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Divorce and Teen Boys

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Divorce tears families apart—literally. Contentious divorces can scar children for years. Parents manipulate, cajole and even enlist their children as co-conspirators as they lay siege to their estranged spouses. For a young person, having to choose sides in a divorce causes guilt, anxiety and resentment. Parents embroiled in divorce forget the impact it has on their children. Or they are so consumed with anger they just don’t care. Children of divorce can descend into substance abuse, emotional turmoil and mental illness—with no one there to help.

Emotional effects of divorce

According to WebMD, children of divorce are three times as likely to abuse drugs, run afoul of the law and have emotional problems. Children of divorce have a higher drop-out rate and have more unwanted pregnancies than children whose parents stay together.

Despite assurances to the contrary, a teen may feel responsible for the demise of his parent’s marriage. He may feel betrayed and angry. An adolescent may be expected to take on greater responsibilities, particularly if he has younger siblings.


The mental, emotional and behavioral toll divorce has on a teen may be severe enough for him to seek treatment. Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders are not uncommon in a teen whose parents are embroiled in a divorce. A teen may find temporary refuge in alcohol and drugs. Effective treatment allows a teen to vent his feelings without fear of judgment or repercussions. If the teen has co-occurring issues, treatment must address both issues.

Teens whose substance abuse or behavioral issues stem from divorce benefit from individual and group therapy. During one-on-one counseling sessions, the teen and his therapist explore his feelings, even his ambivalence, toward his parent’s divorce. Many teens benefit from group therapy because they realize others are experiencing exactly what they’re feeling.


White River Academy is a residential treatment center for boys age 12 to 17. Located near the Great Basin in Utah, our school combines treatment, academics and outdoor activities. For more information on how we treat young men with emotional issues, please contact 866-520-0905. One of our admissions specialists will gladly discuss our program and philosophy with you.

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We would like to thank all the wonderful staff at WRA for the great parent weekend. We enjoyed it and felt that we learned valuable insights on Positive Peer Culture and the values we must have and the importance of family commitment to each other...

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