Parental Separation and its Effect on Children

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Updated: May 16, 2022
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Category: Anxiety
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The problem this study looks at is the mental health of children with separated parents compared to children who have both parents. More specifically, looking at the number of children who have anxiety in each category. The results will be compared to find out if there is a noticeable difference between the two. This study is a correlation study to examine if children with separated parents leads to higher rates of anxiety. This paper will conclude with an examination of two research studies.

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Page Break Introduction The specific problem of interest is does living with separated parents affect the mental health of the child. More specifically, if the child suffers from anxiety or not. The mental health of a person is the psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. Mental health may affect the child’s daily life, how they think, feel, and behave. Children are vulnerable to changes in their mental health due to many factors.

However, by doing this study it shall remove one factor or at least clarify. The point of studying this problem is to find out if having separated parents affects the child’s mental health for the better or worse. Finding out if there is a problem or not is important to know since it has to do with children mental health. Studies have shown that these children, if left untreated by a mental health professional, will likely to grow up and repeat these same behaviors with their children. Thus, it is crucial to look at the mental health of children, to find out if further action needs to be taken to help the children. The research proposal is to examine the children when they are in a natural setting such as playing with their peers. Examiners are going to look at the mental health of children who have two parents and separated parents. Then by using the results, comparing the mental health between the two groups. By studying the children’s behavior and actions when in a natural setting; the mental health of the child should be clearer.

The results from the comparison between children with separated parents to those who have two parents will determine if there is a problem. The purpose of this study by (Liu, Li, & Ge, 2009, pg. 2049) is to examine the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and age of separation of children with parents who migrate to cities in search for employment in China. The design of the study is to have children from three different regions of China take a questionnaire that asked about trait anxiety, depression, and age of separation. The results in the study by (Liu, Li, & Ge, 2009, pg. 2050) show that children who were separated from parents at a younger age had more symptoms of anxiety and depression. The effect was clearer for children who were separated from their mothers or from both parents. The study relates to current research by the means of similar procedure or methods, age group, and research topic. Questionnaires are important to be able to survey many children at one time and will be used by both ideas.

However, one idea will also go into how the results affect their everyday life by examining their life at school and at home. Both studies will look at children, except one study will also look into Kindergarteners for a wider age group. The goal for both studies is the same, to find out if children with separated parents have symptoms of anxiety and or depression. The purpose of this study by (Neoh, & Mellor, 2010, pg. 155) is to investigate children’s adjustment in shared parenting arrangements relative to other family arrangements. The study is designed around doing questionnaires, using the children’s beliefs and parental separation scale, and assuming members of intact families would be less stressed and more satisfied than sole residence families. This study by (Neoh, & Mellor, 2010, pg. 156) questions the children and their parents who are separated and comparing their answers to answers from families that share parenting. The results show that there are little differences between children, suggesting that shared parenting is not necessarily better than a sole residence.

However, the results show parents in shared parenting are more satisfied with the situation. The study relates to current idea by using similar methods to gain information. For example, using questionnaires on the children and parents. Both ideas are looking at the effect separate parenting has on their children. In the study, results show that parents in all groups underestimated the emotional problems reported by children. This relates to the other idea that separated parents influence the mental health of the children. Though, not by much according to the results of the study. However, the study was in Australia with only 68 families. While one will take place in the United States with a larger sample size. The purpose of this study by (Perales et al., 2017, pg. 423) is to use representative data from Young Minds Matter and Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Well-being to look for mental disorders in preschoolers to emerging adults. The methods used in this study is the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children-Version IV. The Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children-Version IV included social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and others. The results of the study by (Perales et al., 2017, pg. 423) showed children living with one-parent, blended, and stepfamilies have a higher prevalence of mental disorders. For parents who were separated, the time since the separation was not significantly relevant to the prevalence of mental disorders of the children.

The study relates to current idea by both looking for the effect living with parents that are separated has on the children. The study found that for parents that are separated, the duration of separation has no significant impact on the prevalence of mental disorders. However, it found a higher prevalence of mental disorders amongst children than in original families. Thus, supporting the hypothesis if children have separated parents, then their mental health will be affected. The purpose of this longitudinal study by (Stadelmann, Perren, Groeben, & von Klitzing, 2010, pg. 92) is to examine the effect of parental separation on kindergarten children’s behavioral/emotional problems. The study is looking if the children’s behavioral/emotional problem varies on family conflict or parental representations. The study by (Stadelmann, Perren, Groeben, & von Klitzing, 2010, pg. 95) used a parent rating to measure family conflict, and a story-stem task to assess the child’s parental representation. The results of the study show that children of separated parents who showed negative parental representations had a significantly greater increase in conduct problems than other children. The study relates to the current idea by both looking at the effects of children with separated parents and comparing them to children with an ordinary family.

The study focuses on kindergartens which relates both studies together. The parent rating method used in the study will be used in both studies to find out more about the parent. The purpose of this study by (Su, Li, Lin, Xu, & Zhu, 2013, pg. 162) is to examine rural children who are under 18 years of age and are left at home when their parents migrate for work in China. This study looks to explore the differences in psychological adjustment (satisfaction, loneliness, and happiness) by parental migration. For example, no parent migrating, one parent migrating, and both parents migrating. The study by (Su, Li, Lin, Xu, & Zhu, 2013, pg. 165) results show that children with two parents migrating reported the lowest level of satisfaction, and one parent migrations experienced more loneliness than no migrating parent. The study concludes that loneliness was the most common and important experience of left-behind children. The study relates to the current idea by both looking at the same age groups, and the effect parents leaving their children does to them mentally. Both ideas look at children under the age of 18. However, the study never specifies how young the children are to be called left-behind children.

Meanwhile, the current idea has set in stone that it’s looking at only the mental health in preschoolers. Page Break Methods Participants Participants were chosen based on whether if their parents were separated or not from the Kindergarten class at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School. The participants will and must be enrolled in a Kindergarten class. This study shall exclude children with special needs and children who are adopted. If the parent agreed, they were given an informed consent document and a questionnaire to fill out about the participant. Materials The materials used in the study are a YI 1080p home camera, yellow camero hot wheels, Barbie happy birthday doll, and a demographic questionnaire (See Apendix A). Procedure Two examiners would each interview their own group of participants from the kindergarten class at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School after the first bell rings for one hour. One examiner would have a group of children that have separated parents, while the other examiner has a group of children with both parents. The two groups would go into two separated reserved classrooms with cameras installed a day before. The camera would be used to record the behavior of the participants when playing to look for anxiety characteristics. The participants would turn in their questionnaire completed by their parent at the start of the session. The questionnaire would be used to find out information that would otherwise be unknown. Then both groups of participants would be allowed to play for thirty minutes within their group with the provided toys. The toys would provide a way to observe the participants in a natural setting. The examiners would observe the participants play looking for signs of anxiety and take notes.

After the thirty minutes of playing, the participants would be interviewed one by one for thirty minutes by their respective examiner. The interview would consist of the Hamilton anxiety scale. The participants were then thanked for their participation and debriefed. Data Analysis The type of data that will be collected in this study is nominal data. This study will use the Chi-square to analyze the data. Page Break Results In the study by (Stadelmann, Perren, Groeben, & von Klitzing, 2010, pg. 97), there results show that family conflict and children’s parental representations were not significantly associated with each other. However, both aspects showed significant correlations with behavioral/emotional problems in the children. In the study by (Stadelmann, Perren, Groeben, & von Klitzing, 2010, pg. 97) it stated that “children who experienced parental separation showed significantly more emotional symptoms and, with a trend toward significance, more conduct problems at age 6 compared with children of nonseparated families”. When comparing the values of five-year-old children with separated and nonseparated parents, the p value for their emotional symptoms was .251. In the study by Page Break Discussion The findings in the study by (Stadelmann, Perren, Groeben, & von Klitzing, 2010, pg. 97)


  1. Liu Z, Li X, & Ge X. (2009). Left too early: the effects of age at separation from parents on Chinese rural children’s symptoms of anxiety and depression. American Journal of Public Health, 99(11), 2049-2054.
  2. Neoh J, & Mellor D. (2010). Shared parenting: adding children’s voices and their measures of adjustment to the evaluation. Journal of Child Custody, 7(3), 155-175.
  3. Perales, F., Johnson, S., Baxter, J., Lawrence, D., Zubrick, S., Johnson, S. E., & Zubrick, S. R. (2017). Family structure and childhood mental disorders: new findings from Australia. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 52(4), 423-433.
  4. Stadelmann S, Perren S, Groeben M, & von Klitzing K. (2010). Parental separation and children’s behavioral/emotional problems: the impact of parental representations and family conflict. Family Process, 49(1), 92-108.
  5. Su, S., Li, X., Lin, D., Xu, X., & Zhu, M. (2013). Psychological adjustment among left-behind children in rural China: the role of parental migration and parent-child communication. Child: Care, Health & Development, 39(2), 162-170.
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Parental Separation And Its Effect On Children. (2019, Sep 07). Retrieved from