Children of Divorced Parents
The topic on divorce is popular throughout the world and according to Galston, in United States as the case for the rest of the world; the rate of divorce is estimated to be at 50%. The current national divorce rate has its roots back in the 1970’s when the divorce instances started to increase steeply. It has been estimated that one out of every six adult persons divorces at least two times. In addition, half of the divorce cases are said to involve children of the minor ages. Statistics proximate that 40% of children in the United States will experience parental divorce by the time they attain adulthood at the age of 18. Further estimates indicate that at least half of these children will for a while live in single-parent homes as another one in every three will reside in a step-parent home setting. Divorce results in adverse impacts on the children’s well being as various spheres of their lives are diverted from normal functionalities. The objective of this paper is to discuss in detail some of the most prevalent impacts of divorce upon children during their developmental stages and in their later lives as adults.
Numerous researchers have investigated and continue to investigate on the psychological impacts on children with divorced parents. Studies have shown that children from families that have divorced parents encounter more psychological problems as compared to those children who live in intact families. With regards to this, it is said that male children tend to act out what they are going through in form of the behavior they display where as the female children keep to themselves resulting in situations such as depression. These psychological disturbances involve a cocktail of mental and emotional elements that destabilize children from families of divorced parents.
In a study conducted by Judith Wallerstein, it was revealed that the immediate impacts of divorce on children differ according to age, gender, and developmental stage of the child at the time of parental divorce. While pre-scholars become aggressive, go through regression, develop sleep disturbances and have fantasies about abandonment, children of age 5-8 show grief, long for the parent who has left and fantasizes about replacement. These children also suffer embarrassment, resentment and divided loyalty for their divorced parents. Those of ages 8 to 12 suffer from anxiety; anger and loneliness where as adolescents become depressed, have suicidal thoughts, act out and exhibit anxiety when it comes to having successful relationships in the future. The adolescents may also become over burdened as the pressure for taking up more responsibility descends upon them. They may feel as though they have been suddenly pushed into adulthood because they will have to perform more chores and probably even look after their younger siblings.
According to Portnoy, girls from divorced families have in some instances been recorded as having being more depressed compared to their counterparts from intact family backgrounds. On the other hand, boys from divorced families show high levels of hopelessness and discouragement as compared to boys from married families.
In the long term as these individuals grow into adulthood, they have recorded even higher levels of physical and emotional distress. Physically, they experience poorer physical health when put in comparison to their peers who were brought up in intact families with both parents. Emotionally, they show case fear, heightened anxiety, life-long vulnerability to the encounter of loss, elevated anger, depression, low satisfaction with life and a general reduction of psychological well-being.
Of all the responses exhibited by children who come from parental-divorce households, conduct disorders among other issues such as antisocial behaviors and problems with the authorities prove to be the most harmful. According to Portnoy, these children are two to three times more likely to engage in adolescent delinquent behavior compared to their counterparts who reside in stable intact families. In addition to that, male children are more likely to engage in such deviant behaviors as compared to the female children. According to Wallerstein, children from such backgrounds indulge in drug and alcohol abuse earlier than those children from intact families.
The above problem may arise from the decision to whether place the children under the custody of their mother or their father. In most cases, the mother is the one granted the custody of the children in question. However, it is imperative to note that the gender of the custodial parent is important as there is some evidence showing that children tend to be more problematic when in custody of the parent of the opposite sex. Research has shown that boys brought up by their fathers and girls brought up by their mothers do well in terms of conduct. On the other hand, Conrad Schwartz suggests that those children brought up by opposite sex parents tend to have issues with self-esteem and gender identity.
Conrad Schwarz, a researcher, developed a hypothesis which stated that children who under custody of the same sex as them tend to hold chauvinistic opinions of the opposite sex parent.
When it comes to academic performance, there is a notable difference between children who come from families with divorced parents and those who come from unbroken families with both parents present. First and foremost, children from broken households tend to have lower educational aspirations placed against those from intact families. This consequently leads to lower academic performance as they score lowly in tests and other academic evaluations. Such children have a twice likelihood of repeating a grade in school and five times more chances to either get expelled or suspended compared to children from intact families. Also, they have a higher likelihood of dropping out of school thereby achieving low educational levels and thus fit into low status occupations in their adult years.
Relocation as a result of divorce plays a major role in the children’s performance rates. The change in family structures coupled with relocation result in developmental problems academically. According to reports, residential mobility is responsible for a high number of school drop-outs and incidences of teenage pregnancy in divorce linked families as compared to intact families.
Research has proven that female adolescents from families that have divorced parents have a high likelihood of engaging in early intercourse as compared to their peers who come from unbroken families. It has also been noted that these girls tend to have more sexual partners during their high-school attendance putting them at a high risk of teenage pregnancy or contracting sexually transmitted diseases and infections. As for adolescent boys, research indicated that those who came from households with single mothers as the parents had a higher likelihood of engaging in sexual activities earlier.
It has been asserted that there is a correlation between early menstruation and early sexual intercourse. Adolescent females from divorced families are said to attain menarche earlier and so engage in sexual activities earlier than usual. This has been blamed on the structure of the divorced family that does not allow the opportunity for such families to teach adolescent girls self-regulatory and self-control skills. This situation is contrary to what takes place in intact families which equip such girls with the necessary skills and knowledge that enable them evade sexual irresponsible behavior.
Most custody regulations end up marginalizing fathers from the lives of their children. This however has many negative effects to the children. Seventy percent of children from disintegrated families report having a feeling of closeness with their mothers. Eighty percent of those fro intact families report the same revealing only a 10% difference. With regards to their fathers, 70% of those from intact families gave a positive feedback on closeness while less than a third of those from divorced parents’ families gave positive feedback. Such disparities go a long way in demonstrating how absent fathers are in their children’s’ lives. Adolescents from these families think that their fathers do not care about them and as they progress into adulthood, doubt their father’s love for them.
In line with this, parental divorce has an impact on the children’s future lives in terms of relationships such as friendships and even marriage. Through social learning, children learn of the different phenomenon in their environment through observation. Young adults therefore, may learn about romantic relationships by observing the models of their parents. By their parents engaging in the act of divorce, they can make certain inferences which they may end up applying in their own lives. The attitude of children with divorced parents towards marriage could affect their romantic relationships in future. With divorce being a viable option as portrayed by their parents, children from divorced parents could be influenced into following suit when time comes. They find it difficult not only to form, but also maintain intimate interpersonal relationships. This could be attributed to their loss of trust in relationships as seen from their parents. As a result, they end up marrying less and divorcing more.
In conclusion, while divorce may be inevitable at times, parents should reconsider before opting for it. This is because the ultimate sufferers are the children who grow up having endless issues which may in the future deprive them of the opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures of live without being psychologically and emotionally insecure. In the event that amends cannot be made and thus no means of escaping divorce, parents should take the appropriate steps to ensure a less drastic transition that will mitigate the negative impacts.