Research report ‘Awel, I’m confused by my parents’ divorce’

The children’s helpline ‘Awel’ listens to every child or teenager with a question, a story to tell and/or a problem. A topic that pops up very often is divorce, and the consequences for family life. Awel asked the Higher Institute for Family Studies to explore what the children’s main concerns are in this difficult period, and what makes them stronger.

Claire Wiewauters and Kathleen Emmery worked together with a group of students from the second year of the bachelor in Family Studies, to make a qualitative analysis of 145 chat-conversations children and teenagers had with Awel on the subject of the divorce of their parents.

The research concentrated on three main questions:

  • What are the problems children and teenagers talk about in the context of a divorce or a reconstituted family?

  • What do children and teenagers consider protective factors when faced with divorce or living in a reconstituted family?

  • How do children and teenagers cope with the problems they come across during a divorce or while living in a reconstituted family?


The research group

The children and teenagers who are featured in this report are clearly experiencing a difficult transition. They struggle with difficult emotions and exhibit signal behavior. These are not the children and teenagers (75-80%) that find a new balance in life after a period of adjustment. 

The problems that children and teenagers talk about with Awel are of a practical as well as an emotional/relational nature. What all the stories have in common, is that they very clearly illustrate that this group of children is having a very difficult time finding a safe and reliable place in the midst of tensions between different, often conflicting parties.

Focus on children and youngsters

This study focuses on the position of children and teenagers, and offers recommendations to parents, social and educational professionals, and policy makers.

Peer contact is very valuable to these children and teenagers, as is talking to someone who acknowledges their difficult position and respects the child’s loyalty to both parents.

When children or teenagers are going through a difficult period of adjustment after the divorce, it is everyone’s responsibility to provide a safety net , be it as a policy maker or as a next-door neighbor. That is the firm belief of the researchers.

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