In today’s society there are many children that are affected by their parents getting a divorce or even separating for a long period of time. Children between the ages of 3-5 years old, will often time begin to regress against parental split. Parents often time notice that their child retreats to a milestone already passed. The child may begin to sucking their thumb even after they have moved on from thumb sucking. The child can begin to suffer from separation anxiety all over again. The child’s sleep routine may begin to change also, which can be associated with grief. Young children don’t understand that you and your partner didn’t get along, that an affair occurred or that differences were irreconcilable. Divorcing can literally make 3 – 5 year old feel unsafe and insecure.
In this paper I will discuss the negative effects of divorce on children who are under the age of eighteen. According to Daniel (2012), children at the ages of 6 – 8, began to enter into the grieving process when their parent’s divorce. Custody arrangements many come into play and the child may be placed with one parent and the other parent has to leave. The child will sometime grieve over the other parent leaving. Kids will also think creatively and try to make up ways to get you and your partner back together, not willing to understand that the situation is a permanent one. In this paper, I will discuss the many things that children may go through when their parents become divorce.
How does divorce effect children?
When two people are not happy anymore being married, they often times turn to divorce. When the family has children who are under the age of eighteen, begin to see that the family is being divided into two families and they may not understand what is going on. Divorce can affect children in different ways. The effects of divorce can cause the child to suffer from abandonment from the other parent, stress, and they start having behavioral problems at home and in school. According to Kelly, and Emery (2003), states “the effect of divorce on children is being given utmost importance due to rising rates of divorce in US and now also in India.” At least 3 out 5 individuals that are marries have experienced parental divorce before the age of 18. According to a recent research, suicide has been the worst effect for children who have parents that are going through divorce. According to Amato (2001), the process of divorce can bring about many changes in a child/children’s life, such as which the child will live with after the divorce, and the changes in their emotions and behavior with each parent.
Divorce can also have an effect on the development in early childhood. In recent years, research has shown that divorce can have an increase in the negative outcomes of the child when they get older, but the child does adjust well to divorce in the end. According to a census done in 2000, the divorce or separation of parent has increased by 28% in households with children under the age of 6 (Fields & Casper, 2001). Children of divorced or separated parents often times have problems with developing social and cognitive abilities once they start preschool and they are very dependent on their parents, based on older children of divorced parents. According to Fields and Casper (2001), preschool-age children are most likely to feel that it’s their fault that their parents are getting a divorce. The child then may begin to like their being abandoned and they also fell more separation than older children. However, there has been a small amount of attention given to the developmental outcomes associated with parental divorce for these younger children.
According to Daniel (2012), states that “research suggests that frequent transitions between homes may be difficult for young children, the benefits of contact with the nonresident parent may outweigh the difficulties that children experience with frequent transitions in the long run.” There has been further research that needs to be done in order to clarify the long-term effects of contact with the nonresident parent on children. If the child does not see the parent that lives away from the home can have a negative or positive effect on the child. With the separation the child is likely to on one parent most often then the out of home parent. According to Smith and Gollop (2001), studies have found that no direct relationship between the child and father can have a negative outcome for the parent-child relationship. The research did find that with no contact from the father resulted in the child having issued with developing friendships with age appropriate children. With pre-divorce, the involvement of the father predicted the child and father having a better relationship suggest that the family characteristics also have a negative effect on the child. When families go through divorce, it is important that family relationship is important for young children to understand what is going on.
When parents become divorce, there are changes in the finances for one or both the parents, mostly the mother. The emotional state of each parent can also change how one feels about the other (Amato, 2000). Young children are more dependent on their parents than are older children, it is especially important to consider how the process of divorce changes the family context. According Daniel (2012), recent studies have suggested that divorce affects not only the child but it can take a toll on the whole family. The studies have suggested that mothers of children under the age of eighteen found that the parent marital status does not predict how the child may react to their parents getting a divorce. The study also states that, “family variables like, income, the parents education, depression, and parent ability were associated with the child’s development and outcome as they got older.” Other studies have shown that preschoolers of divorced parents demonstrated that the relationship between the child and parent had a direct impact on the development of the child (Smith and Gollop (2001).
Young children don’t have a good understanding of divorce, but the effect can result in some stressful events, that may occur when the parents have already decided to get divorce. The development of the child can be influenced by their cognitive processing of events. The preschooler often thinks that the divorce is their fault and has difficulty in understanding why their parents are getting a divorce. According to Kelly and Emery (2003), researchers suggested that preschool children are most likely than older children to have that feeling of responsibility for causing their parents to separate or divorce. The older child is likely to feel that one of the parents is responsible for the divorce. Younger children between the ages of 2-3 years of age don’t have awareness as to what their parents are going through and what they are preparing to do. Children at this age begin to demonstrate problems with emotional distress.
The child between the ages of ages 4-5 often times demonstrate awareness of what’s going on between their parents and began focusing on how to sort out their parents problems. According to Johnston and Campbell (1988), suggest that preschool children of diverse group of a high-conflict family, where older children have a better understanding as why their parent are getting a divorce and what are the problems that the parents are fighting about. Families of divorcing parents with children under the age of eighteen, often times are faced with income. Researchers have found that the income of divorcing parents is much lower than the income of individuals who are still married (Dunn, Davies, O’Connor, and Sturgess, 2001). Income can have a major effect on how the parent with the child lives and adjustment of providing for their family on their own. Other studies have shown that the education of the parent can also have a negative effect on how the parent and child live; this may affect the individual’s income a whole lot. Conflicting issues between parents can have a negative outcome for the child/children of divorcing parents. Communication between both the parents can have a negative effect on the child under the age of eighteen.
The child may have problems with communicating with the parent that no longer resides in the home. If the parent had great communication skills before the divorce tends to not have a negative effect on the relationship the child has with the parent that no longer live in the home. The parent also suggests that their communications skill is good between then and the parent that live outside of the home. If the parent never establishes communication skills with each other, this can cause a hostile environment for the child who is in the middle of the disagreement. Children of parents who have less conflict have less behavior problems. With conflict and communication problems, children of divorce parents often suffer from attachment disorganization when spending the night with their fathers (Solomon and George, 1999). Studies have shown that interparental conflict can provide a more prevalent outlook on how conflict can affect the children of divorce parents. Finally, social support from other family members can be good for the parent and child when they are going through divorce.
During divorce parental stress can have a negative effect on the child and their behavior. With the help of social support, this can help the parent and the child deal with the stress of divorce. Support from the extended family has a positive effect on how the child deals with the stress of their parents divorcing. Positive influences from family members can also help with the child have better social and cognitive skills. When parents are getting divorce it can have a negative impact on how the child under the age of eighteen develops their moral skills.
Divorce can affect children in so many ways, that divorce can leave the child with the inability to develop social and cognitive skills, which allow them to develop friendship and relationships as they get older. Divorce can have a negative effect on children, where divorce can cause the child to lose all interest in school, friends, and other relevant situations. Divorce can cause the child to act out in school and not want to communicate with others. But with positive social support around the child, the child can begin to live a normal life and begin to move on past the negativity of their parents’ divorce.
Amato, P. R. (1993). Children’s adjustment to divorce: Theories, hypotheses, and empirical Support. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55; 23-38. Amato, P. R. (2001). Children and divorce in the 1990s: An update of the Amato and Keith (1991) meta-analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 15; 355-370. Daniel, S. (2012). How does divorce affect children? The Guardian. www.webmd.com Dunn, J., Davies, L. C., O’Connor, T. G., & Sturgess, W. (2001). Family lives and friendships: The perspectives of children in step-, single-parent, and nonstep families. Journal of Family Psychology, 15; 272-287.
Fields, J., & Casper, L. M. (2001). America’s families and living arrangements: March 2000. Current population reports, P20-537. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Kelly, J. B., & Emery, R. E. (2003). Children’s adjustment following divorce: Risk and Resiliency perspectives. Family Relations, 52; 352-362. Smith, A & Gollop, M (2001). “What children think separating parents should know?” New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 61 (9); 235-248.