Psychological Effects of Removing Children From Parents

By Guest Blogger, Allison Gamble
Childhood is supposed to be one of the happiest times of life. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for all children. For some, these good times are cut short when children leave their families for whatever reason and lose everything familiar to them. Ideally one would never need to look at a child from the perspective of forensic psychology to understand his mental disposition, but sadly events like these take place every day for one reason or another.

Parental bonding is one of the most important elements in the development of a child. Children are dependent upon their parents for emotional and physical care, from feeding to nurturing to mobility. Naturally, children come to expect this relationship to continue through life, but when they are removed from this atmosphere of reliability and comfort, things can fall apart.

A child taken from its parents will likely experience several psychological consequences of the separation. These can include depression, behavior disorders, separation anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Depression alone includes a wide range of damaging effects, including loss of interest in things children would normally enjoy, anger or irritability, sleep deprivation, and changes in personality.

Behavior disorders are all too common in children separated from their families. It can be difficult for new caregivers to establish a truly authoritative role in children’s lives. They may become defiant of authority, challenge or question set rules, and argue with adults around them. Sometimes a simple time-out can resolve such behaviors, but punishment often fails to eliminate many of these problems, and may add further resentment towards new caregivers.

Meanwhile, separation anxiety occurs mildly when an infant is separated from its parents for a brief time, but can be much more severe when children old enough to understand what’s happening are taken away from their parents. Children with serious separation anxiety may be unable to attach themselves to new environments or caregivers. They may be prone to cry often, become very nervous, and can carry the disorder over into later development, causing further problems.

According to The United Nations Children’s Fund, children taken from home or separated from their parents are more likely to be sexually abused or be victims of physical violence. Such abuse typically causes many psychology problems lasting throughout the victims’ lives. These situations also inhibit children’s emotional and social development, making children more likely to become introverted and avoid reliance on others for support during childhood and later in life.

The psychological effects of separating children from their parents can have a dramatic impact on their childhood, adolescence, and adult life. Children separated from their mothers especially are likely to encounter problems bonding with others, developing long-term relationships, and adjusting socially. In any situation where the question of taking a child away from its parents arises, the gravity of that decision and the weight of its consequences must never be underestimated.

Allison Gamble is writer for the blog She can be reached by email at