I am currently seperated from my wife and we are getting a divorce, we have two boys, aged 6 and 3.

IF during this process i was to behave in an unethical way e.g. false accusation of abuse, pursuing a course of action that will cause hardship, ignoring the wishes of the eldest child. That will cause permanent toxicity between me and the mother(who is requesting mediation), is this likely to have negative effects on the children.

Do children as they get older and understand more want to know things about why their parents split up and how they treated each other. Are they likely to see one parent as good and the other as bad ?

2 Answers 2


Speaking from personal experience being that child: ABSOLUTELY.

Do not do this. Your children will find out. They will understand what you did. They will judge you accordingly.

One of my parents falsely accused the other of child abuse. From the time I was a pre-teen I understood that this was wrong, and that it caused undue hardship and financial difficulty to the falsely accused as they were then forced to prove it to be a false claim.

I remember talking to the child psychologist and being rather confused (why did I, as a 9 year old have to talk to this random lady) but happily speaking up about how much I loved both my parents.

I remember the falsely accused crying and mourning the fact that they had been accused of such a thing. I remember the emotional distress of both parents. I remember the anger from the false accuser. I remember every moment that one of them badmouthed the other.

My relationship with the false accuser is improving with time but is still strained and is a challenge for me to negotiate. I dread figuring out how to deal with both parties at birthdays and other such events of my future children.

Fight for what is best for the kids, but stay honest. Be civil.


Not only is nasty behavior between parents likely to cause mental and emotional harm to children, it appears to impact lifelong health as well.

"Early life stressful experiences do something to our physiology and inflammatory processes that increase risk for poorer health and chronic illness," said Michael Murphy, a psychology postdoctoral research associate in CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "This work is a step forward in our understanding of how family stress during childhood may influence a child's susceptibility to disease 20-40 years later."

From this article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170605151943.htm

The abstract on that study can be viewed for free here: http://www.pnas.org/content/114/25/6515 To view more you have to b ea member unfortunately.

And parents should always likely remember that you cannot be nasty to the other parent to a degree that you are successful at upsetting them, without impacting the children. The purpose of being nasty to any person is to attempt to inflict some level of emotional discomfort on the other person. We may even convince ourselves the other person deserves it. Unfortunately though, when you are a parent, all things that impact you, impact your children. If you are in a bad mood, are stressed out, have worries, it's going to impact how well you can be there for your kids. Likewise, if the other person is able to deflect, not let it get to them, etc, then even then there is no point being nasty since it's wasting energy toward someone who isn't going to be bothered. So either way, it's not worth it.

  • I cannot agree more. Incidentally, while the OP seems to be in a different position, if you are reading this question while going through a separation / divorce, try reading Divorce Poison by Dr. Warshak. I found it very useful (if very depressing - he makes the big mistake of including dozens of negative examples with barely any positive examples, but don't let that get you down : )) .
    – SGo
    Oct 19, 2018 at 7:36

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