The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Kids

Children everywhere grow up in broken homes. According to National Center for Health Statistics, there was 2,245,404 marriages and 827,261 divorces in 2016. A great amount of marriages ended that year. I’ve known that a lot of parents want to just stay together for their kids, but some think divorce is their only option. The main concern is how their children will deal with the divorce.

How much does a parents’ divorce really effect their children? Stated in the article The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children, the first year after a divorce is the toughest. Divorce rates have climbed across the globe over the past few decades. It’s estimated that fourty-eight percent of American and British children live in divorced single-parent homes by age sixteen. As you might expect, research has found that kids struggle the most during the first year or two after the divorce. Kids are likely to experience distress, anger, anxiety, and disbelief. But many kids seem to bounce back. They get used to changes in their daily routines and they grow comfortable with their living arrangements. Others, however, never really seem to go back to normal. This small percentage of children may experience ongoing”possibly even lifelong”problems after their parents’ divorce.

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As also shown in The Impact of Divorce on Young Children and Adolescents by Carl E. Pickhart, divorce introduces a massive change into the life of a boy or girl no matter what the age. Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family circumstance in which to live. In the personal history of the boy or girl, parental divorce is a watershed event. Life that follows is significantly changed from how life was before.

While a lot of marriages last there is cases like divorce for many homes. In general, divorce creates emotional chaos for the entire family, but for kids, the situation can be quite scary, confusing, and frustrating. How much does a parents’ divorce really effect their children? It truly can take a toll on the kids, but it can also affect the entire family.

In this era one of the more sobering realities of life is divorce (USA Today). Marriages end over a host of issues, including infidelity, stress, money troubles, and personal changes by one or both partners over the course of a marriage. Divorce can be an emotionally wrenching experience and can fracture families. For many children, divorce leaves scars that never heal. About forty percent to fifty percent of married couples in the United States divorce, according to the American Psychological Association. The divorce rate among those who remarry is even higher.

(Masci) report he states, almost half of all-American children must cope, at some point in their lives, with the disintegration of their parents’ marriage. A controversial new study he found by psychiatrist Judith Wallerstein contends that the children of divorce are much more likely to be troubled as adults and that couples with kids need to try harder to remain married. But critics describe the study as unscientific and argue that bad marriages often end up doing more harm than good to the whole family. Child-advocacy experts also disagree over the impact of custody arrangements. Some favor joint physical custody because they say it allows both parents to remain involved in their children’s lives. But others say that forcing a child to live in two homes is disruptive and makes an already difficult situation worse.

Research shows, divorce can be a wrenching experience for children(Jost and Robinson). New studies suggest the painful effects of their parents’ breakup can stay with children for years. Many will not do well in school or jobs, and some will fail in their own marriages later on. The studies have intensified the debate over the no-fault divorce laws that made it easier for couples to dissolve their marriages. Some experts say the new findings on the effects of divorce on children are exaggerated, and no one expects a substantial movement away from liberalized divorce laws. But some therapists are urging couples in distress to try harder to resolve their problems rather than get a divorce. And there is broad agreement that children of divorce need greater support”financial, social and psychological”to avoid becoming innocent victims of their parents’ breakup.

According to Coping socialization in middle childhood: Tests of maternal and paternal influences , in sum, social learning theory suggest that children’s coping may be strongly influenced by what their parents do to cope. Stated in the article, parent’s may influence their children’s coping choices by modeling how they handle their own stressful situations that arise. Based on social learning literature, we would expect overt parental coping behaviors to be modeled most readily. In a study of sixty-one children and adolescents with Sickle Cell Disease, there was a significant negative correlation between children’s expression of emotion when coping with SCD-related pain and mothers’ use of social support coping and emotion-focused engagement. Research shows, a number of studies have linked the family environment to children’s coping strategies. In a study with sixty school-age children and their mothers found that maternal support was associated with children’s use of a greater variety of coping strategies with everyday problems, and with greater use of avoidant strategies.

Parent’s as role models’ effect on children is shown in Parents are Powerful Role Models for Children by Karen Stephens. She is the director of the Illinois State University childcare center and she’s an instructor in child development. For nine years Stephens wrote a weekly parenting column in her local newspaper. She has authored early care and education books and is a frequent contributor to Exchange. As in Stephens article, children, in general, do tend to grow up to be a lot like their parents. Social scientists and genetic researchers have identified many cycles that loop from one generation to the next. Children who live in homes where parents smoke are more likely to become smokers. Parents who abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to find their children someday do the same. Adults who were abused as children may indeed hurt their own children. And that’s not all. Parents with a low self-esteem raise children with the same affliction. Stephens states, Parent’s play a major role on how our children turn out. An if you just look around your communities you will see that happening everywhere.

Parental divorce affects children’s physical health and longevity (Physical Health). Those who experience parental divorce or separation are more likely to have health problems. Often in spite of maternal remarriage, such as a significant increase in injury rates, an increased risk of asthma, and increased risk of asthma-related emergencies.Children whose parents divorce are also more likely to contract cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract, the esophagus, anus, pancreas, lungs, and cervix. Researchers Kari Hemminki and Bowang Chen state, The results show that offspring of divorced parents have increased cancer risks at tobacco-related, alcohol-related and sex-related sites. A Swedish study showed that young men with divorced parents had a slightly heightened risk of hospitalization and significantly increased risk of mortality.

Upon the divorce of their parents, children experience a wide range of emotional reactions, including sadness, anger, loneliness, depression which frequently lasts into later phases of life, heightened anxiety, worry, lower life satisfaction, lower self-esteem and self-confidence, fear, yearning, rejection, conflicting loyalties, and a sense of fault for their parents’ problems (Mental Health). An analysis by David Popenoe of the National Survey of Children found that divorce was associated with a higher incidence of several mental health problems in children: depression; withdrawal from friends and family; aggressive, impulsive, or hyperactive behavior; and either behaving disruptively or withdrawing from participation in the classroom. Parental divorce may also contribute to the development of mood disorders, bipolar I disorder, dysthymia (mild chronic depression), depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Divorce is related to increased depression and anxiety for both boys and girls of all ages. However, boys find parental divorce more emotionally disturbing than girls do, and boys with divorced parents tended to be more depressed than those from two-parent families regardless of the psychological adjustment, level of conflict, or quality of parenting manifested by their parents. Psychological problems are less severe for those whose pre-divorce families were high-conflict families. According to Paul Amato of the Department of Sociology at Pennsylvania State University, child and adult well-being may actually improve after the end of an extremely conflicted marriage.

Research shows through, The Impact of Divorce on Young Children and Adolescents by Carl E Pickhardt, how divorce introduces a massive change into the life of a boy or girl no matter what the age. Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family circumstance in which to live. In the personal history of the boy or girl, parental divorce is a watershed event. Life that follows is significantly changed from how life was before. He says, somewhat different responses to this painful turn of events occur if the boy or girl is still in childhood or has entered adolescence. Basically, divorce tends to intensify the child’s dependence and it tends to accelerate the adolescent’s independence; it often elicits a more regressive response in the child and a more aggressive response in the adolescent. Consider why this variation may be so.

(Pickhardt) states, the child’s world is a dependent one, closely connected to parents who are favored companions, heavily reliant on parental care, with family the major locus of one’s social life. The adolescent world is a more independent one, more separated and distant from parents, more self-sufficient, where friends have become favored companions, and where the major locus of one’s social life now extends outside of family into a larger world of life experience. For the young child, divorce shakes trust in dependency on parents who now behave in an extremely undependable way. They surgically divide the family unit into two different households between which the child must learn to transit back and forth, for a while creating unfamiliarity, instability, and insecurity, never being able to be with one parent without having to be apart from the other.

As in his article, convincing a young child of the permanence of divorce can be hard when his intense longing fantasizes that somehow, some way, mom and dad will be living back together again someday. He relies on wishful thinking to help allay the pain of loss, holding onto hope for a parental reunion much longer than does the adolescent who is quicker to accept the finality of this unwelcome family change. Thus parents who put in a joint presence at special family celebrations and holiday events to recreate family closeness for the child only feed the child’s fantasy and delay his adjustment. The dependent child’s short term reaction to divorce can be an anxious one. So much is different, new, unpredictable, and unknown that life becomes filled with scary questions? “”What is going to happen to next?”” “”Who will take care of me?”” “”If my parents can lose for each other, can they lose love for me?”” “”With one parent moving out, what if I lose the other too?”” Answering such worry questions with worst fears, the child’s response can be regressive.

(Pickhardt) states, the child wants to feel more connected in a family situation where a major disconnection has occurred. Regression to earlier dependency can partly be an effort to elicit parental concern, bringing them close when divorce has pulled each of them further away – the resident parent now busier and more preoccupied, the absent parent simply less available because of being less around. The more independent-minded adolescent tends to deal more aggressively to divorce, often reacting in a mad, rebellious way, more resolved to disregard family discipline and take care of himself since parents have failed to keep commitments to family that were originally made. Where the child may have tried to get parents back, the adolescent may try to get back at parents. Where the child felt grief, the adolescence has a grievance. “”If they can’t be trusted to stay together and take care of the family, then I need to start relying more on myself.”” “”If they can break their marriage and put themselves first, then I can put myself first too.”” “”If they don’t mind hurting me, then I can I don’t mind hurting them.”” Now the adolescent can act aggressively to take control of his life by behaving even more distantly and defiantly, more determined to live his life his way, more dedicated to his self-interest than before. He feels increasingly autonomous in a family situation that feels disconnected. He now feels more impelled and entitled to act on his own.

He influenced that for the parent who divorces with a child, the priority is establishing a sense of family order and predictability. This means observing the three R’s required to restore a child’s trust in security, familiarity, and dependency – Routines, Rituals, and Reassurance.

As study after study has shown divorce does influence children. Doesn’t matter if it is a boy or girl divorce has a massive change on their life. For many children, divorce leaves scars that never heal. Life that follows is significantly changed from how life was before. So much is different, new, unpredictable, and unknown for not just the children but the whole family. How much does a parents’ divorce really effect their children? It truly can take a toll on the kids, but it can also affect the entire family.

Works Cited

National Center for Health Statistics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 Mar. 2017, www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/marriage-divorce.htm.

Morin, Amy, and Steven Gans. The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children. Verywell Family, Verywellfamily, www.verywellfamily.com/psychological-effects-of-divorce-on-kids-4140170.

Harrington, John, and Cheyenne Buckingham. Broken Hearts: A Rundown of the Divorce Capital of Every State. USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 2 Feb. 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/02/02/broken-hearts-rundown-divorce-capital-every-state/1078283001/.

American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/topics/divorce/.

Effects of Divorce on Children’s Health. Effects of Divorce on Children’s Health [Marripedia], marripedia.org/effects_of_divorce_on_children_s_health.

Pickhardt, Carl E. The Impact of Divorce on Young Children and Adolescents. Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 19 Dec. 2011, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201112/the-impact-divorce-young-children-and-adolescents.

Jost, K. and Robinson, M. (2018). Children and Divorce. [online] CQ Researcher by CQ Press. Available at: https://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre1991060700&type=hitlist&num=1 [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].

Kliewer, W., Fearnow, M. D., & Miller, P. A. (1996). Coping socialization in middle childhood: Tests of maternal and paternal influences. Child Development, 67(5), 2339-2357.

https://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1131627

Masci, David. Children and Divorce. CQ Researcher by CQ Press, library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2001011900&type=hitlist&num=0.

Stephens, Karen. Parents Are Powerful Role Models for Children. www.ParentingExchange.com, 2007.

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