Divorce: Effects on Children Stacey Lancaster Moraine Valley Community College Sociology 102-300 Abstract Divorce has become an unquestionable remedy for the miserably married. Currently, the United States has the highest divorce rate in the world. Every year in the US approximately one million children experience divorce which, is about one in every three children. (1) Divorce: Effects on Children The effect of divorce can be tremendously painful for both children and adults.
Children of divorce are more likely to suffer from behavioral, social, academic, and psychological problems than children raised in two-parent families. The actual separation of the family will be the initial crisis that a child must deal with but many issues such as economic hardship, moving, and other major issues may follow. Sarah McLanahan, a leading divorce researcher at Princeton University, has identified moving as one of the most damaging effects of divorce for children. That is because the children lose invaluable ties to friends that may be able to help them cope with the new street they are faced with.
McLanahan and Gary Sandefur conclude that up to 40% of the increased risk of being a high school dropout is attributed to moving as a result of divorce. (2) The short term effects of divorce vary depending on the age and sex of most children. Boys and girls handle the break-ups with different emotions for example, some get angry, some feel sad, and some may experience feelings of rejection. Preschool age children, age’s three to five, many times react with feelings of anger and sadness. Many of the preschool age children will regress after the initial shock of the separation.
Signs of regression could be once again asking for a security blanket, bedwetting, returning to thumb sucking, needing help feeding themselves, or hitting their siblings. The children in this age group are more anxious and insecure than a child growing up in a two-parent home. The majority of the children in the preschool age-group has abandonment issues and fears that since one parent has left the home that the other may move out as well. As the children get older the effects the divorce has on them is different but no less traumatizing.
School age children between the ages of six to eight seem to have an especially difficult time dealing with their parents splitting up. Generally, the boys in this age group tend to be more bothered than the girls. Sadness is the primary reaction of the children in this age group. There will be more out bursts of crying, and these children are prone to feeling that the departing parent is rejecting them. Many children of this age group try to reconcile the marriage and spend more time worrying about the family than anything g else.
Often their performance in schools drops considerably due to the worrying and the lowered self-esteem, which is caused by the feelings of rejection. Younger children have strong feelings of sadness where as, older school-aged children aging from nine to twelve tend to channel their feelings through anger. Many boys in this age group become rebellious and uncontrollable. Also, it is not uncommon for them to reject visits from the out-of-home parent. Many times during divorce these children will take sides and be put in the middle of destructive battles.
In addition to feeling angry, many of the children appear sad and even lonely. Feeling helpless is another factor that affects these children, often times they feel like they have no control over their own lives. Fueled by anger and feelings of powerless, about half of the students in this age group show some type of decline in their schoolwork. Often, these children will also experience physical effects as well as the emotional effects. Headaches and stomachaches will be common occurrences and many of these children will begin having a hard time getting along with their friends.
There are considerably stronger gender differences in the school age children than the preschool and younger children. Boys are more problematic than girls at this age and are this is due in part because- ninety percent of children live with their mothers after a divorce. (3) This is a loss of same-sex parental figure for boys and, many out of home fathers do not assume an active roll in parenting. Problems for daughters tend to emerge in adolescence when they begin dating and exploring relationships. Adolescence is the beginning of one’s independence.
On one hand, these young people can be very helpful in these times of trouble by helping with the household responsibilities and providing stable relationships with their younger siblings. Heightened levels of maturity often stem from helping the family deal with the newly formed crisis. Generally, teenagers will cope with the divorce by distancing themselves from the problem and focusing merely on their own fate and futures. On the other hand, the initial feelings are of betrayal will cause some adolescents to engage in premature sexual relationships, become depressed, and even lose track of their goals for the future.
Like the older school aged children, many of these children will be encouraged to take sides and take active rolls in parental conflicts. Adolescence is the age that is the most detrimental to girls. They often experience and emotional loss of their father and many of them perceive it as rejection. Without regular attention from a man who is caring and loving a girl’s sense of femininity does not seem to thrive. (4) However, the main concern for the most adolescents is themselves and, how this going to affect their chance to go to college and their ability to have a good marriage in the future.
The first two years after the separation seem to be the hardest, but many times there can be factors that affect the rest of one’s life. The long-term effects of divorce tend to be more adverse than the short-term effects. There are several causes for the long-term effects but, children are more likely to develop them if they are exposed to all or some of the following scenarios; continuous parental fighting, the loss of contact with a parent following the divorce, little or no discipline, and being forced to takes sides against one parent or the other.
Many studies show that children of divorce experience a heighten level of marital conflict. Another long-term problem that may affect children of divorce is the loyalty and trust issues that often follow them into their own relationships. Even as adults, men tend to have a hard time dealing with the effects of divorce; they often tend to be less involved with their own children much like the non-custodial parent was with them. Many females from single parent families have tendencies to have children out of wedlock and generally have a negative opinion of their personal relationships.
Aside from relationship issues, children of divorced parents often have significant differences after high school education and career choices than children of intact families. (5) Divorce does not have to induce long term problems. The quality of support that you give to your child during a divorce will determine how well the children will react to the divorce and the consequences. It is not the divorce that causes the problems; it is the way that the parents react to the present situation.
In some cases divorce can be better for everyone, including the children. Many times when there is an abusive spouse involved divorce is not only the best answer it is the only answer. Sue Behren, a doctor with 10 years experience in counseling children of divorce states, “all my research shows that kids are much happier when their parents are not rowing, when there is no friction or bad atmosphere at home. ” She also believes that it is impossible for parents to grit their teeth and stay together “for the sake of the children. (6) Whether a divorce is good or bad, nearly half of all marriages in today’s modern age end in divorce. Divorce is affecting about one million new children every year. (7) Even though that seems like a lot of broken marriages the nation wide divorce rate has declined, and there is evidence that people are taking into a deeper look into divorce and how it is affecting our children. (8) On the brighter side of things the majority of the effects that a divorce has on children can be resolved with the help of the children’s parents.
Citations 1. Parental Divorce, Martial Conflict and Offspring Well-Being during Early Adulthood Journal article by Laura Spencer Loomis; Social Forces, Vol. 73, 1995 2. Chira, Susan “Adrift in a sea of Divorce” 3. Teyber, Edward “Helping Children Cope with Divorce” 4. Kalter, Neil “Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children” 5. Sprujt, Ed. , Goede, Martijin de “Transition in Family Structure and Adolescent” 6. Hester, Lacy “Can Divorce be good? ” 7. Parents. com