Effects of Divorce on Children

Effects of Divorce on Children

Divorce is stressful for both parents as well as children. But generally, children are the worst affected. Every year thousands of children around the world undergo stressful situations because of parental divorce. A child’s world is a very dependent one with home being centre of their universe. Parents are their companions and role models. They look up to their parents at every stage of their childhood. Home is what they have known since their birth and when this starts showing signs of cracks in the form of divorce their world is torn apart. This can turn out be a biggest trauma of the children’s life no matter what age they are and going through such trauma is a lot to ask of the growing children.  (Desai, 2007) Divorce of their parents will make life very uncertain for kids.

Divorce in a family will have its effects on every member of the family but it can more wrenching when children are involved. Many a times when parents decide to separate they are usually very concerned about the influence this troublesome process will have on the kids. And some even consider staying in an unhappy marriage for the sake of their children

The general theory is that there can be nothing good about divorce. This need not be always true. No doubt divorce is very stressful but it can be beneficial for the children in some ways.

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Children become more adaptable

Divorce in a family will lead to several extensive changes in family structure and functioning. Though there will be initial emotional trauma, children will learn fast to adapt to these changing lifestyles. Children will be more resilient towards the changes. The suffering and hardship experienced during their parents’ divorce make them stronger individuals. When children see their parent’s co-parenting and making best out of a difficult situation, children will understand the importance of compromise.

Children will become more responsible

Children will learn to be more responsible after the divorce of their parents. This is especially true for the older siblings. They also become more understanding and cooperative because of their experience. They learn to be more caring and tolerant. Divorce can bring out the best in children.

Children will grow to appreciate relationships

Many researches have shown that young adults whose parents were divorced will learn from their parents failed marriage and learn to appreciate the responsibilities in their own relationships when they grow up. (Grant, 2014).

Parents happiness will make children happy

Children are more likely to be happy when both of their parents are happy. Children will hugely benefit after their parents have recovered from the emotional stress of divorce and start focusing on nurturing their children. (Paris, 2015). Usually after divorce children are able to receive more direct attention from each of their parents which might not have been possible before the divorce. It is often seen that single parents are often closer to their children than married parents were. And often a separated parent will make an extra effort to spend quality time with the children and take care of to their desires.

Divorce can be boon to children involved in high conflict marriage

A bad marriage full of conflict is often considered worse for the children than a good divorce.  Research suggests divorce serves as beneficial factor for children in a high-conflict marriage compared to children whose parents decide to continue their marriage and experience high levels of conflict (Wallerstein). When parental conflict is very high before divorce children can benefit by no longer subjected to relentless anger and emotional abuse between their parents. In high conflict marriages e children are exposed to arguments, raised voices, violence, abusive substances etc. and this usually leads to aggressive behaviour among children. Also a hostile environment where there is lack of trust and respect is not good for the overall wellbeing of the child. Divorce can bring an end to this and create a more stable and nurturing environment.  After the end of a high conflict marriage previously detached father grows closer to his child, and the distressed mother becomes more caring. (Amato, 1994). Though initially children might find it difficult to adjust to two homes, it will be better than one home that is always full of contention and stress.  Parents can be so busy with the problems in the marriage that children may not get the attention they needed.  Divorce can bring the best out of both parents as they learn to re connect with their children and spend more time with them.

However experience of divorce is personally painful for almost all children. Many studies have shown that children from divorced families are at higher risk of facing difficulties several years after their parents’ divorce and also throughout their adulthood. (McFarland & Christensen, 2010). Here are some reasons why divorce should be considered as a risk factor for children.

Social problems

Divorce demands numerous adjustments from both adults and children. Children of divorce generally are more likely to face problems socially compared to children from married families. They are more likely to develop aggressive behaviour and poor relationship with peers.  (Wallerstein) They are also more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and have difficulties in making close friends. These children will be more emotionally vulnerable and may frequently express feelings of helplessness and sadness in the form of anger. (Pickar, 2007)

Experience huge level of stress

The changes that occur in children’s lives during and after divorce will cause a lot of stress in the children. Also the feeling of abandonment and rejection will lead to stress. (DeBord) When children have to move to a different place after their parents’ divorce it results in loss of friendship and contribute to loneliness and increases stress.

Develop psychological and behavioural problems

Divorce shakes trust children have on their parents. Troubled children are likely to develop problems like anger, disobedience, rule violations, bedwetting, clinginess, nightmares, delinquency and other antisocial behaviour. Many young children of divorce believe that they are the reason for divorce. These feelings can cause a child to feel sad, depressed, and angry. (Wallerstein).Children of divorced parents suffer more from  psychological distress like  regression,  anxiety, irritability, demanding, non-compliant,  and depressive symptoms (Lee & Bax, 2000) . Children may also show regression and unwillingness to display previously acquired skills. Different form of physical complaints, such as headaches, tiredness and stomach problems are sometimes indication of depression in children (Pickar, 2007)

Suffer academically

Children from single-parent families show significantly poorer academic functioning than children from two-parent families. Socioeconomic status and single parent status has been co related to poor school achievement and more academic difficulties. (Shaw & Erin M. Ingoldsby). Children of divorce have lower grades, and they are more likely to drop out from school. Their participation in extracurricular activities is also likely to be affected.

Face financial problems

Getting divorced affects parents’ finances. Since parents have to maintain two separate households after divorce on the same income as before, puts a burden on the finance. And since custodial parents experiences a significant reduction in their economic resources after a divorce, the standard of living for children declines. (Amato, 1994) Because of the shortage in income children of separated families tend to grow up in households with poorer housing facilities and greater financial hardships (Rodgers & Pryor, 1998) In some cases single families are compelled to move to less expensive neighbourhoods with weaker schools, insufficient services and higher crime rates. (Wallerstein)

Anti-social behaviour

Usually teenagers from divorced homes are much more likely to engage in alcohol abuse, smoking, drinking and other drug use during adolescence and adulthood.

More prone to illness

Due to the alleviated stresses of a broken family, children of divorce experience more physical health problems than children living with married parents. (Wallerstein) Children from divorced homes fall sick more often and recover from sickness more slowly. And factors that contribute to good health like adult supervision and safe environment may not be available to children of divorce and in some instances divorce can reduce the availability of health insurance. (Hansen, 2013)

Research has shown that negative effects of divorce on children were greatly exaggerated in previously published research.   Researchers now believe that it is not divorce but parental conflict in the marriage that is most vital determining factor in children’s post-divorce adjustment behaviour. (Hutchinson & Spangler-Hirsch, 1989). Influence of parental divorce on children largely depends on the relationship they share with their parents, the extremity of the conflict between their parents and parent’s ability to give attention to children during divorce process. (Corcoran, 1997)

Divorce is considered as a process of several environmental changes rather than a single event. It is more important to understand this process and the factors that influence it in order to optimise the chances for a positive impact on the children involved. (Rodgers & Pryor, 1998)

At times divorce is inevitable though almost all the children would want their parents to be together. Also each divorce is different and every child reacts differently. The impact of a divorce can be one of the distressing things that will happen to a child. But research suggests that kids recover rapidly after the initial shock and do well in the long run. For children to thrive and flourish after divorce it is extremely important for parents to stay strong and focused, show love and care towards their kids and nurture them well. In this way children can a have positive outcome from their parents’ separation. Parents who can communicate effectively with each other after divorce will have happier ‘children of divorce’. If the effects of divorce on children have to be positive, then parents have to concentrate on making the transition of their children to a new life, their primary focus. In this way their children will be much happier and come out of this taxing situation unharmed.

Works Cited

Amato, P. R. (1994). Life-Span Adjustment of Children to Their Parents’ Divorce . Journal Issue: Children and Divorce.

Corcoran, K. O. (1997, June). Psychological and Emotional Aspects of Divorce. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from Meditate.com: http://www.mediate.com/articles/psych.cfm#effects

DeBord, K. (n.d.). The Effects of Divorce on Children. North Carolina: North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service .

Desai, A. J. (2007). How Could Divorce Affect My Kids? Retrieved January 13, 2016, from Focus on the Family: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/should-i-get-a-divorce/how-could-divorce-affect-my-kids

Grant, G. W. (2014). Positive Outcomes of Divorce : A multi method study on the effects of parental divorce on children. Orlando.

Hansen, L. (2013, March 28). 9 negative effects divorce reportedly has on children. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from The Week: http://theweek.com/articles/466107/9-negative-effects-divorce-reportedly-children

Hutchinson, R. L., & Spangler-Hirsch, S. L. (1989). Children of Divorce and Single Parent Life-styles:Facilitating Well Being. In C. Everett, Children of Divorce: Developmental and Clinical Issues (p. 16). New York: Haworth Press. Inc.

Lee, C. M., & Bax, K. A. (2000, May-June). Children’s reactions to parental separation and divorce. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from National Center for Biotechnology Information : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2817796/

McFarland, P. T., & Christensen, A. (2010). Marital Conflict. In G. Fink, Stress Consequences: Mental, Neuropsychological and Socioeconomic (p. 494). San Diego , Oxford: Elsevier Inc.

Paris, W. (2015, March 17). Yes, You Can Raise Happy Children After Divorce. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/splitopia/201503/yes-you-can-raise-happy-children-after-divorce

Pickar, D. (2007). Identifying Children’s Stress-Responses to Divorce. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from Daniel B. Pickar Pd. D., ABPP- Child and Family Clinical Psychology: http://www.danielpickarphd.com/publications/Identifying-Childrens-Stress.pdf

Rodgers, B., & Pryor, J. (1998, June 20). Divorce and separation: The outcomes for children. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from Joseph Rowntree Foundation website: https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/divorce-and-separation-outcomes-children

Shaw, D. S., & Erin M. Ingoldsby, E. M. (n.d.). Children of Divorce. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from University of Pittsburgh: http://www.pitt.edu/ppcl/Publications/chapters/children_of_divorce.htm

Wallerstein, J. S. (n.d.). What are the possibleconsequences of divorce for children? Retrieved January 12, 2016, from Utah State University: http://www.divorce.usu.edu/files/uploads/Lesson5.pdf

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