cDivorce in marriages is one of the popular trends that is picking up among couples at a very fast rate and is known to have doubled in a span of less than fifty years, since 1960. It is due to this highly advancing trend that today, family values among children and youth have gone topsy-turvy (Myers, 2000). When a divorce occurs between two people, it is not only the two partners that suffer, but most of all their children, if any. The impact of divorce on children and offspring, male or female is tremendously negative and affects their emotional, spiritual, societal development process, hampering it in more ways than one.
Most of the research shows that the divorce has a damaging effect on the lives of the affected children (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
The impact of divorce on children has been proven to negatively affect not only their academic performance, but most importantly their psychological behavior and attitudes towards the society and people they encounter in their lives (Myers, 2000; Stevenson & Black, 1996). Not only is the child’s/children’s family life and sense of security harmed, but also their future relationships and behaviors with the people they encounter in life after divorce is considerably transformed (Wallerstein et al., 1989, Wallerstein, Lewis & Blakelsee, 2000). The emotional impact of divorce on the delicate psyche of the children is so immense that it leaves an indelible mark in the little minds and hearts, which sometimes stays all their lives and is evident in the insecurity of choosing life partners out of the fear that they may too have to bear the same fate as their parents (Wallerstein et al., 2000).
Children from divorced families have a greater school drop-out rate than those from united families (Myers, 2000). These children face many social problems at school as well in their interactions with society. Distraction and frequent bouts of temper are some of the major effects that divorce is likely to have on these children, and it has also been reported that these children spend hours day-dreaming about the re-unification of their parents (Ayalon and Flasher, 1993). Stevenson and Black (1996), have pointed out that divorce has considerable mental changes in the behavior of the of the affected children due to which they may tend to take advantage of other children and also may be inconsiderate towards their friends and colleagues. Immaturity and impulse in dealing with other children or friends may also be a possible behavioral trait among such children (Stevenson & Black, 1996).
Ayalon and Flasher (1993) have noted that there is a marked difference in the ability of these children to communicate effectively with their tutors and also their peers, following a divorce. Research has also proved that due to the multitude of feelings like sadness, hatred and anger among children who have experienced divorce, there may be higher levels of betrayals and hostility towards their friends and acquaintances or even future life partners (Stuart & Edwin Abt, 1981). It has been further reported that due to the distressing occurrences in their lives, these children may have considerable problems in trusting other people who they encounter in the lives, following the divorce of their parents (Stevenson & Black 1996). Several withdrawal symptoms may be noticeable among such children, reflecting a considerable amount of fear and insecurity in establishing relationships in their future lives (Ayalon & Flasher, 1993).
The behavior of children who have experienced divorce at some point in their lives can depict anti-social traits, among boys in particular (Stevenson & Black, 1996). These children exhibit several negative behaviors in dealing with others including bullying younger kids, thieving, deceitfulness, beating up, harassing other children and even physically assaulting the younger children who may not be able to defend themselves (Franckle, 1983). These activities ultimately segregate them from the society and this results in further loneliness and depression among them. The situation gets further triggered when these young children head towards adolescence and exhibit rebellious traits to the society in general. Some of these adult children may also have trouble in relating to people in authority (Wallerstein et al., 2000).
In a study at the University of Michigan, Children’s Psychiatric Hospital, Kather and Rembar reported that children are significantly affected in their behavior towards other people following a divorce, which is the direct result of several psychological factors such as moodiness, depression and the fear of losing dear ones. These factors result in aggression when dealing with people especially either parents, close relations such as siblings or in some cases even friends and future life partners.
According to an article in Time issue, “Fear of Falling”, female children or daughters were more likely to be negatively affected by divorce of parents. The article states that resulting from the depressions of parental divorce, girl-children ‘lack’ the ability to deal with the love and care of the opposite male counterparts in life, resulting in weak relationships with them.
It has also been noted that divorce in parents results in reduced self-confidence among the affected children due to which, the children are unable to face the world and build substantially fruitful relations which could benefit them emotionally as well as in their growth in life (Parish T., Journal of Social Behaviors and Personality).
In some cases though, children “distance themselves” from their mothers or fathers and tend to develop deeper relationships with their “peers” (Booth A, 2008). He elaborates that the relationship between the children and the parents suffer considerably after a divorce which weakens further as the children adapt to the new settings of their life.
Asserting the same viewpoint, Steinberg and Morris state that the problems that children develop due to the divorce of their parents leave an indelible mark in their lives which directly impact their development causing them to mature faster. Stevenson and Black elucidate this aspect further stating that this early gain of maturity and adulthood in children results in the establishments of early sexual relations and also relationships that are unsteady.
In a study conducted by Richardson and McCabe (2001), it was proved that the societal relationships of children, who faced the trauma of their parents was generally weak. These children displayed very little trust in their friends, partners and colleagues, resulting in shorter spans of communion (Jaquet & Surra, 2001).
Avo (1992), also reiterates the fact that children, especially girls tend to be more active sexually at a relatively younger age following the divorce of parents. The factors range from emotional to societal. Since there is the chance of reduced supervision of the children by either parent, the children tend to develop sexual relationships at a faster pace.
Researchers have also noted that when dating, these children of broken homes do not have an affinity for serious and longlasting relationships, and this makes them more inclined to several relationships of shorter spans but those that do not last. This of course, is an effect of the elevated distrust that these distraught children suffer from (Buchanan, Christy M., 1991).
An important effect of divorce on adolescent girls that Wallerstein & Blakeslee (1989) elucidate is the “sleeper effect”. According to this effect, young teenage girls experience anxiety and depression when their parents divorce each other. As a result of this, these girls have a constant fear concerning the love and commitment in their relationships with their partners. Due to this effect the young girls find it difficult to adjust to the emotional, social and societal needs of their intimate relationships. The results of this effect is more pronounced because due to this, the girls are unable to make appropriate decisions regarding their sexual lives and also their long-term commitment decisions, which have a direct effect on their future relationships. The sleeper effect however does not effect the adolescent boys (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
Thus we see that the effects of divorce on off springs, whether young or grown up, are sever and negative in most cases, and it is the duty of parents to deal with these issues of children so that there is no potential danger to their future relationships.
Ayalon, O., & Flasher, A. (1993). Chain reaction: Children and divorce. PA: Kingsley.
Buchanan, Christy M., October 1991. Caught Between Parents, Adolescents’ Experience in Divorced Homes. Child Development, 72, p 1008-1029.
Franckle, L. B. (1983). Growing up divorced. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Furstenberg, Frank F. (1989). Coming of Age in a Changing family System. At the Threshold. 147-170.
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Jacquet, S.E., Surra, C. A. (2001) Parental Divorce and Premarital Couples: Commitment and Other Relationship Characteristics. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 627-638.
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Parish T., Journal of Social Behaviors and Personality.
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Time Issue, (2001) ‘Fear of Falling’.
Wallerstein, J. S., Lewis, J. M., & Blakeslee, S. (2000).The unexpected legacy of divorce: The 25 year landmark study. New York, NY: Hyperion.
Wallerstein, J. S. & Blakeslee, S. (1989). Second Chances: Men, women, and children, a decade after divorce. Ticknor & Fields, New York.
Wallerstein, J. S. & Corbin, S. B. (1989). Daughters of divorce: Report from a ten-year follow-up. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 59, 593-604.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “Children and Divorce.” 1998. Web.