The impact of divorce on children

Leaving without Goodbye

The 2017 Japan demographic statistics show that there were more than 210,000 divorces that year, and that more than 210,000 minor children have divorced parents. In Japan, most children are raised by the parent with sole custody after a divorce, and about 85% of sole custodial parents are mothers. It also seems that one out of every two couples who become single-parent families after a divorce are poor, earning less than 2 million yen a year.

Parents who do not have custody of a child can legally meet them in the form of “visitation exchanges” after the divorce, but if discussions between the parents do not go well, it may require mediation or a trial.


Divorce is not only extremely stressful for parents, but it can also be a mixed loss experience for children. The parent who is no longer able to live with the family is now absent in their lives, but still psychologically present. This could be called Type 1 of “ambiguous loss”. Also, their school and residence may have changed and the atmosphere in their home may have shifted drastically. Additionally, if the mother is working from morning till night because of financial problems, she may be psychologically absent because the child is not able to rely on her even though they live together. In other words, for the child, the divorce may also result in their experiencing Type 2 “ambiguous loss”.


Also, for parents who are separated from their children after a divorce, the absence of their children in their lives and livelihoods can be an ambiguous loss.


How to support couples struggling with divorce and the children in their families is a very important issue. In other countries, when couples with children divorce, there are mandatory divorce education classes and parenting programs to help parents learn about the impact of divorce on their children and to reduce conflict between parents. In Japan, the need to provide support for children during and after a divorce has begun to be addressed.