We present a detailed study of the exact-exchange (EXX) kernel of time-dependent density functional theory with an emphasis on its discontinuity at integer particle numbers. It was recently found that this exact property leads to sharp peaks and step features in the kernel that diverge in the dissociation limit of diatomic systems [Hellgren and Gross, Phys. Rev. A, 022514 (2012)]. To further analyze the discontinuity of the kernel we here make use of two different approximations to the EXX kernel: the PGG approximation and a common energy denominator approximation (CEDA). It is demonstrated that whereas the PGG approximation neglects the discontinuity the CEDA includes it explicitly. By studying model molecular systems it is shown that the so-called field counter-acting effect in the density functional description of molecular chains can be viewed in terms of the discontinuity of the static kernel. The role of the frequency dependence is also investigated, highlighting its importance for long-range charge transfer excitations as well as inner-shell excitations.