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Relationship Breakdown And The Impact On Children

When we experience relationship breakdown it can cause a lot of distress. Most of us will go through feelings of anger, sadness, grief, and isolation. People going through a relationship breakdown are more likely to experience mental health problems (especially in the form of anxiety or depression), poor physical health and reduced productivity at work; and if children are involved these emotions can cause you to react without putting the children's well being first.

Most parents are able to attend to the children’s needs immediately with the aim of suppressing their own emotions. However, what happens when one or both parents are so preoccupied with getting one over each other, how does this conflict impact the children involved?

Impact On Children

  • Destroys the relationship between parent and child - Especially if one parenting is speaking bad about another. This can cause Parental Alienation, which can lead to the rejection of a parent by a child later.

  • Mental health - Emotional and behavioural problems in children are more common when their parents are fighting or separating. Children can become very insecure. Insecurity can cause children to behave like they are much younger and therefore bed wetting, 'clinginess', nightmares, worries or disobedience can all occur.

  • Self-Concept - Can be questioned by children whose parents are separating. Children's self-concept begins to develop at birth. It begins with how adults respond to them. The development of a positive self-concept at an early age empowers the child to feel competent, try new things, and strive for success. When family dynamics are changed it can cause them to question who they are.

  • Social Competence - Children's social competence can change during a time of separation. Their social skills, social awareness, and self-confidence along with emotional, and cognitive skills and behaviours can change causing them to regress and become socially awkward.


Family breakdown does not just happen as a single event, it’s a process that happens over a period of time before and after the parents separate. Parents should be mindful of exposing children to parental conflict; monitoring of the quality of parenting and of parent-child relationships should be evaluated frequently along with parents' mental health, financial hardship, and repeated changes in living arrangements, including family structure.

A family is the foundation of a child’s knowledge, where both parents provide emotional, physical and intellectual needs. Having a stable family acts as the teaching foundation for a child's moral development. When that foundation becomes destabilised, children deteriorate intellectually, physical, emotionally and morally. When we experience any relationship breakdown we need to be mindful of the children's emotional and mental wellbeing, as home is where they are supposed to find love, warmth, care, acceptance, support, and personal development. In a time of conflict this can become hard and but your main focus should always remain on the wellbeing of the child, the bottom line is they come first.

If you would like to speak to anyone about relationship breakdown or have questions on how to handle children involved please check:

Citizens Advice


UK Gov

Check Out Our YouTube Video Conversations Over Coffee Ep:10

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