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Divorce and It’s Effect on Children in Kenya

effect of divorce in childen inin kenya

What are the effects of divorce in Kenya on children?

Shielding your children from the adverse effect of divorce

Divorce is one of the toughest moments for couples in Kenya. Separating with a person you have shared
secrets and happy moments with can be emotionally taxing. On top of that, divorce interrupts the life
you are used to, and it may affect your financial position. For example, you might be forced to move to a
new neighbourhood and wind up your joint ventures.

Amid these problems, it is easy to forget the children and the difficulties they might be going through. They are more vulnerable, and they may not be able to control their emotions. Research has shown that divorce has many damaging effects on children, ranging from emotional struggles to behavioural changes.

As you fight off your own difficulties, you should support the children to ensure that your separation doesn’t affect them too much.

The negative effects of parental divorce on children include

Emotional struggles

Children of separating parents are prone to stress, anger, anxiety, irritability, among other psychological
effects. The emotional difficulties mainly stem from the sudden change of environment. Besides the
worry over what the future holds, the children may find themselves isolated from one parent against
their wishes. They will fear to lose the parental love of the noncustodial parent.

The change in environment and the ensuing confusion may cause the children prolonged stress and
even guilt. As a parent, you may have justifications for the divorce, but the children may find it hard to
take a side— they may not be as resentful towards your spouse as you.

So when circumstances force them to take a side, the guilt of betraying the other parent may take an emotional toll on them. Further, a sudden change in living conditions is an ingredient for stress among children; they may not have the luxuries they were used to when you were combining efforts with your spouse to provide for them.

Behavioural changes

effect of divorce in childen inin kenya

The emotions due to the divorce may weigh heavily on the children, causing them to develop impulsive,
violent, and antisocial behavior. In these circumstances, they may not care about the consequences of
their actions. As earlier indicated, divorce causes anger and irritability among children, which are recipes
for violence.

In the short-term, children of divorcing parents may withdraw themselves from their social circle. They
wonder what other children are thinking about them, now that their parents are fighting— they feel
embarrassed. Furthermore, violent behavior may make other children avoid them. In the long-term,
the children may develop delinquency and get involved in destructive activities.

Mental health problems

Children from divorced families are likely to develop mental health problems such as depression and
anxiety; this research confirms that. Malaise is closely related to depression— depressed people often
suffer malaise. It is characterized by a general feeling of tiredness and illness.

Children whose parents have separated exhibit higher malaise scores than children from intact families. Though mental health problems often show for a short period immediately following the divorce, some issues may persist into adulthood.

Reduced academic performance

divorce in kenyan children

From stress to changing schools, divorce creates conditions that are associated with adverse educational
outcomes. Anxiety and depression will likely reduce the child’s concentration on their studies.

On top of that, they may cause a general feeling of hopelessness that will make the child abandon their long-term
academic ambitions. The situation can be worsened by changing schools after divorce — the child may
take time to adjust to the new learning environment.

This research study by Kenyatta University confirms that parental divorce reduces academic performance. In the study, a sizable 62 percent of children recorded a drop in their academic performance after the separation of their parents.

Sexual behavior and attitudes

Divorce affects a child’s sexual behavior and attitudes in teenage and later in adulthood. Different
research studies have revealed peculiar sexual behavior and attitudes among children whose parents
have divorced:

    • They are more likely to engage in teen sexual activity and early sexual intercourse than children
      from non- divorced families.
    • Girls whose parents have divorced are more likely to engage in risky sexual activities than girls
      from intact families. Also, they are likely to have more sexual partners and frequent premarital
    • Children from divorced families have shorter romantic relationships and more dating partners
      than children from non-divorced families.
    • Girls whose parents have divorced are more likely to have premarital teenage pregnancy
    • Girls whose parents have divorced have higher abortions rates than daughters of non-divorced

Troubled romantic relationships and marriages in adulthood

Again, different studies have revealed the following trends regarding relationships and marriages
involving children of divorced parents:

    • Children of divorced parents exhibit less trust and satisfaction in romantic relationships
      compared to those from non-divorced families.
    • Children from divorced families are likely to show a negative attitude towards marriage and
      more approving of divorce.
    • Compared to children of non-divorced parents, children whose parents divorced are more likely
      to anticipate a divorce and to expect not to marry.

Mitigating the adverse effects of divorce on children

Divorce is bound to affect your children, but you can control the extent to which they are harmed.
Below are tips for reducing the toll of divorce on your children:

  • Don’t force the kids to take a side; do not attempt to turn them against your spouse.
  • Reduce conflicts and hostilities during and after the divorce, especially when the children are
  • Don’t hide your imminent divorce from the children; inform them beforehand that you have
    decided to part ways with your partner and ally any fears they might have. Divorce will affect
    the children more if it happens unexpectedly
  • If you are the noncustodial parent, stay close to the children and fulfil your parental
    responsibilities. For instance, make sure you don’t miss the children’s important dates such as
  • If possible, avoid long child custody disputes — such disputes put the children in the middle and
    force them to take a side.
  • Allow the noncustodial parent access to the children.
  • Spend time with the kids and monitor any changes in their behavior
  • Teach them problem-solving skills
  • Enrol in a parental education programme
  •  Consider seeking professional therapy help for the kids
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