My own parents divorced in the scorching summer of 1976, when I was 8 years old. At prep school, I was the only boy in the class with divorced parents. I was deeply ashamed of this fact, and I did my best to keep it a secret. I was so disturbed by my home life that, during this period of my life, the teachers at my school thought I was developing deafness as I would never respond when my name was called – instead, I would be sitting in a kind of oblivious trance (this is what psychologists term a’ dissociative state’, or’ psychologically detaching’ from the pain of reality as a defense mechanism).
Indeed, when I was taken to see a doctor it was confirmed that there was nothing wrong with my ears. Unfortunately, however, my parents did not regard it as necessary to arrange counselling for me, even though I was displaying other worrying signs of emotional problems during this time.
Today, divorce is far more common than it was in the 1970s, and much less stigmatized. However, the potential adverse effects of divorce upon children can still be just as devastating as they have always been. Indeed, such effects can be carried into adult life, and, therefore, be passed on to the next generation.
POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF DIVORCE ON CHILDREN :
– REDUCED EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT : studies have shown that children of divorced parents can have a reduced capacity for learning and perform, on average, worse in maths, spelling and reading than there peers
– POVERTY : divorce results in a large drop in household income and, in the USA, 50% of children from divorced families are placed into poverty as a consequence.
– SUBSTANCE ABUSE : children of divorced parents are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, particularly in order to try to cope with the emotional pain of conflict and rejection.
– CRIME : children of divorced parents are more likely to become involved with crime. For example, a study by Robert Sampson, from the University of Chicago, showed that the divorce rate of specific areas was predictive of the number of robberies carried out
– RELATIONSHIPS – divorce can weaken the relationship between the parents and the child. It can also lead to the child developing destructive ways of handling conflict which can persist into adult life. Indeed, children of divorced parents are more likely to divorce their own partners in adult life. Furthermore, children of divorced parents show less desire to have children themselves when they become adults.
Children of divorced parents also often find in later life that their own capacity to have deep and trusting relationships has been reduced. Also, if, as adults, they do decide to have children, they will often struggle to create a positive and healthy environment for their families to live in.
– NEGLECT : children of divorced parents are twice as likely to suffer neglect. Studies have shown that divorced mothers tend to be less able to provide their children with emotional support and divorced fathers are less likely to have a close relationship with their children.
A LIST OF OTHER POTENTIAL EFFECTS :
the child of divorced parents may :
– become prone to rage and anger
– become anxious/fearful
– become depressed
– feel rejected
– experience a sense of conflicting loyalties
– feel extremely lonely
– find that their confidence and self-esteem has been damaged
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).