One aspect preventing parents from taking action or addressing conflict is the presence  of their children. There would be an added worry about how a drastic decision might  affect the children (which differs from if the parents were childless). 

The question that needs to be asked is whether staying together as a dysfunctional  couple will be more beneficial for the kids opposing separation. 

You may say, people can stay together and still be good caretakers without being  functional partners. As long as the unhealthy dynamic is preserved, there is no room for  other aspects influencing the family to grow. 

Is divorce truly destroying children? 

This mainly concerns couples certain  about ending their relationship, with the child being their only hold-back. Most of the time in dysfunctional families, divorce is not the only problem, rather there  would be other issues. Kids in this type of family dynamic are not only affected by the  divorce but also other existing problems creating a dysfunctional and overwhelming  environment. 

Your Child’s Education

Another important and interesting fact is that when there is a high probability of divorce,  children are quite ready for it to happen. One of the areas that parents are mainly  worried about is the kid’s education. However, in families with a likelihood of separation, divorce will not affect the child’s education. An explanation is that due to circumstances and predictions, the child would  be ready for it. Furthermore, in some situations, conflicts arising from partners staying  together would be the same as getting a divorce.

However, when the divorce was not expected and was sudden, there will be negative  consequences for children, including educational ones. 


Children growing up in dysfunctional families will try to adapt to the situation by  developing one of the following roles in the family (Al Ubaidi, B, A. 2017) : 

· The Good Child (also known as the ‘Hero’/’Peacekeepers’ role) 

They try their best to be the ideal child they would not create any conflict or try to  reduce the existing tension through their decent behaviour. 

· The Problem Child or Rebel (the ‘Deviant’ role)

The child in this role will try to distract the parents from their conflicts by creating  problems and attracting attention toward him/herself. 

· The ‘Scapegoat’ Role

The child is blamed for all the conflicts in the dysfunctional family. Parents compare the  kid to other “good” children and make the child feel problematic and abnormal. 

· The Lost Child 

The inconspicuous, quiet one, whose needs are usually ignored. 

· The Mascot/Charm Child 

Makes use of comedy to divert attention away from the increasingly dysfunctional family  system.

· The Mastermind child 

Takes the opportunity in a time of conflict to get whatever they want. Most of the time there is high pressure on the kid since this message is constantly  being sent to them that “we are staying in this torture only because of you” in a  subtle way. This is a huge responsibility and consequently creates a sense of guilt in the long term. 

Such decisions can be confusing and frustrating, so If you think that you can benefit from  professional support on this issue you can reach out here 

Marziyeh Salehi is working as an intern within the Willingness team. She is also pursuing  her master’s in Clinical Psychosexology at Sapienza University of Rome. Marziyeh’s  research interests are couples, relationships, and trauma.

References :  

Al Ubaidi BA (2017) Cost of Growing up in Dysfunctional Family. J Fam Med Dis Prev  3:059. 

Brand JE, Moore R, Song X, Xie Y. Parental divorce is not uniformly disruptive to  children’s educational attainment. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Apr  9;116(15):7266-7271. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1813049116. Epub 2019 Mar 26. PMID:  30914460; PMCID: PMC6462058.