents often observe the starkest differences between sons and daughters.

Before we proceed: Remember that every child is different. Below, we merely observe trends. Some girls will exhibit stereotypically 'male' behavior, and some boys will likewise diverge from the trend. No one approach to processing divorce is 'right.' The sooner you acknowledge and respect your child's unique method, the easier you'll find this transition.

Girls: Low Self-Esteem

As a parent of girls, you can expect plenty of tears as you proceed with your divorce. Your daughter will make her displeasure known early and often. She may internalize your relationship dramas and hold herself accountable. Research conducted by Terry Gaspard of Divorcedmoms.com highlights a link between parental conflict (prior to and following divorce) and low self-esteem in girls. This link does not exist for boys.

For many young girls, the worst emotional effects of divorce occur not promptly after the split (as is typical among boys), but months, even years later. Researcher Judith Wallerstein observed a 'sleeper effect,' in which negative emotions peaked during the teenage years, with daughters of divorced parents worrying about their own romantic prospects.

Boys: Anger, Withdrawal, and Suicidal Tendencies

Following divorce, boys may demonstrate increased aggression. This can cause problems at school, in athletics, and at home. Once-sweet boys may lash out at those they love most. Some boys react to divorce with anger, but others withdraw completely. Your son may no longer draw satisfaction from once-favored sports or hobbies. He may retreat to his room with alarming frequency. His suffering will be obvious, but he'll clam up and refuse to talk it out.

While girls suffer from reduced self-esteem following their parents' divorce, boys are more likely to entertain — and act on — notions of suicide. University of Toronto Professor Dr. Esme Fuller-Thomson attributes this greater risk of suicide to the lack of a strong bond between sons and their divorced fathers. Lacking a male role model, suffering sons may never learn to regulate difficult emotions. The messier your divorce, the more you'll struggle with angry or withdrawn children.

Work with a Virginia family law attorney who values not only your best interests, but those of your entire family. Contact us at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC for a consultation. We can be reached by calling (888) 530-4374.

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