Effects of Adultery on Children

Parent actions can have a major influence on children’s lives. When a parent commits adultery, it can affect the children in negative ways. Learn more about the effects of adultery on children.

Children’s Anxiety Levels Might Increase

An article in 1989 published in the New York Times explains that children may suffer if their parents commit adultery, even if the children are not aware of the affair. The article explains that children might sense that the parent is committing mental energy to things outside of the family. As a result, the child may experience stress and anxiety.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ana Nogales explains that children of parents who have been unfaithful to the other parent may act out. Some might experience confusion, anger, shame, guilt, and depression. She explains that children might also regress or withdraw, regardless of age.

Likelihood of Committing Adultery as an Adult

Not only might children be more likely to experience psychological effects because of the adultery, they also might be more likely to commit adultery themselves upon reaching adulthood. The Times article from 1989 quoted Dr. Annette Lawson, a sociologist, as saying that although many “swear they will never [commit adultery], it appears to become a patterned response learned in childhood.”

A father might boast about relationships to his teenage son, as Dr. Lawson's research showed that many do, leading to such actions "taking on the overtones of a family tradition," according to the article. Meanwhile, girls aware of their father’s affair might "grow up angry at men and unsure of her relationships with them," the NYT noted.

Trauma to Children Less When Parents Take Responsibility

The effect on a child whose parent is having an affair is particularly devastating when they handle it in one of these ways.

  • The parent doesn’t take responsibility for an exposed affair
  • The parent fails to speak with the child about it
  • The parent asks the child to keep the affair a secret from the other parent

When the child is forced to carry a secret – such as if the child is aware of the affair but the other parent is not – the child is often alienated from the other parent. According to Dr. Frank Pittman, an associate clinical professor of psychology, children who have an opportunity to deal with their parents’ affairs openly have a higher chance of growing up “strong.”

Speak with a Family Law Attorney Today

If your spouse committed adultery, you have a child together, and you are seeking a divorce, one thing you will have to make a decision about is your parenting plan. Keep in mind, though, that adultery will not affect a parenting plan or divorce settlement.

Talk to an attorney about child custody, child support, and other issues pertinent to your divorce. The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny can help with your family law matters. Call our offices now at 425-460-0550 or contact us online.

Molly B. Kenny
Founder and Principal Divorce Attorney
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