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The Psychological Impact of Divorce on Adult Children

the psychological impact of divorce on adult childrenI recently viewed the 2013 comedy, “A.C.O.D,” starring Adam Scott, Clark Duke, Richard Jenkins, and Catherine O’Hara. “A.C.O.D” showcases a serious storyline in a comedic light, while addressing the psychological impact divorce can have on adult children. While I can’t speak to such an experience firsthand, I was intrigued by the subject matter. Even though they’re no longer kids, adult children may still carry the weight of divorce and unresolved childhood issues on their shoulders.

Maybe such effects manifest in their romantic relationships. They may be wary of long-term commitment. Maybe they encounter heightened stress when they’re sifting through their parents’ leftover anger and resentment, still feeling as if they have to choose sides.

Jenny Kutner’s 2015 article, featured on, relays the perspective of the ACOD.

“Unlike a child, who is usually an innocent bystander during the end of their parents’ relationship, ACODs are, more often than not, active participants; they’re placed in the awkward position of having to provide emotional support for one or both of their parents.”

Robert Emery, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of Two Homes, One Childhood: A Parenting Plan to Last a Lifetime, advocates that regardless of age, a child of divorce will always be considered a child of divorce and sensitivities need to align accordingly.

“Your children are still your children, even if they are 30 years old,” Emory stated in the article. “Information should be shared only on a ‘need to know basis,’ and children of any age don’t need to know much. It isn’t a child’s job to help the family heal. It’s a parent’s job.”

While it’s natural to presume that adults are more equipped to handle the aftermath of divorce, it doesn’t necessarily diminish their challenges.

In a 2013 interview with Redeye, Adam Scott shares his thoughts on divorce’s influence in today’s society, particularly noting how divorce will affect children as they continue to age.

“A lot of us grew up with divorce, and so I see people making much more measured decisions about marriage and children and stuff like that, just because we’ve seen how the generation before us got started a lot earlier with marriage, family and all of that. Just because culturally it was the norm. They saw it backfire for some people, so I think the difference behaviorally and culturally is people are waiting a lot longer now.”

And if ACODs are struggling with familial loss, if they are lugging heavy baggage from divorce, it’s not a total lost cause. By fostering a greater sense of understanding and awareness, confrontation can occur. If need be, those pertinent emotional struggles can be conquered, whether it’s on their own or with the guidance of a professional.

“A.C.O.D” ignites a dialogue, one that isn’t as prevalent when it comes to discussions regarding divorce. Adult children of divorce face their own set of obstacles; however, they of course have the ability to confront and transcend its impact.


The Psychological Impact of Divorce on Adult Children

Lauren Suval

Lauren Suval studied print journalism and psychology at Hofstra University, and she is a writer based in New York. Her work has been featured on Thought Catalog, Catapult Community, and other online publications. Lauren's e-book “Coping With Life’s Clutter” and her collection of personal essays, “The Art Of Nostalgia,” can both be found on Amazon. Lauren's latest E-Book, "Never Far Behind," a collection of poetry, is available on Smashwords, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. She loves to be followed on social media, including her Facebook Writing Page,

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APA Reference
Suval, L. (2018). The Psychological Impact of Divorce on Adult Children. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 7 Jul 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.