Children’s Reactions to Divorce of Parents

Olaniyi Bojuwoye*, 1, Orok Akpan2
1 University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
2 University of Kwazulu Natal, Durban, South Africa

© 2009 Bojuwoye and Akpan;

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Faculty of Education, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Bellville 7535 Cape Town, South Africa; E-mail:


With divorce rate on the ascendancy, worldwide, increasing number of vulnerable children are growing up in “broken homes”. Although divorce affect all children not all children react to it the same way. To some children, parental divorce is a personal tragedy, for other children, it is an escape from stressful lifestyle of family conflicts. Each child’s personal factors and associated family dynamics determine how children react to parental divorce. The current study aimed at achieving two purposes – to ascertain various reactions of participants to parents’ divorce, and to identify factors (personal, familial or environmental) which played significant influences on participants’ reactions.

Participants comprised fifteen children (9 girls and 6 boys, with a mean age of 14.4 years) of a primary school in a suburb of Durban, South Africa. They were selected purposively although participation in the study was voluntary, parents had to consent to children’s participation. Data collection was by face-to-face individual interview. Analysis of interview transcripts revealed varying patterns of reactions to parental divorce. Emotional and behavioural reactions commonly reported by participants include shock, disbelief, sadness, anger, confusion, loss, betrayal, rejection, abandonment and humiliation. Age, gender and varying family circumstances were found to have influenced participants’ reactions to parents’ divorce.

Keywords: Parental divorce, children’s reactions, family dynamics, emotional and behavioural reactions, non-custodial parent, financial status, remarriage.