The current paper dwells on the problems that may arise throughout the process of divorce. The researcher also discusses the consequences of divorce and compares the outcomes for boys and girls. The notion of divorce is aligned against certain contextual factors and delinquent behaviour. The researcher also conducted a survey in order to investigate the influence of divorce and answer a number of critical questions related to child resilience and post-divorce transition. After reviewing the results of the study, the researcher came up with several recommendations regarding before- and post-divorce activities. At the end of the paper, the researcher reached verdicts concerning the hypotheses of the study and summarised the findings of the survey.
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The question of the importance of divorce is pivotal for both parents and their children. Regardless, Fine and Harvey (2013) believe that it is a rather common situation when researchers misinterpret their findings regarding the influence of divorce on children. This may end up in improper guidance coming from the experts and consequent conflicts within the family. It is critical to emphasise that parents should promote the well-being of their children no matter what (Fine & Harvey, 2013).
Unfortunately, divorce critically impacts parental outlooks on children’s well-being, and certain changes may transpire in children’s lives because of that (Amato, 2010). The good thing is the majority of parents that are either breaking up or splitting make sure that their decision does not affect their children in a big way. By approaching this issue resiliently, parents exercise flexibility in their children (Amato, 2010).
It is rather important to take into consideration that flexibility of the parents, on the other hand, plays an important role in the process of guiding their children through the complexities of divorce (Gottman, 2014). The fact is, children should be “trained” both on emotional and practical levels in order to cope with the adverse influence of a fragmented family.
The current study is going to dwell on the key issues that are inherent in divorce and how the latter affects children. The researcher reviews this issue from a number of perspectives so as to gain as much knowledge as possible and make reasonable conclusions at the end of the paper. This topic is pivotal for the reason that the occurrence of divorces grows uncontrollably and it is vital to find ways to minimise the impact of this adverse event on children’s mental state and attitude towards intimate relationships and wedding.
This topic was chosen because the researcher is keen on identifying the weakest spots in parent-child relationships and finding ways to improve the situation. The importance of this study can also be explained by the systematisation of the existing knowledge with the intention of processing the obtained data and comparing it to the results of the survey that is conducted within the framework of the current research. In terms of the impact of divorce on children, the researcher aims to study their relationships with parents, school performance, self-image, and other concomitant factors.
Hypotheses of the Study
- The adverse outcomes of divorce influence both boys and girls.
- The occurrence of delinquency is directly dependent on divorce and parental genes.
- There are certain factors that can mediate the negative impact of divorce.
- Divorce is the most powerful negative influence among other contextual factors.
In their research, Whitton, Rhoades, Stanley, and Markman (2008) evaluated the effects of intergenerational dependency on divorce. They found that the children of nondivorced parents had more positive outlooks toward marriage and intimate relationships than the children of divorced parents. Whitton et al. (2008) showed that the children of divorced parents were not so optimistic and did not believe that a healthy and lifelong marriage.
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The researchers also supposed that the adults that were the children of divorced parents tend to have less commitment to their intimate relationships and marriages. These adults also were found to be unsure of their ability to maintain a marriage at all. Nonetheless, Whitton et al. (2008) claimed that the supposition mentioned above cannot be tested. Instead, they have focused on the evaluation of relationship confidence and commitment.
They took a sample of individuals whose parents divorced during their younger years and asked them to dwell on the premises and outcomes of interparental conflicts that took place in their families. Whitton et al. (2008) showed that parental divorce had more impact on women’s attitude toward commitment and marriage. The latter had a lower level of relationship confidence, and the adverse impact of all the factors mentioned above was supported by the adjustments that can be made in premarital relationships.
The ultimate findings of the study showed that the risk of divorce is rather high among the sample of females whose parents divorced prior to their own marriage. It was stated that women had a lower commitment to their intimate relationships, and the major part of the sample did not believe that the future of their marriages is going to be optimistic.
In their research, Mustonen, Huurre, Kiviruusu, Haukkala, and Aro (2011) investigated the connotations between the quality of intimate relationships in adulthood and preceding parental divorce. They also reviewed the concomitant psychosocial resources and connected them to the study. The resources mentioned above included child-parent relationships during teenage years and self-image during middle age.
The results of Mustonen et al.’s (2011) study showed that both male and female interviewees from divorced families were more exposed to the risk of being divorced or separated during their middle age years than their counterparts from nondivorced families. The findings of the study also showed that the quality of intimate relationships was lower only among female interviewees. The researchers identified that women from divorced families had a worse self-image and were not satisfied with their social support. One of the premises was their poor relationships with the parents during their teenage years.
On the other hand, men were found not to be affected by any of the factors listed above. It is also interesting that Mustonen et al. (2011) found that mother-daughter relationships successfully served as a mediating factor and helped to mitigate the adverse influence of parental divorce. The researchers also expanded on that topic and concluded that daughter-mother relationships are inextricably linked to the concepts of self-image and overall contentment in terms of social support.
To sum it up, Mustonen et al. (2011) identified that parental divorce bears a negative connotation for the majority of daughters and not sons. Therefore, it is vital to preserve positive mother-daughter relationships after the divorce so as to maintain an acceptable level of relationship quality and successfully develop the necessary psychosocial resources.
Another important point of reference was investigated by Burt, Barnes, McGue, and Iacono (2008) as they were interested in evaluating the relationship between teen delinquency and parental divorce. They claimed that irrespective of all the previous suppositions regarding the environmental nature of delinquent behaviour, the core issue may also lie in genetic mediation. The researchers claimed that one of the probable reasons of delinquent behaviours in teens might be the identical pathology inherent in the genes of their parents. Nonetheless, Burt et al. (2008) mentioned that this is only relevant for the children of divorced parents (even though this kind of pathology is transmissible at all times and the fact of divorce merely increases the risk of distressing this pathology).
So as to investigate the issue, the researchers took a sample consisting of both biological and adoptive families and took into consideration the timing of divorce. One of Burt et al.’s (2008) pivotal suppositions consisted in the fact that the association between delinquent behaviour and interparental relationships was positive even in the cases when the divorce took place before the child’s birth. Moreover, the researchers found that it was safe to say that the environmental nature of delinquent behaviour was shadowed by the children’s exposure to the outcomes of divorce (even adoption did not have to do anything with it). Burt et al. (2008) concluded that the above statement was correct and were able to reach a verdict that teen delinquency is majorly dependent on the effects of divorce and not the common genes of divorced parents.
Markman, Rhoades, Stanley, Ragan, and Whitton (2010) investigated the communication problems that may lead to distress and consequent divorce. In order to do that, they surveyed a sample of couples that were married for not more than five years at the time of the survey. The researchers wanted to assess the quality of premarital communication and associate it with either positive or negative marriage outcomes.
Markman et al. (2010) found that the self-reported negative communication was one of the key premises to divorce, while observed communication was not so significant. The researchers were also able to identify that both negative (self-reported and observed) types of communication ultimately led to a decreased occurrence of marital adjustment. At the same time, observed positive communication was not found to affect relationships in any way. Markman et al.’s (2010) study was keen on answering the question of whether positive or negative communication affected the quality of marriage during the first five years after nuptials.
If there were any changes, the researchers wanted to process them and find the associations that could explain the probable impact of communication on intimate interpersonal relationships (for instance, a couple being nondistressed or distressed after the first five years of marriage). Markman et al. (2010) were able to extend the knowledge on the subject and perform an in-depth analysis of the transformations in communication that could lead to changes in marriage or distress the latter.
The researchers identified that nondistressed couples had more chances to adjust their relationships and communicate effectively than their distressed counterparts. The decline in the distressed sample was trivial and did not show any constructive association in terms of positive communication. The results of the study allowed Markman et al. (2010) to conclude that negative emotions were handled better by the nondistressed couples.
In her research, Lansford (2009) addressed the issues of child adjustment and parental divorce. She conducted an extensive literature review so as to assess the relationship between the two issues mentioned above and collect the evidence regarding the impact of divorce on children. Some of the aspects that she took into consideration included externalising behaviours, academic accomplishments, and social interaction.
Lansford (2009) found that internalising and externalising behaviours are more common for the children whose parents have divorced. She also highlighted their low school performance and problematic social relationships with the peers. Irrespective of the adverse outcomes of parental divorce, the impact of the latter on the children is not of a long-term nature. The author of the study pointed out that not all experiences inherent in both children of divorced and nondivorced parents have adverse connotation.
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The trajectories of child adjustment that were discussed within the framework of Lansford’s (2009) research were found to be rather common among children in general. Moreover, the researcher was able to identify that the impact that was thought of as the influence of divorce was really an amalgamation of certain contextual factors. According to Lansford (2009), these factors could transpire both before and after the divorce.
- Do you believe that divorce impacts both boys and girls in the same way?
- Is there a possibility for children to adjust when parents are breaking up?
- Are the children of nondivorced parents more successful in life?
- Do you think that the children of divorced parents are insecure and have low self-esteem?
- Is there any connection between parent-child relationships and divorce?
- Can the negative consequences of divorce be mitigated?
- Does divorce only impact children in a bad way?
- Do you believe that divorce triggers behavioural and psychological problems in the children of divorced parents?
- Can the splitting parents do anything to increase the resilience of their child(ren)?
- Do you think that there is a way to manage the stress of divorce (both parents and children included)?
The survey was based on a questionnaire to assess the children’s feelings and behaviour during the divorce period. It contained ten entries which were close-ended questions. Only some included personal answers. The sample consisted of 43 children, 21 boys and 22 girls, thus gender distribution was equal. The research was focused on teenagers who experienced parents’ divorce earlier in their lives since adolescents already can evaluate their emotions and personal changes. The participants were from 12 to 16 years old with average age of 13.5.
Most of them were from 8 to 10 at the time of the divorce (42%), thus they remember their feelings well. 25% were 6-7 years old, 16% were 11-12, and 17% were 5 and younger. The majority reported living with mothers after the divorce (85% compared to 8% living with fathers and 7% who had to stay with grandparents).
The feelings that children remember are better seen on the diagram.
Thus, sadness, loneliness and frustration were observed by the majority of respondents. The feeling of guilt was reported by 25 of 43 participants. Those children who admitted feeling indifferent or happy also reported frequent cases of domestic violence.
A positive tendency is observed in communication with both parents after divorce.
Most of participants reported that their lifestyle changed greatly after the divorce (63%). At the same time, 72% remember the negative changes in their behaviour and 51% conclude that their character was influenced by parents divorced. As for gender distribution, 15 girls mentioned they became more vulnerable and sensitive and 4 reported becoming stronger. As for boys, most of them (18) said they became stronger, 13 also became more reserved, and only two mentioned the increased sensitivity and vulnerability.
The support appeared important for children. 18% remember support from parents, 43% said they were encouraged by grandparents, and 20% found support in friends. Their major worries were if parents still love them (87%), and if they see parents again (46%).
- How old were you when your parents divorced? _________
- Whom do you live with after the divorce?
- Other (please specify) _______________________
- How did you feel at that time? You can choose more than one answer.
- your answer _______________.
- Was there anyone to support you during that period?
- If yes, please specify _______________________
- Did your lifestyle change after parents’ divorce?
- Yes, absolutely.
- Yes, slightly.
- No, nothing changed.
- Do you communicate with both of your parents after the divorce?
- Yes, regularly.
- Yes, but not often.
- Yes, but the parent I live with does not know about it.
- No, my father/mother does not allow me to communicate.
- No, I do not want to do it.
- No, he/she does not want to communicate.
- Were there the cases of violence in the family?
- Yes, often.
- Yes, sometimes.
- No, never.
- Did your behaviour change during the divorce period?
- Yes, negatively.
- Yes, positively.
- No, it did not change.
- Please remember your major worries during that period.
- Did the parents stop loving me?
- Where will I live?
- Will I see father/mother again?
- How will we make our living?
- Do you think that parents’ divorce changed your character?
- No, I do not think so.
- Yes, I became more vulnerable and sensitive.
- Yes, I became stronger.
- Yes, I became more reserved.
The first recommendation revolves around the notion of resilience. Divorced parents should be able to build effective (and positive) relationships with their children and each other so as to train resilience and protect their kids from the negative influence of divorce. Even though managing a child’s grief is almost impossible, parents have to show signs of resilience themselves in order to preserve positive relationships. The researcher is sure, though, that it will be hard to evade certain emotional and behavioural problems because they are not contingent on resilience, especially among teenagers.
The second recommendation is to keep positive relationships with both parents. On the other hand, the parents themselves have to find ways to discuss divorce peacefully and not argue in front of their children because it is the most common cause of post-divorce child misbehaviour and delinquent conduct when they grow older in the future. Moreover, the effects of divorce can be mitigated if the children rest reassured that their parents’ divorce is not their fault.
The problem is that the majority of children believe that divorce happens because of them and may become overwhelmed with stress and anxiety issues. Therefore, joint custody may become one of the most effective solutions.
Expanding on the topic of joint custody, it can be the only option for the parents who want to save their positive relationships with their children. The manifestation of love and other positive feelings will help children to adjust faster and preserve their self-image. Moreover, the child will be exposed to consistency and expectations will meet reality. Joint custody is beneficial in terms of eliciting certain problem-solving skills in children.
What is even more important, children will learn to resolve the transpiring issues in a peaceful way because they had a healthy example right in front of them. Accordingly, parents will be able to help their children to go through the process of transition. Within the framework of divorce, an accurate transition guidance is pivotal because the child’s unstable psyche may cause emotional or behavioural distresses and initiate irreversible processes in the child’s mind and body.
To put it mildly, children will always be exposed to the stressful nature of divorce. The majority of children do not believe that their parents can split up and completely break up with each other. Nonetheless, sometimes divorce can be considered by parents as one of the possible solutions, especially if they are involved in certain conflicts that do not have to affect their children. Moreover, the researcher identified that parent-child relationships would be stressful.
On a bigger scale, one of the parents may be ignored by the child, and rather serious conflicts may arise. Sometimes, divorce may even cause economic problems for both parents in the present and their children in the future. Therefore, the findings of the study suggest that the majority of children are hardly coping with the outcomes of divorce. The process of transition cannot be easily mitigated because of the distressed mental state of the parents and other contextual factors.
It was also found that the parents who were good at managing their children’s stress helped the latter a lot to adjust to the situation. Another important discovery consists in the fact that numerous psychological and behavioural problems may arise. This happens because of the increased risk of occurrence of these issues among the children of divorced parents. Children will most probably become disobedient. Therefore, it is safe to say that delinquency is somewhat connected to divorce as well.
According to the results of the research, school performance also goes down. Children of divorced parents may become insecure or start suffering from depression. Another possible outcome (it is not specified if this is a positive or negative outcome) is that these children may also become excessively authoritative and start caring for their parents more than the latter care for them.
Another important finding is that the majority of children of divorced parents develop not only behavioural but emotional problems as well. Nonetheless, the researcher stresses the importance of resilience which is present in the majority of these children.
The key upside to resilience is that children that possess this quality are able to function exactly as if their parents were not divorced. Yet, the problem consists in the fact that even resilient children suffer from painful recalls and constant fears regarding their parents’ divorce, parent-child relationships, and parent-parent relationships. One of the most important findings is that discomfort caused by divorce is not a pathology. The majority of the children who went through their parents’ breakup were still able to become normally functioning members of the society owing to their resilience.
Amato, P. R. (2010). Research on divorce: Continuing trends and new developments. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(3), 650-666. Web.
Burt, S., Barnes, A. R., McGue, M., & Iacono, W. G. (2008). Parental divorce and adolescent delinquency: Ruling out the impact of common genes. Developmental Psychology, 44(6), 1668-1677. Web.
Fine, M. A., & Harvey, J. H. (2013). Handbook of divorce and relationship dissolution. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Gottman, J. M. (2014). What predicts divorce? The relationship between marital processes and marital outcomes. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Lansford, J. E. (2009). Parental divorce and children’s adjustment. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(2), 140-152. Web.
Markman, H. J., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Ragan, E. P., & Whitton, S. W. (2010). The premarital communication roots of marital distress and divorce: The first five years of marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 289-298. Web.
Mustonen, U., Huurre, T., Kiviruusu, O., Haukkala, A., & Aro, H. (2011). Long-term impact of parental divorce on intimate relationship quality in adulthood and the mediating role of psychosocial resources. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(4), 615-619. Web.
Whitton, S. W., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2008). Effects of parental divorce on marital commitment and confidence. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(5), 789-793. Web.