Divorce harms! That is undisputed, to what extent and to what degree is the question we have set out to examine? The research that has been carried out, has been critiqued for biased ness in sampling and later interpretation of data. Most researchers have determined that children of divorce have difficulty forming relationship of their own, are more likely to divorce themselves, are more prone to depression, become less religious and have reduced educational and financial attainment. In short the overall effect is proclaimed to be negative. There are most positive aspects out of divorce especially when there is no alternative option? We will examine these issues in detail and also see what sort of option does parents in conflict have and with what implications.
The sanctity of marriage as an institution may be open to question as increasing number of children are either being reared by single parent, or being forced with a single parent because of non marital childhood. Children may have an unquestioned right to parental support, be it emotional, psychological or financial – children of separated parents still have these needs and separation creates an indeterminable void that may sustain beyond childhood. Judith (1994) believes that women and men have fundamentally different behaviors vis-à-vis marriage child bearing and care of children. Women normally take care of children; take responsibility for them, in spite or despite their existent or future relationships. Men on the other hand, Judith believes, have usually relationship with children of partners they are cohabiting with – this relationship may shear off with partner dissolution. This removal of paternal link may have severe emotional consequences for younger children. The quantum and magnitude of effects has been questioned by various researchers citing lack of evidence or partiality of evidence, yet the negativity of effects has been acknowledged (Judith, 1994).
There is an increased tendency (almost twice with children from intact marriages) to drop out from school amongst single parent’s children. Children from broken up homes are shuttled between two entities for custodial rights – those living with their mother are disadvantaged in terms of access to material resources, however research shows that girls living their mother are better adjusted socially than boys living with their mother, further children living with their mother may have reduced financial resources, as family income has been cut and generally women earn less than men. Although happiness does not require money, yet without money – adequate food and living space happiness is again difficult to come by. Although child support payments are mandated by law, these payments are not consistent and adequate and as time pass these payments decrease even further.
Conflict between parents affects children both directly and indirectly, as parents may be preoccupied with their own problems and later after the separation, the single parent may be too traumatized to offer solace to the child. There is also evidence that conflict that predates divorce may have negative bearing on children from the earlier time and may continue after the separation. Children’s emotional security is thus affected both prior to divorce and afterwards when out of selfish love each partner exaggerates interest in child welfare augmenting the strain on poor child.
The major sources of disagreements amongst the two partners before divorce are money and child handling ways and these issues persist after the break – exacerbated by discordant partners who already could not agree to a single view. This conflict often leads to disengagement from each other and leaving the poor child’s future in a vacuum. Growing children are caught midway between parents who can’t take sides without feeling guilty and end up blaming themselves for inability to manage parents’ disagreements (Judith, 1994).
Boys and girls tend to behave differently in post divorce single parent scenario. Boys are more disturbed when father leaves than daughters while daughters similarly experience distress with addition of a stepfather, as this addition may be perceived as pseudo loss of mother in terms of attention and time. Again stepfather addition may surmount to sexual tension for girls in the pubescent step daughter step father relationship (Stephanie et al, 1996).
Joan (1998) states that children from broken homes are more likely to suffer from delinquency, drop out of school, use drugs and drink heavily – however sometimes divorce may be the best way out and best solution for children. Divorce effects ripple into all facets of life from education to emotional health. Increasing number of divorce rates are compounding these problems, as divorce rates climb to 50% of the newly married. Society is still providing tacit approval of divorce which entails increasing detrimental effects on the partners and their off springs. The evidence is unmistakable, children of divorce are abused and neglected, these children have problem focusing and concentrating on studies, and finally these children show increased crime adoption and suicidal tendencies.
These children are more likely to divorce as they become adults and marry. Interestingly the odds against marriage succeeding become even higher if both parents are offspring of divorced parents (Scott, 2002). These children start seeing divorce as an acceptable solution, even if they have children of their own.
When divorce may not be so bad or actually good?
At times parents may stay together, ostentatiously for their children, however the conflict and stress may be so great that children end up being victimized and may be hounded by memories of their parents shouting and bickering at each other. In situations that are irretrievable clean break may be advised and for these partners divorce may be the only solution and accost children with the new fact of life and allow children to deal with things as they are not what they might want them to be (Joan, 1998).
Divorce experience may be different for different persons E. Mavis says that at least 20% of the divorced women emerged from the relationship, liberated and developed latent abilities that would not have been possible in restrictive or unhappy marriage. Many of these women went back to college, began to work and developed a successful career and essentially became responsible citizens. Many of these women had satisfying and happy second marriages. This was especially true when they moved from an already disengaged partnership or from bullying or acrimonious husband that had weakened their self esteem (E. Mavis, 2002). Similarly some girls do emerge from their parent’s divorce more responsible having learnt from divorce experience how to handle stress in their own lives.
Sometimes children are denied the safe environment they deserve, they are sexually and physically abused and professional help hasn’t worked or parent doesn’t acknowledge the problem’s gravity – divorce may be the answer. Children living in homes with domestic violence may suffer long lasting psychological problems, then for child and spouse’s own safety divorce may be the right course of action. Similarly for spouse addicted to drugs and alcohol and who is unwilling to go for professional help separation may be necessary for both spouse and children sake. Divorce is bad for partners and for children but at times it may be better than living in violent, abusive and unhealthy environment. (Gregory, Maybe you should get a divorce)
Trauma and Religion
Joan quotes Robert Simpson, professor of Sociology, at University of Chicago who has determined that divorce rates in a community strongly correlated and predicted robbery rate in that community – he came to this result after studying 171 cities with more than 100,000 people. Further divorced parents’ children have a higher chance of being abused and even remarriage fails to stem the levels of abuse. Besides abuse emotional suffering and trauma of separation may cause long lasting psychological damage in many children – there is also an increased chance of child neglect when parents have split also giving rise to feeling of unwonted. An ancillary affect is weakened relationship between child and his/her separated parents. Scott (2002) quoting Wallerstein says that children from divorce end up having strong negative feeling about their father if he has stopped providing financial support for education and other financial emotional needs. It is common for children from split families to end up blaming themselves for their parents divorce and have a poor self image. Thus these children’s psychological stability is undermined and the effects sustain beyond into children’s adulthood and child’s capacity to live a family life is severely affected, they might have difficulty in forming profound and long lasting relationships. These children may experience sex earlier than on average, have more teenage pregnancies, have distrust for long term relationships and are generally afraid of having children, “Parents not only divorce each other, they in effect divorce or partially divorce their children”, (Patrick, Robert, 2000).
Relationship between surviving parent and child is not as deep after the split as before as the parent is often unable to commit same deep level of emotional; support to his/her child, also the child inherits inability to handle conflict which becomes a hindrance in later life. Children of separated parents may suffer from feelings of inadequacy and rejection which may hamper their judgmental skills with regards to giving and accepting love and intimacy. Religion is considered not only a solace and support but also provides faith in higher being, broken families have reduced religious interaction, even to the point of stopping practice of faith or outright rejection of divine interference. Scott (2002) says that children from divorce are 2 to 2.7 times more likely to reject faith and shun religion than children from parents of married parents.
This reduction of faith also removes another pillar of support during times of distress and makes these children more susceptible to higher levels of stress. Belief in divine intervention often helps to shuttle the problems of to divine and having faith and belief and a solution will occur. Faith has also been found to indoctrinate general level of well being and happiness – there is a strong correlation between crime rate and level of faith and worship and further strongly religious persons are less likely to indulge in drugs and alcohol, even better health is a factor of more religious tendencies.
Children from divorced parents, according to Bernardo, and who are in touch with both of their parents are caught in a void between two separate sets of beliefs and values leading to an inner conflict or war of the worlds, at times these children may be ambivalent at times traveling in extreme poles but rarely do the two parents belief sets are congruent. During marriage there might have been compromises and harmonization of differences but post separation the two discrete individuals who have stopped reaching out retreat into their own shells and diverge from each other values and beliefs. The poor child who is in contact with both of them has a strikingly difficult job of making sense of two ways of thinking, living and believing. This compulsive conflict may lead these children to impaired thinking, decision making and finding their own identity – they become confused. Hence the child is at a loss whether the divorce is acrimonious, then he/she is struck with discord and inner strife. If the divorce is amicable then child is laden with addled thinking as above (Bernardo, 2006).
We have seen that divorce is draining emotionally, psychologically and financially for children and for the single mothers. Children have emotional scars from the tragedy which they will most probably carry over to their next generation. We also saw children from divorce dropping out of school, blaming themselves having suicidal tendencies and turning away from religion.
A positive aspect out of divorce may be when separation acts as a release from a binding dysfunctional relationship, when children were abused, when partner was belligerent, bullying alcoholic and drug addict. We have also seen that rather than been living in a regular bickering conflict ridden relationship it is better to separate. In the end one thing is for certain – divorce is on the whole bad for the parents and harms children who are the hardest hit.