Going through a divorce is a very difficult situation to be in. Usually it is what is happening between the parents, that concerns most people. However hurtful divorce is on the couple that is going through it, the children end up with the greatest amount of problems. These problems that the children develop are not always obvious, and do no always come to the surface right away.
“Most often the children responded to the announcement [of the divorce] with apprehensiveness or anger . . . Several children panicked . . . finally, a great many of the younger children, about one-third of the entire group, didn’t really believe what they had been told. For these youngsters, the single announcement by the parents made it easier for them to pretend that the divorce would soon go away and to postpone their own response to the frightening changes in their lives” (Wallerstein 40-41).
Children often try to stop the divorce of their parents, but there are many who seem to accept it at first. These who seem to accept it may even tell their parents that they are happy about the divorce. This is not necessarily the case, as one would see if he or she spoke with the child for a while. There are many things that divorce does to a family, and there are many things that is does to the child. These effects are rarely positive, or helpful depending upon the family’s prior situation. Divorce has many negative effects on the psychological, and social aspects of a child’s life.
There are many psychological aspects of a child’s life that change when his or her parents go through a divorce. As previously mentioned by the writer, a child may not show initially how he or she feels about the divorce, but the true feelings of that child eventually surface. Joan B. Kelly, in an article for the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says, “children incorporate repertoires of angry, impulsive, and violent behavior into their own behavior as a result of observing their parents’ responses to frustration and rage” (4). This is something that many children that witness the divorce of their parents go through. The child naturally looks to his or her parent or parents for the example of how to handle certain situations and emotions. During a divorce there is much anger and aggression that is expressed by one or both parents of that child. This is not healthy for the child to witness for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that the child sees this example of aggression that his or her parents are setting, and he or she begins to react in the same manner. Anger and aggression tend to become the child’s tools for solving his or her problems. The child becomes like the parents and could cause harm to others because of not knowing or understanding how to control these feelings. He or she may often violently lash out at those around him or her that cause these feelings to occur.
“The severity of fighting has been documented in many studies to have a central role. High-intensity fighting is associated with more insecure attachments and anxiety in infants and toddlers. In older children and adolescents, severity of conflict had the largest and most consistent impact on children’s adjustment, with intense conflict leading to more externalizing (disobedience, aggression, delingquency0 and internalizing (depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem) symptoms in both boys and girls, compared with children experiencing low-intensity conflict” (3).
This leads to the next psychological effect that divorce has on children. Depression is a major effect that divorce has on children. This is not necessarily something that occurs during the divorce, but has major effects on the later life of the child. “A high level of marital conflict experienced during childhood has been linked to more depression and other psychological disorders in young adults, compared with those reporting lower levels of family conflict during childhood” (Kelly 3). Lora Heims Tessman, author of Children of Parting Parents says, “most of the adolescents were overly depressed . . . many had conscious suicidal thoughts . . . a minority showed increased acting out with self-destructive components, but without anxious depression” (327). These are common psychological effects of divorce on children.
There are also many social effects that divorce has on children. The child often feels unconnected to his or her peers. He or she feels “unable to make or maintain friendships and complained about being ‘unconnected’ to [his or her] peers” (Tessman 327). Also contributing to feeling unconnected to their peers is that “in numerous studies over the past three decades, divorced children have been reported to be more aggressive and impulsive and to engage in more antisocial behaviors, compared with matched samples of never-divorced children” (Kelly 6). The divorce that these children experience causes them to act and react in ways that are not considered socially acceptable, and distancing themselves from their peers. “Diagnostically, the adolescents varied greatly, but did share a number of clinical features. The great majority had either lost a previous enjoyment or learning or were, increasingly, cutting and failing classes” (Tessman 327). The children of these divorced families have become so mixed up that they do not know who they are any longer. Things that they once loved or enjoyed, things that they were once interested in no longer matter to them.
Going along with socially unacceptable behaviors Kelly says that, “Divorced children are more likely to use alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana than are never-divorced children . . . [they] are twice as likely to give birth to a child as a teenager compared with never-divorced children” (7). The children that have suffered through the divorce of their parents tend to rebel against society and the law. This is shown through the higher drug, alcohol, and pregnancy rates of children who come from “broken” homes. “In many cases in this group, one of the parent’s presenting complaints about the referred adolescent who was ‘lying,’ ‘playing the truth,’ ‘untrustworthiness,’ ‘deviousness’ etc” (Tessman 327). The reliability of the child’s word comes into question due to the child’s rebellious ways. He or she might sneak thing behind his or her parents’ backs in order to commit the acts that they are choosing to commit.
“Young adults whose parents divorced during childhood, compared with never-divorced children, have more pregnancies outside of marriage, and earlier marriages (a risk factor for later divorce), poorer marital relationships, increased propensity to divorce, and poorer socioeconomic attainment” (8). The divorce itself has impacted the way that young adults view their relationships. They remember how their parents handled situations or they remember the pain of that situation and it carries over into their relationships that they will have throughout their lives.
To conclude, divorce has many negative effects on the children that live through them. “Broken” homes are a tough situation to deal with, that children across the United States of America attempt to handle in very similar ways. Their reactions to the divorce itself are similar in many ways; it affects both the psychological and social aspects of their lives.
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