How divorce can affect college students

Today, it is not uncommon for couples who are actively considering a divorce to temporarily postpone their dissolution of marriage for the sake of their children. In general, this phenomenon seems to be confined to those parents with older children, meaning children who are about to enter college or who are already in college.

The belief of most of these parents is likely that while their divorce will undoubtedly have an impact on their children, this impact will somehow be more muted if their children are away at college, where they will otherwise be distracted by academics, socializing and planning their futures.

Furthermore, they probably believe that postponing their divorce will save their child from the immediate emotional fallout from any divorce disputes or force them to make major adjustments (i.e., new living arrangements, a visitation schedule, etc.).

“The thing that I would hear from people is that many parents do this to try to spare the student from problems and pain,” said John Lochman, a psychology professor at the University of Alabama.

As it turns out, this approach can actually have a much bigger – and potentially damaging impact – on a college-aged child.

Firstly, it can prove to be highly discouraging, as the child can feel that their entire home life leading up to their leaving for college was a sham.

“It’s very disillusioning,” said Lochman. “They might feel like they were just living a lie.”

Secondly, a child can also feel resentment towards their parents for lying to them for the past few months/years, as well as a great sadness or guilt over the splitting up of their family unit.

Lastly, a child can begin to experience anxiety over their financial future, as a divorce means two households and perhaps less available money for college tuition.

Unfortunately, all of these feelings can lead to the onset of health issues (physical and/or mental) and poor academic performance.

While experts acknowledge that there is really no way to stop this phenomenon from occurring, they have developed some methods for students whose parents are divorcing to cope.

These include on-campus support groups, anger/stress management programs, and relaxation techniques designed to lower stress and foster positivity.

“We tell kids to tell themselves self-statements like ‘I’m not going to let this event control my life,'” said Lochman.

To learn more about divorce, child custody or other important family law issues, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Crimson White, “Students respond to divorce in a number of ways” Oct. 17, 2011