Divorce is the separation of a couple of the legal break of a marriage before the death of one of the spouses as opposed to annulment, which is a declaration of marriage as void. The rate of divorce has increased in modern society in all parts of the world. This is an emerging trend in many marriages and is jeopardizing the institution of the family, which is the basic institution. According to Wyne P. 2007, many breaking couples see divorce as their own affair, but contrary, it has so many effects not only on the children but also on the extended family and friends.
Divorce has emerged as a major challenge in many parts of the world. According to the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of consumer finance, only 42% of children aged between 14 and 18 years living in their ‘first family.’ It also stresses that 1 million children suffer due to divorced families every year in America, and half of the children born each year will be their parent’s divorce before they are 18 years of age. Almost half of all marriages in America end up in divorce. A survey carried out by divorce magarzine.com found out that 22.8% of divorce cases were due to infidelity, 21.6% due to communication problems, 18.2% due to incompatibility, and 16.2% due to physical or emotional abuse.
It’s also worrying that the trend in divorce has been sanctioned by the legal structures put up by many governments in the world and the church which should be fighting the vice seems to have recoiled. Legalizing divorce has been fought on all possible platforms by women and men alike as a human right, seemingly an avenue to free women from their oppressive male counterparts. Some countries in the world, like Malta, still impose a ban on divorce and recognize marriage as a life companionship.
Effects of divorce on children
Few people have thought about the increasing number of children who are victims of divorce. No one seems to care about the devastating effects it has on children ranging from physical, emotional, and financial effects. No wonder children from divorced families have been found to perform poorly at school and are victims of abuse.
However, children have not affected the same way by divorce. The effect depends to a larger extent on the strength of the relationship between the child and the parent. A child who is used to not seeing the parent around may be less affected by divorce than a child who is used to love, affection, and close attention from the parents. According to Wyne P. 2007, there are many reasons why children are affected by divorce.
Many children suffer because they fear change. They see that divorce is going to bring a lot of change in their daily routine. They fear losing the security and education they are used to have. The most devastating effect on children is when they have to move to another residential area and lose their friends at home and at school. This, however, depends on the understanding of the child. They fear losing the attachment they have with their parents.
Children also fear being abandoned. Many of them have perfect examples in their mind of children they have seen suffering either on the street or on plights highlighted by the media. They see themselves heading towards that direction since their parent will divorce and leave them on their own
Children also have difficulties coping with the tension that exists between the parents. Communication breakdown creates tension in the family as children are used as mediators between the two. Often, parental stress and anger are directed to the children since they are the ones around most of the time and are subject to parental authority.
The age and the gender of the child also determine how they are affected. Generally, children will show similar signs like aggression, defiance, depression, and withdrawal. However, Debord K. (1997) explored the effects of divorce on children based on age and gender as follows.
The age of a child is the major determinant of the effect. There is less effect on children aged less than two years and similar to those up to 3 years. This age group is more affected if they had a close relationship with both parents. Infants do not directly react to parental divorce, but they may react to reduced parental energy and mood changes due to stress by exhibiting loss in appetite coupled with stomach upsets.
Pre-school children aged 3 – 5 years mostly suffer in silence as they seem to think they have caused parental divorce by failing to do their duties since when they fail one of the parents, the other is reprimanded, especially the mothers, and they are rarely reprimanded. They exhibit baby-like behaviors like crying or wetting their beds and also for fear of being left alone. They become uncooperative, depressed, and aggressive, and are disobedient and angry.
School-aged children understand what is going on and are in pain. It is more difficult for elementary school children than for old ones. They exhibit resentment, look embarrassed and show divided loyalty. Some may complain of headaches or stomach aches.
Adolescents express anger and loneliness. They are depressed and feel guilt. They exhibit fear since most of them take up the responsibility of caring for the family as a response to parental stress. They take responsibility for some chores previously performed by the parent of their sex who leaves the family. Most of them, when interviewed, expressed doubts about successful marriages in their own life, and some even never marry. They understand the cause of divorce, and some will side with one of the parents due to pressure.
The gender of the child also affects. It has been shown that boys raised by their fathers or girls raised by their mothers do better than those raised by both parents. Schoolboys raised by their fathers show less aggression, fewer emotional problems, while girls raised by mothers are more responsible and mature than those raised by both parents.
Helping children cope with divorce
It is appropriate for both parents to be involved in helping the children cope with the situation. They should realize that they are still parents and should act like parents. They should discipline the children as before and protect them. They should discuss with the children in order to strengthen their relationship and maintain their trust. Parents should respect one another and minimize conflicts between themselves. Although have a separate living arrangement is always seen as the final blow to a marriage, it is healthier, more so when the ground for separation was on physical or emotional abuse. The more responsible parent should be given custody of the children, but both parents should have unlimited access to spend time with them.
- Debord, K. (1997): Focus on kids: Effects of divorce on children. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Services.
- Divorce Magazine Poll Results. DivorceMagazine.com.
- Parker, W. (2007): Effects of divorce on children and appropriate strategies to help them. Web.
- Pector, E. (2005). Journal of heritage foundation: Effects of divorce on America.