Home > Journals > Minerva Psichiatrica > Past Issues > Minerva Psichiatrica 2015 September;56(3) > Minerva Psichiatrica 2015 September;56(3):117-33





A Journal on Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychopharmacology

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Social Psychiatry
Indexed/Abstracted in: EMBASE, e-psyche, PsycINFO, Scopus, Emerging Sources Citation Index




Minerva Psichiatrica 2015 September;56(3):117-33


language: English

How children understand family conflict and divorce

Jamison J. 1, Freeman B. 2

1 Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, USA; 2 Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, USA


Experiencing parental divorce and/or bearing witness to ongoing family conflict can be traumatic and life-changing for children. Oftentimes, divorce and family conflict are co-occurring phenomena which may last years before a divorce or parenting plan is finalized in court. The effects of these major stressors do not evaporate once the court has made its ruling. They instead exert their effect in various aspects of the affected child’s life. There is a large body of literature dedicated to the understanding of how these exposures affect children’s outcomes. In this paper, we attempt to analyze many of the factors involved in how children understand and are affected by family conflict and parental divorce. This paper will review historical and demographic data regarding divorce and custody as well and trends in divorce rates. The paper will also review available literature regarding the effects of divorce on children from a developmental perspective. We will also describe how divorce and conflict affects different genders, and racial and demographic groups. The ultimate objective of the review is to provide a clearer understanding of how family conflict and divorce can affect outcomes in children. Divorce is not an isolated event but rather a process which has possible long-term and far reaching ramifications.

top of page

Publication History

Cite this article as

Corresponding author e-mail