Effects of Parental Divorce on Young Adults

You may feel because your children are grown ups and making major life decisions, a parental divorce will hurt less. It doesn’t. Divorce is a tough situation for children regardless of their age. It can be just as draining and heartbreaking for young adults; the older they are, the bigger will be the shock because it’s all they’ve known.

In essence, they regard the institution of marriage as one that leads to social, emotional as well as economic stability. When it falls apart, young adults are required to make several changes in their lifestyle and on top of that, it is emotionally traumatic to watch their parents hurt so late in their life.

Ideally, parental divorce can lead to the following in young adults.

  1. Addiction

This is a leading possibility. The circumstances associated with the divorce could lead young adults to substance abuse as they attempt to manage their emotions and stress. Repeated drug use leads to brain changes that interfere in the adult children’s’ self-control and reduce their ability to resist the urge to take substances. The changes could be persistent, the reason why substance abuse is also known as a relapsing condition – without proper treatment people are at risk of returning to drug abuse even after months of abstaining.

Luckily, customized young adult recovery programs exist across the country. Divorcing / divorced parents can seek such treatment models to instill in young adults the knowledge that the route of recovery is a path to a better life. Leading recovery programs recognize that it is critical to treat the secondary and primary addiction symptoms at this critical age. In the end, children are not only sober, but also become productive members of the society.

  1. Financial Strain

Young adults also experience the financial strain of parental divorces. As parents often end up paying high legal fees for the divorce proceedings, things they previously promised to pay for – down payment for first apartment, college, etc. – might not be a possibility. Moreover, if the divorce or remarriage is financed from a savings account, then the young adult’s inheritance possibility is also reduced. As a result, young adults have to err on the side of caution.

The best way to ensure that your kids don’t suffer financially is to create a post-divorce financial budget for your children’s lives. Instead of having lopsided agreements, work with your spouse to ensure that you both put in the funds for the important things like your children’s college. It’s also possible to consider hybrid options, like using prepaid service providers; this can help avoid divorcing spouses from getting into fights.

  1. Health

After a parental divorce, young adults can feel lonely and insecure. Both conditions can result in eating disorders or an unhealthy eating routine, as they’ll be more concerned about the aftereffects of the divorce than a proper eating routine. Also, it is depressing to see one or, in some instances, both parents leave, which could adversely affect young adults’ mental and physical health.

You must remember that the divorce only serves your relationship with your spouse, not as a parent with your children. Therefore, remain affectionate towards them and ensure they’re eating properly and not going through struggles like sleep deprivation or lack of focus on important issues.

A parental divorce adversely effects young adult children in most instances, but there are always ways to help them cope.

Effects of Parental Divorce on Young Adults


  1. Divorce is definitely something difficult for the whole family to overcome, but it does especially affect children adversely sometimes. I was lucky that I did not have children with my ex-husband so I did not have to deal with that.

  2. Nicole Anderson says

    You certainly make some extremely valid points here. So many people think children are not affected if they are no longer ‘children’ (as in under the age of 18 or 21, depending on where you live) but of course this is simply not true. The examples you have cited are very real and hopefully will help in getting the word out about this often misunderstood subject.

  3. Lieutenant Neha says

    I agree parental divorce has negative effect on their kids. Decades of research have produced evidence that parental divorce is negatively associated with offspring outcomes from early childhood, through adolescence, and into the adult years. This study adds to the literature on the effects of parental divorce by examining how the timing of a parental divorce influences the total effect on adult health.

  4. This is exactly why I have worked hard on Positive Co-Parenting. I co-parent with two ex’s – my daughter’s Dad and I were never married but broke up when she was about 3 months old or something – she’s now almost 15 and doing awesome because it was her “norm” and because I have worked hard to pick my battles. My sons are with my ex husband and we broke up a while back when the youngest boy was 2, we are still great friends. We co-parent well and I think because of that our sons who are now 10 and 8, are doing great. I do believe that divorce doesn’t have to effect young adults negatively if the parents work hard to be the positive parents they were when together – just in different homes.

  5. I wasn’t raised by both of my parents and I think that created more of a trust issue for me. Communication is so important especially when dealing with something that has so much of an impact.

  6. Tami @ ThisMomsDelight says

    My parents split when I was newly married and having a baby. It was difficult for me. I didn’t realize just how much it would affect someone as an adult until I was that person.

  7. I can imagine the effects are pretty profound in young adults in comparison to parents with toddlers or babies. I hear though that counseling before, during, and after the divorce can really help young adults deal with what they’re feeling and what to expect!

  8. This is so serious issue. It is really good to know all this beforehand, can’t say where life takes you. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Elva Roberts says

    I agree with you that older children are harmfully affected by their parent’s divorce. I have seen it first hand in our own family. My grandchildren are still affected by divorce and the failure of fathers to support them emotionally and financially. It has caused much worry for my husband and myself, as well as other family members. We help all we can but noone can really replace the emotional support of a selfish parent.
    Other adult children have also confided in me of the heartbreak they faced and face because of divorce when they were young adults. Parents must be more aware of the lifetime consequences of breaking up a family and one parent almost abandoning their parental responsibility after leaving their spouse and children

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