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How Does Divorce Affect Children? Essay

How divorce can affect children and teens while growing up in today’s society.

Most of the information is gathered from parents and their observations of their children, but parents who have had marital problems may have an altered psychological well being and therefore affect the results negatively. (Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) Children from divorced families are on “average” somewhat worse off than children who have lived in intact families. These children have more difficulty in school, more behavior problems, more negative self-concepts, more problems with peers, and more trouble getting along with their parents. (The Effects of Divorce on Children, Robert Hughes Jr.)

It is likely that children of divorced parents experience more difficulty in school than those with intact families, but this information is difficult to gather as students’ marks are so personal. Most commonly, children had trouble in five categories, behavioural problems, parental loss, emotional and psychological problems, economic difficulties and future relationship difficulties.

The literature that was selected were summaries or direct results of studies conducted on children with divorced parents. This review is divided into five sub-categories of observed trends. The literature that is included is mainly that which is written by Americans about children in the United States. Canadian studies are much harder to find online as most websites are American-based.

Behavioural Problems

Parental divorce was the strongest predictor of children’s behavioral problems. They were reported to have various behavioral and emotional problems, aggressive behavior, withdrawal, and social problems. Children of divorce were almost 12 times more likely to present behavioral problems than those from intact families. (Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Xianchen Liu) On a measure of behavioral problems, Hetherington (1993) reports that 90% of adolescent boys and girls in intact families were within the normal range on problems and 10% had serious problems that would generally require some type of help. The percentages for divorced families were 74% of the boys and 66% of the girls in the normal range and 26% of the boys and 34% of the girls were in the problematic range.

MOST children in divorced families do not need help, but MORE children in this group than in intact families are likely to need help (The Effects of Divorce on Children, Robert Hughes Jr.) Among teenage and adult populations of females, parental divorce has been associated with precocious sexual activity and greater delinquent-like behavior. Adolescent girls who had experienced parental divorce when they were younger than six or between six and nine years old reported becoming involved with alcohol or drugs in proportions higher than did girls from intact families. (How Divorce Affects Children, Mitchell Miller)

Parental Loss

Having supportive adults is very beneficial for children. With this loss, children also lose the knowledge, skills and resources (emotional, financial, etc.) of that parent. In terms of which children are better off, the findings suggest that children between 5 and 12 years of age may do the best and children younger and older may have more difficulties. Another implication of the parental loss hypothesis is that frequency of contact with non-custodial parent should be associated with children’s well being. (The Effects of Divorce on Children, Robert Hughes Jr.)

Emotional and Psychological Problems

Divorce often results in many changes in children’s living situations such as changing schools, child care, homes, etc. Children often also have to make adjustments to changes in relationships with friends and extended family members. These changes create a more stressful environment for children. There is also evidence that indicates that children whose parents divorce more than once are worse off than children whose only experience one parental divorce. (The Effects of Divorce on Children, Robert Hughes Jr.) One of the biggest fears for children is change. With added stress to a child’s life, it can have a negative effect on their emotional stability. Children fear that if they have lost one parent, they may lose the other. They may blame themselves, feel unlovable, or unsafe.

(Focus on Kids: The Effects of Divorce on Children, Karen DeBord, Ph.D.) Parental divorce had adverse and pervasive impacts on children’s mental health across a variety of outcomes. Females often have lower self-esteems as a result. (Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Xianchen Liu)

Economic Difficulties

Due to limited economic resources, children in single-parent families may have more difficulties. It is very well documented that single parent families headed by mothers have less income than most two-parent families and there is a common belief that many of the difficulties experienced by children are the result of the economic difficulties experienced in these families. It might also be expected that since fathers typically have more economic resources and because getting remarried usually results in higher incomes, children in these families would be better off, but they are not automatically healthier. (The Effects of Divorce on Children, Robert Hughes Jr.)

Money, or lack of it, becomes a problem. Child support payments and financial assistance place a monetary strain on one or both parents, which directly affects the children. (Children & Divorce: The Effects of Divorce on Children, Divorce Source) There were significant differences of family income between divorced and intact families, which has been reported to be associated with both divorce and children’s behavioral problems. (Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Xianchen Liu)

Future Relationship Difficulties

Studies show that ten years after their parents’ divorce, 30% of the children cope successfully in life, while 40% have mixed successes with relationships, and personal problems. The remaining 30% continue to struggle with significant relationship and personal problems. Some children remain angry with their parents or reject the departing parent. Some remain sad over the divorce and long for the absent parent or hold unreal idealized memories of their lives before the divorce. Others feel “needy” with an increased concern for loyalty, security, and commitment in relationships. (Divorce and its Effects of Children, Barbara Cyr) Females often have difficulty establishing gratifying, lasting adult heterosexual relationships. (How Divorce Affects Children, Mitchell Miller)

The information contained in The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry by Xianchen Liu, is quite extensive and gives an incredible amount of statistics of divorced children and families living in China. This information can be applied to western civilization as well because of the great influence it has on eastern countries. The article entitled The Effects of Divorce on Children by Robert Hughes Jr. is insightful as it gives specific summaries on many factors that contribute to negative effects on children of divorce and excellent references.

All information sources seemed to present similar findings and none were found to contradict each other or give incorrect information. Because there has been such extensive research done on the topic of divorce, many researchers have drawn the same conclusions and acquired accurate statistics.

More and more families are having marital problems resulting in divorce and this leads children to often require outside help in adjusting and continuing life in healthy household. At times, family counselors, therapists and social workers are required to assist families and especially children to cope through these difficult times. With the help of these individuals, it is possible that children will grow up more capable of developing their own healthy relationships in the long run.

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