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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 parents.

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







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Last update: Tuesday, August 26, 2008




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