Divorce is one of the main problems in the United States today and is on a steady increase. Statistics show that about 50% of marriages result in seperation thus leading to cases where children end up without parents. In most cases, people assume that divorce is only a burden to the two partners therefore assuming the impact on children. The assumption has rendered thousands of children vulnerable to the impacts of divorce whenever parents file for a successful divorce. In this paper, the potential impacts of divorce on the children are discussed including the developmental impact, emotional adjustments, and antisocial behaviors. The paper discusses the nexus between parents’ divorce and the well being of children.
Impact of divorce on children
More than one million American children suffer the consequences of their parents’ divorce every year. In addition to the damage caused to the parents, there is evidence to show that children are affected irreparably whenever partners divorce. Although there exists benefits associated with divorce in families, the damages outweigh the advantages especially with regards to children. The reason for this damage is the fact that it reduces the family relationships and by extension the bond within a certain society. The effects on children are particularly detrimental because of the children’s vulnerability and the fact that quantitative measurement of the damages is not practical. Regardless, divorce continues to harm thousands of families every year. The fact that more and more divorce suits are being filed in courts every year is a cause to worry because it means many more children will be hurt.
One of the main effects of divorce is the weakening of the parent-child relationship for both the mother and father. It is actually right to say that two kinds of divorce occur whenever partners divorce: one between themselves and one with their children. The decline in this relationship is the primary effect of divorce and affects both the parent and the children. The children feel betrayed by the parents and lack the love that they used to get before the divorce. Some children may end up hating their parents for the decision to divorce and may even hold that grudge up to their adult years. Children from divorced families are rated as receiving much lower support from home compared to those from intact families. The lack or reduction of emotional and financial support leads to the children to feel less close to their parents Demo & Acock, 1988). The impact is worse still in children that were very close to their father and they later end up not seeing them. In these children, the immediate effect may be to hate their mothers.
Children from divorced families may end up having a weakened ability to handle conflict, and that may persist even in their later lives. The belief that their parents were not able to handle a conflict always leads to children having the same effects. Divorce diminishes the children’s ability to propel stable marriages when they become adults. As a result, the children will resort to violence every time they are faced with a conflict and are more likely to resort to physical violence. Even in their own marriages, children from divorced families usually end up communicating less, shouting and physically assaulting their partners and even escalating conflicts. It is not surprising therefore that the likelihood of filing for divorce is transferred from one generation to the other (Atkeson et al., 1982).
The social skills of children are at an increased loss of diminishing whenever their parents divorce. The children usually end up having aversive and coercive interaction styles that may in turn lead to their rejection from their peers. The fear of rejection is much more pronounced in children from divorced families than it is in children from intact families. The social relations of these children end up being much more problematic and resulting in fewer friends. Studies have shown that children from divorce backgrounds are much more likely to complain about a lack of support from their peers. It is also true that children from divorced families rate poorly in peer relationships and are hostile towards adults. They are also characterized by inattention, aggression, anxiety and withdrawal symptoms resulting from the impacts of divorce.
Children are also prone to acquiring behavioral problems whenever divorce occurs. The conflict in their parents’ marriage leads to a risk in the children’s social competence. The behavioral problems are also prevalent in families that have conflict regardless of whether they have divorced or not. The reason behind the change in behavior stems from the fact divorce conflicts usually result to less affection and responsiveness. Moreover, parents are much more inclined to punish their children whenever they are in divorce conflicts. The result of this treatment may lead children into acquiring bad behaviors such as stealing and fighting in school. This behavior is out of the perception of their social problems as unpredictable and uncontrollable. Fagan & Churchill (2012) assert that children who are not well-behaved are much likely to come from divorced families.
Another problem that stems from divorce is in the children’s early departure from home. The frequency of children from divorce families moving away from their homes is much more than in those from intact families. The reason for children running away is due to low cohesion and harmony in the families. In most cases, most of these children would rather run away to live on their own or even get married than stick around in their parents’ homes. The situation is usually worse if the parents decide to remarry thereby giving the children step parents. It is believed that 70% of children with stepparents who run away from home do not come back. Moreover, stepchildren are 20% more likely to run away from home at an early age, usually while they are still minors (Crowe, 2005). These children end up being trafficked either for sex or labor.
The sexual practices of children and their attitudes towards sex are also at risk when parents divorce. Usually, the children approve premarital sex and cohabitation and may end up increasing the divorce rates dramatically. In addition, these same children are more likely to disapprove marriage and childbearing or even the idea of having a family. Past studies have shown that children from divorce backgrounds are much more likely to have children before marriage and see no problem with it. They are also likely to have children out of wedlock or with married partners. Children in divorced families where their parents end up being promiscuous are at a risk of being sexually permissive. They in effect end up having sexual intercourse at an earlier stage compared to other children. Black girls are 42% less likely to have sexual intercourse before 18 years when their biological fathers are present at home (Fagan & Churchill, 2012). This likelihood, however, increases when the father is a stepfather.
In addition to the changed views and attitudes towards sexual behavior, children are more likely to engage in sexual promiscuity if their parents have divorced. Ultimately, these children are much more predisposed to sexually transmitted illnesses. After a divorce, most mothers have to work for long hours therefore having fewer hours to check out their children. This requirement may lead to the children having high levels of teenage sexual intercourse. Girls from divorce families are more likely to have teenage pregnancy for the obvious reasons discussed above. Moreover, daughters of divorced parents are more likely to have abortions that those from intact families. Boys are not spared either and are likely to impregnate teenage girls when they have a divorce background.
Divorce is also a major cause of the lack of trust in a relationship among children from divorce families. This is because the parental divorce makes dating and romancing much more difficult in their children. Essentially, the experiences of these children ragrding heterosexual relationships are horrified especially in young women. This behavior carries into adulthood and they fear being rejected thus hindering their relationships from growing. Atkeson (1982) points out that women from divorced families confess to having lower satisfaction in romantic relationships. The children also end up having more positive attitudes towards divorce and less of the attitude towards marriage.
The children from divorced families are also affected in their education as they exhibit lower levels of concentration and understanding in class. Children experiencing divorce tend to immediately perform worse in academics. Moreover, the children end up having a lower desire to study and excel in education opting for cheap jobs all of which result from frustrations. The poor performance may result from absence of classes, suspensions, expulsion and even dropping out of school. Essentially, these children end up not attaining college education and are prone to dropping out of school.
Atkeson, B. M., Forehand, R. L., & Rickard, K. M. (1982). The effects of divorce on children. In Advances in clinical child psychology (pp. 255-281). Springer US.
Crowe, M. (2005). The impact of divorce on children: An issue of family structure or dynamic.
Demo, D. H., & Acock, A. C. (1988). The impact of divorce on children. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 619-648.
Fagan, P. F., & Churchill, A. (2012). The effects of divorce on children. Marriage and Religion Research Institute at FRC, 1, 11-12.
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