Every year, over a million couples in the United States of America, file for divorce. Most of these couples harbor the belief that their actions are in the best interest of their children. While some cases turn out to benefit the children, many other children are negatively affected with their parents’ separation. Studies indicate that children from divorced family experience relationship disturbances with their parents. Furthermore, their perception of romance and intimacy are affected. Evidence show that these children are more prone to teenage pregnancies, cohabitation, marriage dissolution and bearing children out of wedlock, than children from non-divorced families. They may experience emotional disturbances such as depression, low levels of satisfaction with life and antisocial behavior.
Divorce may weaken the relationship between parents and children permanently. It, not only separates couples, from each other, but also from their children. This facilitates relationship decline between the parent and child. After a divorce, parents experience two problems: how to deal with their psychological conflicts, and their role as divorced parents. These problems cause a lot of stress and damages parent to child relationships of many divorced mothers. As a result of divorce, parents experience a lot of worry and stress, factors that make them more overprotective and less caring to their children in their adolescent years. This reduces the level of emotional support the children receive from home. Divorce weakens the mother to child relationship. In addition to reduced emotional support, a decline occurs in the child’s trust to their mother. Research has shown that, during the first year of divorce, children receive less affection and communication from their mothers. The mothers have problems especially with their sons and tend to discipline them more harshly during this period. Divorce reduces the frequency of contact and relationship between a father and his child. In a study, close to fifty percent of interviewed children revealed that they had not seen their fathers for one year, and if they did, it was only for an overnight stay at their fathers’ residence. Reduced contact creates a distant in the relationship between the father and the child. Many divorced fathers have unpleasant relationships with their children. The distant relationships, adds to the conflict created by the divorce and worsens the already bad relationship between the father and the child. The children blame their fathers for the divorce; accuse them of their mother’s suffering, and of neglect. Boys, particularly, respond with more hostility towards their fathers than girls. Girls, on the other hand, experience more problems living with their fathers or stepfathers than boys. As the children grow older, their affection for their fathers fades.
Older children find it difficult to cope with the lifestyle changes that come with divorce. They miss the traditional family celebrations, daily activities, and special moments they once had. Therefore, the children view divorce from a different perspective as their parents. A clinical psychologist, Judith Wallerstein, delivered a research report that showed that only 10% of children felt positive about their parents’ divorce after 15 year period of divorce. Boys and girls react differently to their parents’ separation. Girls feel the need for affection and attention.
They also bear the fear of abandonment and are prone to desire and anxiety. Anxiety is experienced especially when it comes to making decisions about marriage. A study found out that women who grew up from divorced families had low confidence and commitment in relationships. Because boys have few intimacy role models outside their families, a father’s modeling skill is crucial to boys. Men who grew up from divorced families experience more feminine sexual identification and less masculine sexual identification. Moreover, men from such families tend hostile and overprotective towards women they are attracted to, instead of being more affectionate, open and cooperative.
Divorce reduces the ability children have towards conflict resolution. The main cause of divorce is the couple’s inability to resolve their conflicts and reach an agreement. This kind of parental modeling reduces the ability of many children to have stable marriages in their lives. Children from divorced families use violence more frequently to solve their conflict, than their counterparts from intact families. These tendencies are more likely to be carried into their marriages leading to unhappiness and physical assault towards their spouses.
Poor social skills lead to rejection by peers. Adolescents from divorced families are twice more likely to face such rejection. They are more likely to experienced damaged social relations reflected through problems when relating to their peers. A study found that children from divorced families experienced more hostility towards adults, withdrawal, aggression, and anxiety than children from intact families. The dissolution of a marriage makes a child prone to antisocial behavior, depression and withdrawal syndrome. When the divorce occurs at an early age, such behavior is likely to follow the child into adulthood. Marital conflicts that result into a divorce place the social competence of a child at risk. Conflicts associated with divorce are usually accompanied by little affection. As a result, the children feel emotionally insecure.
This may explain why majority of children who engage in theft and fighting, in school, come from broken families. A study reported that the majority of children from divorced families depart from their families earlier than children from intact families. The study identified lack of cohesion and harmony in the family as the reasons behind this occurrence. The unhappiness at home may even cause young adolescents to run away from home.
Divorce changes the attitude of children towards sexual behavior. The approval of cohabitation and divorces increases, while acceptance of marriage and bearing of children declines. They tend to believe that childbearing is not only restricted to married couples and have a high chance of conceiving before marriage. Children from divorced families become sexually active earlier than those from intact families. They are more likely to engage in sexual activity, in their teenage years. A high frequency in sexual intercourse and increased sexual partners are characteristics observed more in children from broken families than from intact families. A study indicated that when fathers left home before their daughters’ fifth birthday, the daughters were more likely to engage in early sexual activity and had a high chance of teenage pregnancy. Early sexual activity in boys puts them at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, males from such families have many sexual partners. Such behavior follow children into adulthood and are carried into marriage. Adults from broken families are more likely to engage in more sexual affairs in their marriage than adults from intact families. In this way, divorce is transmitted from one generation to another.
Young adults from divorced families experience difficulties when it comes to dating and romance. The divorce affects their confidence towards the success of their relationships. A study indicated that parents from divorced families had less satisfaction and trust in romantic relationships. The fear of rejection was identified as the major hindrance to the successes of these families. Furthermore, most of the couples believed that relationships were based on infidelity and were cautious in their approach towards them. Many people who grew up in divorced families had a little belief towards the success of a marriage, and a positive attitude towards divorce. The negative attitude reduces the level of commitment in relationships and marriages. Young males from divorced families are less likely to get involved in relationships than males from intact families. However, these men spend a lot of money in casual dating. Single mothers, raised in broken families tend to harbor negative attitudes towards men as a result of the divorce of their parents. This is the reason why such ladies less likely to get married. They see nothing positive out of marriage and are more likely to expect divorce than their counterparts from intact families. A study indicated that adults who experienced the divorce of their parents had a 38% more chance of divorce than adults raised in intact families. The children from divorced families had a 39% chance of marrying other children from divorced families. This was because they felt they had a lot in common. Another study showed that children who had family structure transition two or more times had a higher chance of divorce in their lives than those who had only one family structure.
The negative effects that divorce has on children are overwhelming. Circumstances may put parents in situations where divorce seems like the only way out. In their approach, they must weigh the effects it will have on their children’s well-being and look for a more appropriate way of solving their conflicts instead of divorce
Chase-Lansdale, P. L., Cherlin, A. J., & Kiernan, K. E. (1995). The Long-Term Effects of Parental Divorce on the Mental Health of Young Adults. Society foe Research for Child Development, 1614-1643.
Churchill, A., & Fagan, P. F. (2012). The Effects of Divorce on Children. MARRI Research.
Durtchi, J. A., Fincham, F. D., & Cui, M. (2010). The effect of parental divorce on young adults’ romantic relationship dissolution: What makes a difference? Journal of the International Association for Relationship Research.