Divorce and Its Effects on Children

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Divorce in our society has become increasingly common. Fifty percent of all marriages will end in divorce and each year 2 million children are newly introduced to their parents separation, (French). Demographers predict that by the beginning of the next decade the majority of the youngsters under 18 will spend part of their childhood in single-parent families, many created by divorce. During this confusing period of turmoil and high emotional intensity, the child must attempt to understand a complex series of events, to restructure numerous assumptions and expectations about themselves and their world. He or she may be uprooted to a new school, city or neighborhood leaving their familiar social ties behind. They must often assume new household duties, possibly feel the financial loss and most importantly receive less support and nurturing from their parents. These are just a few implications of divorce but demonstrates how it changes the lives of children. Each child is unique, so the short and long term functioning of the children after divorce varies widely. Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) observed and interviewed parents and children three times in five years, and reported an estimate of one third of the children come out of divorce unharmed. Another one third function adequately, but experience difficulties, and the remaining one third have severe upsets in their developmental process. However the authors of the "Family in Transition", approach this finding with caution because the conclusions were made without comparing the children of two parent families. Never the less they do note there are overall trends in the functioning of children after divorce. The areas most often discussed are intellectual performance, juvenile delinquency and aggression, social and emotional well-being and cognition and perception, (A & J Skolnick p. 349). Most research shows that boys are more vulnerable than girls to divorce related stress and recover more slowly. A. and J. Skolnick offer the possibility that living with the opposite sex is more difficult than with the same sex and because the custodial parent is often the mother, boys are exposed to this situation more often. Another perspective is that girls are likely to be just as troubled by divorce as boys are, but demonstrate their feelings in a manner that is more appropriate to their sex role, namely by being anxious, withdrawn or very well behaved, (Kaslow and Schwartz p. 164). In examining the data on the factor of age influencing a child's adjustment to divorce, it seems that older and younger children at the time of separation experience different short term effects, but share commonalities in the long term effects.

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