A number of studies have indicated that boys experiencing parental divorce show more adjustment problems than girls, though the results have been inconsistent. (Amato, 1999) In trying to tease this link out, it’s been found that boys may struggle more in areas of social adjustment, but be no better or worse off than girls on measures of academic achievement or psychological problems. Much of the discrepancy may be due to the ways that problems are measured, as well as different patterns in the way boys and girls respond to stress:

How boys react to divorce

A) Boys as a whole tend to handle stress by projecting it outward in the form of behavioral problems: acting out at school, fighting with peers or siblings, arguing or making inappropriate comments, intentionally misbehaving, or exhibiting other aggressive and disruptive behaviors. Therefore their distress is more likely to be noticed.

B) This increased aggressiveness among boys may make their adjustment to the social dynamics within divorce more problematic, at least in the short term. It creates more conflict with parents and can make adjustment to stepfamily situations more difficult.

C) Boys are culturally trained to be “tough” and to suppress their emotions, and so this leaves them less able to cope with divorce in a healthy way. Parents need to be careful about how they reinforce this social stereotype, and encourage boys to express what they are feeling, perhaps through creative outlets such as art or writing.

D) Boys are more likely to experience the loss of a same-sex parent figure, since maternal custody is more common than paternal custody. This can have an effect on their social development and gender identity, especially when this leaves a void that isn’t filled by other male role models.

E) In some instances, boys are picked on more by custodial mothers, probably because they resemble their father or remind the parent of their ex. The boy becomes a subconscious outlet of the mother’s anger towards her former husband, and this poisons the relationship.