Divorce is Becoming Increasingly More Prevalent in Our Society

Family dynamics are not the same as they once were. Changes in our cultural beliefs have compromised the values of old institutional families. That being said, the rise in divorce rates can be attributed to several individual and societal factors.

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According to Burgess (1954), there are several changes that have facilitated the transition away from institutional families. Some of these factors include, the relevance of religion on society, the increasing freedoms for women, and the shift from rural to urban lifestyle. Personal values have become more individualistic, self-expressive, and competitive. Economic factors play a role as well. For example, family breakdowns can be caused by strains emphasized by the cost of living. In sum, we are living in a society that is rapidly changing, and it is affecting our values regarding kinship and family.

In broad terms, divorce is the action of terminating a marriage. Divorce can be a difficult process for all parties involved. The effects of divorce can be especially detrimental to children. Children of divorce experience a tremendous amount of strain, anger, and anxiety. These stressors can increase a child’s risk of developing behavioral problems (Sommers, 2005). Similarly, a study conducted by Weaver (2005), found that children of divorce, when compared to children with intact families, experience more behavioral issues and negative internalizing and externalizing effects (Weaver, 2015). Due to the rapidly increasing divorce rate, more children are experiencing the adverse effects of parent separation.

Researchers have examined the topic of divorce from many different perspectives. As previously stated before, Weaver (2015) and Sommers (2005), analyzed the negative effects of divorce on children. Their work, like the work of many researchers alike, aim to understand the emotional, physical, and behavioral aspects associated with the rising phenomenon of divorce. Another important subarea of interest for researchers studying divorce deals with the impact of parent and child relationships. Researchers and therapists are commonly concerned with the lack of parent-child communication and involvement. Divorce can sever parent-child relationships because of feelings of anger, confusion, and sadness. Families don’t always work through these emotions. For instance, Schwebel et al. (1982), analyzes how mediation counseling works to reduce stress for parent-child relationships by helping divorced parents to cooperate efficiently with one another. Other related subtopics of interest may include child custody, effects of divorce on friends and extended family, and inequality in divorce settlements.

The subtopic of interest for this paper focuses on interventions for children of divorcing and divorced families. The population that will be addressed are children from birth-12 years of age. In a progressive scientific world, it is vital to become knowledgeable about developing interventions and therapies. These interventions are commonly utilized to change behavior, reduce metal health issues, and facilitate communication and healthy narratives. For counselors and psychologists to efficiently help their client, their interventions must be effective in nature. These interventions are not confined to traditional individual counseling sessions. Some of these interventions are school-based, group oriented, and most recently, based online. Interventions are composed of positive and negative qualities. For instance, the components of school-based interventions were perceived to be effective, specifically in reducing anxiety. It is important to also note that there are implications as well. The school-based interventions made it difficult for schools to manage both education and mental health (Stolberg & Mahler, 1994). The example above is only one instance. This paper will dissect other studies that also look at the effectiveness of common and recently developed interventions. The objective is to determine which interventions work and which interventions can be improved and or constructed better.

The first question that will be tackled in this paper is: what intervention methods are effective for children of divorce? The second sub question asks: are online prevention programs more or less effective than traditional counseling sessions? The first question will be answered through the analysis of peer-reviewed journal articles. This information will be detailed in the literature review portion of this paper. The second question will provide as the basis for the research. It is imperative to mention that we live in a technological society. Technology is now impacting the way psychologists and therapists counsel and communicate with their clients. Online intervention programs have relayed promising results. The goal of the research is to identify if online programs are a more progressive form of intervention when compared to traditional intervention methods.

Review of Literature

School-Based Interventions

In the recent years, new programs have been developed in an effort to mitigate the harmful effects of divorce on children. As reported by Stolberg and Mahler (1994), school-based interventions are unique, as they aim to treat a large group of students at a time. Their study consisted of 103 participants, who were placed into a 14-week intervention program. The program consisted of three major components, which included, skill training, parental involvement, and transfer procedures. The results of the study generated promising results. The intervention program was effective in reducing anxiety levels. Stolberg and Mahler note the implications of their study in the discussion portion of their article. The school, where the experiment took place, found it difficult to balance both education and treatments for mental health.

Similarly, Pelleboer-Gunnink, Van der Valk, Branje, Van Doorn, and, Dekovi?‡ (2015), performed a more recent study on school-based interventions. The goal for their study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the KIDS school-based intervention program. Their sample group was composed of 156 randomly assigned children, 131 mothers and 76 fathers. The sample groups were larger than that of Stolberg and Mahler. The children that were placed in to the KIDS intervention program were asked to participate in guided meetings that facilitated social problem-solving skills through role-playing and conversations. The results of the study produced effect sizes of .30, and .63, which can be perceived as fairly strong when compared to the standard effect size for interventions. The results also show that the program promotes the emotional well-being of a children, and improves parent-child communication. In sum, both school-based interventions can be perceived as effective in helping children of divorced families.

Counseling-Based Therapies

Counseling sessions are tailored to each individual that is being assessed and treated. For children of divorced or divorcing families, interventions are typically geared to facilitate communication. The objective is to improve child-parent communication and relationships by implementing narrative therapy and solution focused therapy, so parents and children can work together to solve problems (Sommers-Flannagan & Barr, 2005). In a study performed by Kelly and Wallerstein (1977), they observed the strategies and limitation of interventions by assessing 131 children. Each child was carefully evaluated and given an individual intervention plan. They found short-term interventions to be effective. In another study organized by Roseby and Johnston (1995), they also concluded that interventions work best when psychologists’ asses a child’s specific needs and develops a plan that does not follow a linear model. Their study tested the effectiveness of treatment plans for children from divorced homes that consisted of high-conflict and violence. Careful evaluation of each individual child determined if they would be placed in an individual treatment plan, a group treatment plan, or both. The child’s initial assessment also determined the types of interventions they would undergo. For instance, effective interventions included role-playing, and interventions geared toward addressing the child’s experiences, feelings for themselves and others, and support their developmental process.

Some counseling-based therapies focus on working directly with the parents. Mediation programs are geared to help parents put aside anger and resentment toward one another and work towards finding effective strategies for communication and conflict resolution. By changing the behavior of the parents, they will be better suited to co-parent. By helping parents to cooperate with one another it will in turn reduce stress in child-parent relationships (Schwebel, Moreland, Steinkohl, Lentz, & Stewart, 1982). In a study done by Dillman Taylor, Purswell, Lindo, Jayne, and Fernando (2011), they looks at child parent relationship therapy (CRPT) and how CRPT can impact internalizing and externalizing behaviors, parent-child stress, and parent perceptions of the program itself. The experimenters implemented play therapy into their program for child intervention. The parents of the children provided feedback after completion of the experiment. The parents were perceived to be more understanding of their children and the parents even reported that there were positive and noticeable changes in their child’s behavior.

Online Preventive Programs

Technology has impacted our lives in more ways than one. Counseling interventions have taken on a new form. According to Boring, Sandler, Tein, Horan, and Velez (2015), there are new online preventative programs that have been designed for children of divorced families. Specifically, the CoD-CoD program is aimed to help reduce mental illness of children. The CoD-CoD program utilizes online modules that were designed to promote coping skills. Similar to other studies mentioned in this paper, interventions commonly work to improve coping skills and facilitate communication. The results of the study provide evidence that’s shows that the program is effective in preventing short-term mental health issues. The researches state that another study would need to be conducted in order to look at the long-term efficacy.

Discussion

Researchers argue that parental divorce is associated with an increased risk of mental health problems (Boring, Sandler, Tein, Horan, and Velez, as cited in Amato, 2011). Thankfully, researchers, psychologists, and counselors alike have devoted their time to study the dissolution of marriages. Over the years, there have been a range of effective interventions that have been developed and utilized to help reduce the negative effects of divorce. The most common interventions are used in face-to-face counseling-based therapy sessions. Interestingly, within the past few years, researchers are beginning to take advantage of online modules as a form of preventative treatment. The ultimate goal is to continue improving programs and intervention methods. Upon review of the literature, the question asked is: Are online preventative programs more or less effective than traditional counseling-based therapies?

Methods

This section presents the methods that would be used for this type of study. It will outline the population being researched, the instruments that would be utilized, and how the data would be measured.

Participants

The study will use a descriptive research design. The research will consist of two groups of randomly assigned children. The participants will be between the ages of 8-12 years. To qualify for the study the children must not have any pre-existing behavioral disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. The children’s parents must be divorcing or have been divorced for a year at most.

Design and Procedure

Group 1 will undergo individual counseling sessions with a licensed psychologist. Group 2 will be a part of the online prevention program. The duration of intervention will last for approximately 9 weeks. The data will be measured by using the communication subscale, as well as the emotional problems subscale. I attribute my idea to utilize the communication and emotional problems subscales from the study conducted by Pelleboer-Gunnink et al. (2015). The communication subscale measures interpersonal communication and the emotional problems subscale measures emotional regulation. The first goal of the study is to determine if these interventions are effective by comparing the data effect sizes to the standard effect size for interventions. The second goal is to identify if the online prevention program is more or less effective in helping children of divorce.

I have high expectations for this project. I expect this research to provide us with information that can further aid in the development of future interventions for children of divorce. The results should give us better insight into the world of counseling with all the recent advancements in technological programs.

References

Boring, J. L., Sandler, I. N., Tein, J.-Y., Horan, J. J., & Velez, C. E. (2015). Children of divorce“coping with divorce: A randomized control trial of an online prevention program for youth experiencing parental divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(5), 999“1005. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039567

Burgess, E. W. (1954). Economic, cultural, and social factors in family breakdown. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 24(3), 462“470. https://doi-org.kean.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/j.1939-0025.1954.tb06121.x

Dillman Taylor, D., Purswell, K., Lindo, N., Jayne, K., & Fernando, D. (2011). The impact of child parent relationship therapy on child behavior and parent-child relationships: An examination of parental divorce. International Journal of Play Therapy, 20(3), 124“137. https://doi-org.kean.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/a0024469

Kelly, J. B., & Wallerstein, J. S. (1977). Brief interventions with children in divorcing families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 47(1), 23“39. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-0025.1977.tb03241.x

Pelleboer-Gunnink, H. A., Van der Valk, I. E., Branje, S. J. T., Van Doorn, M. D., & Dekovi?‡, M. (2015). Effectiveness and moderators of the preventive intervention kids in divorce situations: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(5), 799“805. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000107

Roseby, V., & Johnston, J. R. (1995). Clinical interventions with latency-age children of high conflict and violence. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 65(1), 48“59. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0079585

Schwebel, A. I., Moreland, J., Steinkohl, R., Lentz, S., & Stewart, J. (1982). Research-based interventions with divorced families. Personnel & Guidance Journal, 60(9), 523“528. https://doi-org.kean.idm.oclc.org/10.1002/j.2164-4918.1982.tb00712.x

Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Barr, L. (2005). Three Constructive Interventions for Divorced, Divorcing, or Never-Married Parents. The Family Journal, 13(4), 482“486. https://doi.org/10.1177/1066480705278725

Stolberg, A. L., & Mahler, J. (1994). Enhancing treatment gains in a school-based intervention for children of divorce through skill training, parental involvement, and transfer procedures. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62(1), 147“156. https://doi-org.kean.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/0022-006X.62.1.147

Tein, J.-Y., Sandler, I. N., MacKinnon, D. P., & Wolchik, S. A. (2004). How Did It Work? Who Did It Work for? Mediation in the Context of a Moderated Prevention Effect for Children of Divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(4), 617“624. https://doi org.kean.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/0022-006X.72.4.617

Weaver, J. M., & Schofield, T. J. (2015). Mediation and moderation of divorce effects on children’s behavior problems. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(1), 39“48. https://doi-org.kean.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/fam0000043

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