What is the Impact of divorce on children and adolescents?
Initial Reactions of Children to Divorce
1. Divorce is an intensely stressful experience for all children, regardless of age or developmental level; many children are inadequately prepared for the impending divorce by their parents. A study in 1980 found that less than 10% of children had support from adults other than relatives during the acute phase of the divorce.
2. The pain experienced by children at the beginning of a divorce is composed of: a sense of vulnerability as the family disintegrates, a grief reaction to the loss of the intact family.
3. Many children do not realize their parents' marriage is ...view middle of the document...
Children in this developmental stage have an especially difficult time with the concept of the permanence of the divorce.
4. Late latency (ages 8-11): Anger and a feeling of powerlessness are the predominate emotional response in this age group. Like the other developmental stages, these children experience a grief reaction to the loss of their previously intact family there is a greater tendency to label a 'good' parent and a 'bad' parent and these children are very susceptible to attempting to take care of a parent at the expense of their own needs.
5. dolescence (ages 12-18): Adolescents are prone to responding to their parent's divorce with acute depression, suicidal ideation, and sometimes violent acting out episodes. These children tend to focus on the moral issues surrounding divorce and will often judge their parents' decisions and actions.
Many adolescents become anxious and fearful about their own future love and marital relationships. However, this age group has the capability to perceive integrity in the post-divorce relationship of their parents and to show compassion for their parents without neglecting their own needs.
Effects of Divorce on the Parent-Child Relationship
1. Diminished parenting:
In the wake of a divorce, most custodial mothers exhibit varying degrees of disorganization, anger, decreased expectations for appropriate social behavior of their children, and a reduction of the ability of parents to separate the child's needs and actions from those of the adult.
While diminished parenting is usually an expected short-term consequence of divorce; there is a serious potential for these changes to become chronic if a custodial parent does not reconstitute the relationship with the child or becomes involved in a new relationship which overwhelms the relationship with the child.
2. The overburdened child phenomena:
approximately 15% of children interviewed at the 10 year follow-up point in a 15 year study showed significant effects from taking on the role of holding a custodial parent together psychologically.
In a change that goes deeper than a simple reversal of the care-taker role, the child oftentimes becomes responsible for staving off depression and other threats to parent's psychological functioning, at the cost of their own needs.
The Impact of Paternal Involvement on Post-Divorce Children
1. When the divorce rate began to rise exponentially in the 1970s, it was thought that absence of paternal contact was a critical factor in the poor adaptation of some children to divorce. Several studies, including the National Survey of Children, have shown that paternal participation has a negligible effect, if any, on the well being of children (academics, behavioral problems, distress, and delinquency).
However, it is important to note that there are several limiting factors in these studies (low overall level of paternal contact with children) and that the principle conclusion derived should be that increased...