The rate at which divorce cases are increasing in the 21st century has become alarming not because spouses have finally realized that they are better off alone but because the social settings have made it difficult for the spouses to understand each other and live together as a single unit. These divorce cases have a lot of effects on the social, physical and psychological development of children of all ages including adolescents. This study reviews the impacts of parents’ separation on children and their wellbeing. The paper scope will cover ways in which social, physical and psychological development of children is affected by the accelerated rate of divorce and how to incorporate treatment. This is because it significantly increases the risks of children depicting harmful behavioral patterns such as violence, abuse and aggression among others that put them in danger of social seclusion. The objective of this paper is to describe the effects of divorce on children and encourage healthy marriages.
Divorce cases have increased due to domestic disagreements such as work related issues, infidelity and lack of purpose. These aspects place a heavier weight on the children who have to bear the burdens and negativities of divorce. For those children who are not able to answer for themselves, some of these divorce cases end up placing them under foster care. With limited access to substantial time to both parents, most of these children grow up with no moral direction and psychological breakdown which trickles down to their future relationships (Tarroja et al 2017, p.12). The hardship in their home seems to find its way into their lives especially if they do not get exposed to role models and mentors that shape their relationship lives after divorce.
The immediate negative impact of divorce on children emotional wellbeing is undisputed. Based on meta-analysis research, children affected by divorce display poor emotional and physical outcomes compared to children from functional families. (Quinney & Fout 2004, p.55). With most divorces taking two lines which are hostility and separation, it is unclear which of these two aspects affect children the most. For infants, regression, eating problems and excessive crying are some of the signals that they will give when they notice something is wrong at home. This is due to the change in environment whereby an infant notices that either the father or mother is not present as usual. For toddlers, stress and uncontrolled behaviors such as throwing things can be depicted. In as much as these may be viewed as a form of stubbornness, it is just a child’s way of saying that he or she is aware of the change in condition.
All these divorce issues come with consequences which affect the child’s stability. To begin with, children have to move from one school to another in case one of the parents’ has to move to another place. This brings a new setup in the life of the child in that they have to reorganize their friends circle and environment. Secondly, living with a single-parent has consequences because there are things that a child can only learn from the father which will not be imparted into the child if the father is not around and vice versa. Thirdly, divorce brings about financial struggle in single-parent homes which means that there are some basic needs and luxury which the children were used to but cannot afford due to the change in status (Ballard et al 2014, p.124). In attempting to explain the effects of divorce, key areas such as the child’s psychological wellbeing, physical and social will be consider alongside how these aspects are different in the lives of children with both parents. This is because children from intact homes have been found to do better in life as compared to children from divorced families living with single parents and minimal visit from the other parent.
According to research, over a million children suffer from divorce cases in America. Divorce significantly weakens the family and the relationship between children and parents because the attachment bond is broken. According to Quinney and Fout (2004) attachment between the parent and the child is so strong that it determines a child’s personality and behavior throughout their lifetime (Quinney & Fout 2004, p.57). The pain experienced by children at the beginning of a break up of a family makes them vulnerability to general distress as the family disintegrates. Focusing on the mother, it is very crucial that a child grows near his or her mother because once the mother is removed; the child will begin to detach themselves even from other caregivers no matter how friendly they may be. This makes them to show ambivalent aggression in as much as they long to be cared for at the same time.
Key issues bringing about divorce can be outlined as poor communication between the spouses in that they do not talk about their needs and how to overcome their problems. Secondly, intimacy issues which arises from lack of satisfaction of one partner and built up resentment in the relationship due to a mistake that is considered as unforgivable. Financial strains and feelings of incompatibility can also lead to divorce. Studies done on the divorce effects on the social and psychological development of children designate that the pre-school kids population is the most prone to divorce, but for others, no age difference exist when it comes to divorce (Jeynes 2012, p.40). Children of divorce families were found to have resurgence sadness, some sort of grief coupled with fear and other emotional difficulties, such as aggression and poor educational achievement (Jeynes 2012, p.40). It also becomes hard for the children to adjust to their new life and this can be long term problem. This may lead to children having troubles concentrating at school, during class work which affects their school performance.
Divorce at times diminishes children’s capacity to handle conflict as they have been experiencing family conflicts in most times of their lives. Also these children exhibit behavioral problems as they lack guidance and counseling from their parents. Divorce was also found to have specific impacts which can be termed as gender sensitive. First, aggression as an emotional impact was more common in boys than girls while depression was common among girls than boys. The adolescents often act out and get into troubles in school as a way of easing the pressure at home (Maxwell & Evans 2014, p.5). Additionally, due to the lack of social support in terms of counseling, divorce was found to negatively impact the parent-child relationship in the family (Maxwell & Evans 2014, p.5). Since these destructions weaken the family relationship, it results to destructive conflict management when the children grow to adulthood. Moreover, most of these children will not display behaviors such as cohabiting which is common among college students when they reach that age also the fear of having children will keep them away from healthy relationships because they are afraid to relive their childhood ordeals (Maxwell & Evans 2014, p.28).
Children who have experienced parental divorce have a wide range of emotional reactions including sadness, anger, lower satisfaction, lower self-esteem and lack of confidence. Divorce is also associated with incidences of mental health problems such as depression because of the huge change in their lives as they will have to choose the parents to live with especially when parents separate. Apart from this, withdrawal from friends and family, aggressiveness, and hyperactive behavior are also depicted based on the effect range from mild to severe. Since the distance between both parents is already created, satisfaction from the efforts of either one of them is diminished with increased resurgence of anxiety and anger (Ballard et al 2014, p.135). To salvage whatever is left of these children’s social, psychological and physical wellbeing, it is important to understand their characteristics such as gender and age at which the divorce took place in relation to the family characteristics such as socio-economic status, cultural background, ethnicity and childrearing.
Divorce is always a trying timing for the entire family especially the children. Because of this a lot of caution should be taken while in marriage to prevent occurrence of a divorce. These may include occasionally visiting marriage counselors to improve physical and emotional intimacy between the spouses, talking about your needs which could be a great way to solve any dispute in the family and reconciling if possible. However, in the vent that none of these can happen then parents should provide support to the children by not neglect their needs as they wallow in the end of their marriage (Jeynes 2012, p.42). This can be achieved through cooperation and maintenance of a positive relationship even after divorce between one another which could possibly reduce the overall sense of conflict though sometimes it is impossible to entirely eliminate conflict especially when money is involved. The non-custodial parent should have regular visitation schedules with the children as this could minimize feelings of depression, inadequacy and abandonment.
As explained earlier that divorce can be confusing for the children, it is very important to explain what is happening to the children and be willing to give nonjudgmental answers to the children (Quinney & Fout 2004, p.63). Younger children may not be able to understand clearly the causes and consequence of divorce, but the parents can ensure that the divorce does not negatively influence their relationship with the children. The issue of one parent not being the custodian should not limit childrearing by both parents demonstrating to the children that in as much as the family structure is destroyed there is potential for linkage. Additionally, parents should be sure to provide extra love, support and care for the children at the time of separation.
The affected children should be introduced to programs that could reduce the effects of divorce on them or rather help them to understand and cope with their parent’s decision to live separate lives. Basically, these programs fill the gap that has been created in the lives of the children by giving them role models and people to look up to who have been in the situation that they are in at the moment and come out stronger (Tarroja et al 2017, p.19). These individuals can mentor these children during these programs to ensure that they heal both psychologically, socially and physically. Relationship education can also be incorporated during these programs especially for adolescent children who saw nasty divorces which were characterized with abusive language and conflict. The education programs should be able to show them that there is another side of conflict resolution which does not require all the drama that they had seen.
Environmental modeling can also help the children deal with social breakdown. Logically, cognitive development and moral conformity is important in the life of a child to ensure that they achieve general level of social wellbeing. For traumatized children, moving them out of the neighborhood where all these divorce aspects took place could help heal them especially if they are taken to a neighborhood where people love and would not discriminate them. For instance, if the child had grown fond of a grandparent, it would be feasible to send the child to the grandparents for a little while where they can unwind and forget about every other thing for a moment. On the other hand, it is better for the children to be in the care of someone they know well during this period than with a stranger in foster care who will only make them to retaliate rather than heal (Maxwell & Evans 2014, p.17).
Generally, treatment of children from divorce homes takes a lot of patience and love to make them understand why they are in that position, that it was not their fault and that they have a totally different life to choose rather than the one that they had seen crumble in their homes. Mentors and role models should ensure that these children understand that despite the difficulties of the present, the future can only be shaped by the choices they make.
Parents considering divorce should understand that no matter how old the child is, they need to be reassured that they will always be loved by both parents permanently. In addition to that, children should be allowed to love both parents and spend time with them as they will without being interfered with and intimidated to lean on one side regardless of whose fault or idea it was for the separation to occur in the first place. Mentors and role models are important in the life of a child whose home is going to have a divorce because they will act as counselors and source of hope to the child that things are going to be fine in the end.
The psychological wellbeing of the child is the most affected during divorce. This is because children tend to develop negative behaviors as form of retaliation for what is happening in their lives. Some of these behaviors include recurrent anger, anxiety and fear of being left alone with no one to care. This effect trickles down to their academic performance as they perform poorly because they are having divided attention on what is going to happen next to either their mother, father and or other siblings in case they get separated to live in different homes. The broken bond of attachment makes them to become resentful to a whole lot of things no matter how little they may appear.
I recommend that the social wellbeing of the child is not left out either especially when the child begins to isolate themselves from the society due to fear of intimidation. This makes them to have a low self-esteem about themselves as they focus more on what other people think about them. Additionally, they also avoid getting into relationships when they grow older to avoid a repetition of what happened to their parents to them. Generally, divorce has a lot of negative effects on the child wellbeing doing more harm than good thus parents should be encouraged to work out their differences.
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Ballard, R. H., Rudd, B. N., Applegate, A. G., & Holtzworth-Munroe, A. (2014). Hearing the Voice of the Child in Divorce. Psychology, Law, and the Wellbeing of Children, 121-137. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199934218.003.0008
Maxwell, L. E., & Evans, G. W. (2014). Children and the Physical Environment. Wellbeing, 1-30. doi:10.1002/9781118539415.wbwell065
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