Relationships Quick Answers
Do boys and girls differ in their response to the divorce of their parents?
Early research seemed to indicate that boys might experience more difficulties than girls. Today, there are few consistent findings. These changes may be due to more children being reared in joint custody arrangements and more involvement of fathers in general in the lives of their children after divorce.
In the school-age years, boys are more likely to be
aggressive and get into fights, while girls are more
likely to experience depression. But by adolescence,
both boys and girls are more likely to engage in
negative conduct and experience bouts of sadness.
Adolescent girls are likely to be involved in early
sexual behavior, leading to a greater risk of teenage
pregnancy. This set of events can have dramatic effects
on their completion of school and their ability to enter
the workforce and earn a good living. Adolescent boys
are likely to spend more time with deviant peers and
engage in delinquent behavior, including substance
abuse. Like the young women, adolescent boys are likely
to engage in early sexual behavior and become teen
On the positive side, there are some girls who emerge
out of the divorced, mother-headed households as
exceptionally resilient young women. It seems that some
young women thrive on the increased responsibilities and
challenges that they face in these families, and they
develop warm and deeply affectionate ties with their
mothers. Similar findings do not occur for boys.
Robert Hughes, Jr., Ph.D., Former Professor, Department of Human Development & Family Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri
Last update: Tuesday, August 26, 2008