Effect of Divorce on Children

The focus of this research proposal is to study the effects of divorce and single parenting on the children. The procedure for acquiring related data includes both qualitative and quantitative methods. The dominant approach will be in the form of case studies and the data will be collected through unstructured interviews and observations.

Standardized measuring scale: Likert Scale will be used for quantitative data to explore the parent-child relationship after divorce. Lastly, there are some suggestions for the families experiencing divorce to make the transition during divorce less traumatic for the children.

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Divorce is a very complex situation. It is not a one-time affair, which is over with the proceedings in the courthouse. Divorce involves a long process including the sequence of events and behaviors, which gradually tears down the positive feelings of one or both the spouses for each other.

In course of time, they are convinced that they cannot carry on with this marital relationship and want to get rid of it.. Not only the divorcing couples but also their children, relatives and people related to them experience an upheaval in every aspect of their lives. Therefore, divorce is often a very painful sequence of events (Matthews, par. 6).

The fights between parents and their incompatibility leave deep negative impressions on the children. They feel dejected and unwanted. This situation can result in their developing a negative attitude towards parents and marriage. The parents’ matrimonial problems develop a sense of deprivation of parental love, feeling of guilt, embarrassment, insecurity and lower self-confidence in children.

They lose concentration in studies and tend to develop negative attitude and behavior such as depression, anxiety, indiscipline, etc. If these effects are not reflected upon seriously, they may influence their personalities through adulthood. The children are shattered and filled with the feelings of anxiety and anger following their parents ‘divorce. Hence, they need proper attention and support to deal with the sense of insecurity they develop after their parents ‘divorce (“Effects of Divorce”, par. 2).

A child’s sensitivity to divorce is determined by his age, gender and history of dealing with the unfavorable situations. The prevailing stressful events affect even the tough child and can develop problems. There are certain factors that may lead the children to maladjustment after the divorce. Some of these factors may be irreversible and may have existed before divorce. These apply huge pressure on children at the time of separation or divorce.

It is apparent that divorce of their parents affects all children. There are some effects that appear immediately after the separation and others occur in a long run. Children of divorcees feel rejected by one of their parents and are unavoidably pressurized by greater responsibilities.

They are devoid of the nurturing relationship of the non-custodial parent(usually the father). The gender of the custodial parent also determines the impact of the divorce on children. Children staying in the custody of the parent of opposite sex show more problems.

According to Amato and Booth (1996), It is observed that children can occasionally pull through rather swiftly following the divorce, but divorce related feelings may come out later in life because of the repressed feelings at a subconscious level. This delayed reaction is the outcome of the denied feelings about the traumatic experiences of childhood.

“Research suggests that problematic parent-child relations associated with divorce persist throughout the life course” (qtd. in Matthews par. 7).

Furstenberg & Teitler (1994) say: “…children from disrupted families are significantly more likely to express discon­tent with their lives as measured by an index of life satisfaction” (qtd. in Matthews par. 7).

The purpose of this paper is to find answers concerning the after effects of divorce on children. It focuses on the consequences of divorce in relation with their social and emotional security, financial condition, education and their academic achievement. The study will also focus on the issue of single parenting and its emotional and psychological effects on children.

Research question: What are the effects of divorce and single parenting on the children?

Review of the Literature

The rates of divorce increased drastically in the United States between the periods 1970 to1977. Although, it did not go up in the following years but it is true that a large number of marriages still end in divorce. During 1970 to 1979, it was thought to be a wise decision to keep the children with one parent instead of living with both the parents amidst clash and abuse. However, there have been research evidences that it is not in favor of the children to continue staying in a family observing conflict and bickering.

Therefore, divorce was considered the best option for keeping the children away from the devastating effects of an unsuccessful marriage. Post- divorce circumstances not only affect a child’s personality during the first few years following the divorce but leaves substantial impacts on their personalities through adulthood. It is a fact that in spite of personal values, values set up by community, or religious teachings divorces take place.

Facts regarding divorces reveal that 2 of 5 children have to go through the experience of their parents’ divorce before reaching the age of 18. It is also assumed that about 25 percent of all children will have to stay in a stepfamily for some time.

Furthermore, it is revealed that a couple’s marriage ends about 7.2 years preceding the divorce. Though the divorce rate has gone down to about 11 percent now as compared to the rates in 1979 but around 1,250,000 divorces still take place in a year in the United States. These divorces involve over 1 million children under age 18 per year(Mathews, 1914).

According to Cherlin (1992), “the results based on 1990 census data assert that 40% of all children can expect to live in a single-parent household because of divorce before the age of 16” (qtd. in Shaw and Ingolds by, n.d., par. 5). With the substantial number of divorces in the US, it is essential to understand the effects of divorce on the capability of children adjusting to their environment and social surroundings (qtd. in Shaw and Ingoldsby, n.d.).

There are many changes noticeable in the relationships of children with their parents after the divorce. These changes occur in relation to both the parents but the childrearing activities of the residential parent(usually mother) are so disturbed in the first few years post-divorce that it is termed as a time of “diminished parenting” by Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) (qtd. in Shaw and Ingoldsby, n.d.).

The residential parent has to face many challenges of single-parent family status. With the disturbances in the homeostatic balances in the family, there is a need to set up a new balance in at least the following important areas:

The loving relationships between the single parent and the children are determined by the parent’s own emotional needs, the outlook of the parent regarding the needs of the children and problems relative to loyalty between them.“ According to Hetherington’s detailed study of mother-custody families, the first year following divorce, mothers are found to be less affectionate with their children, mainly boys” (qtd. in Shaw and Ingoldsby, n.d.).

Haurin (1992) states that their maternal nurturing behavior towards children was improved after 2 years of divorce and at the 6-year follow-up divorced mothers were found to have more arguments with both their sons and daughters than mothers from no divorced families (qtd. in Shaw and Ingoldsby, n.d.).

Hetherington asserted that, in the first year, following divorce the problems of disorganization in the family occur frequently. Reorganization of the family structure the creation a pattern for completing the household task is the prime subject of concern. At the two-year follow-up, these mothers become steadier and can control their children more efficiently.

However, children from divorced families remained less obedient than children from intact families. After 6 years post-divorce, divorced mothers become as nurturant as non- divorced mothers, but are less competent in controlling their sons.

Over a period, long-term disturbances in parenting are probably reconciled by many factors. If she is emotionally sound; has the social and economic support, it becomes easier to cope up with the after effects of divorce. Emery, (1988) & Hetherington (1991) mention that factors such as the number, ages and sex of the children also influence single-parenting (qtd. in Shaw and Ingoldsby, n.d.).

“Based on the results of studies involving 13,000 children, examined by Amato and Keith in 1991,it was indicated that children from divorced families have more difficulty in school, they suffer with more behavior problems and develop negative self-concepts” (qtd. in Hughes, 2009, par. 3).

They face problems with peers, and have difficulty in adjusting with their parents. Amato (2001) investigates that this pattern prevails in the recent researches also. The differences between the divorce families and intact families are caused by certain factors. The risks that contribute to the problems of children from divorce families are indicated by Paul Ameto (1993) and Kelly and Emery (2003) (qtd. in Hughes, 2009, par. 3):

Parental Loss: The children are deprived of the company of one parent following divorce. It results in the deprivation of his knowledge, his skills, and emotional and financial resources related to that parent.
Economic Loss: Children have to face financial scarcities after the divorce, as the sources of income are limited to one parent only. They are not so financially sound as the children from the intact families.
More Life Stress: The after effects of divorce are very challenging for the children. They have to deal with many changes in their living situations. Changing school, childcare, home and making adjustments in their changed relationships are usually followed by divorce. These impose a stressful environment on the children.
Poor Parental Adjustment: The mental health of the parents affects the children in the family. They land up in problems related to maladjustment.
Lack of Parental Competence: Parents efficiency and competence in raising their children helps in their proper development. Even after divorce, the capability of the single parent in bringing them up has a substantial influence on their development.
Exposure to Conflict between Parents: Conflict is an indispensable part of all families. However, it is more common in the families having experienced divorce. The well-being of the children depends on the irexposure to conflict between parents, which they have experienced in their families (qtd. in Hughes, 2009).

Children from divorce families are distressed. They will be upset about their losses. They lose one parent; have to find a new surrounding depending on their financial conditions. Furthermore, they are likely to be away from their friends and sometimes with siblings too. They may face financial tightness. The emotional state of their custodial parent may not be sound. When children look at this new, unsettled world, their sense of security and safety is seems to be at stake (“Helping Children Heal after Divorce”, 2009).

Children with divorced parents tend to be more aggressive and impulsive. They are involved in the antisocial behaviors and do not have a good relationship with their mothers or fathers. Their academic achievements are also very low. Children who experience divorce early in age are more susceptible to the problems related to divorce. It is not necessary that all the disturbances in marriages are harmful. Some children from divorced families are witnessed having greater maturity levels and independence.

With the divorced families being more common in today’s society, the difference between children of intact families and children of divorce has reduced to a great extent. Today, the children of divorce are normal children. Their acclimatization with the family disruptions is based on their age and maturity levels at the time of divorce (Bryner, 2001).

The traumatic events related to divorce followed by a separation or marital disruption leave deep impression on the personality of a child. These impressions are obvious in his behavioral patterns like “anxiety, sadness, anger, aggression, noncompliance, sleep disturbances, and disrupted concentration at school” (Behrman, 1994, par. 6).

This period of perplexed behavior patterns may be for a limited time or may last till adulthood. The level of distress is also different in different children. However, there is a greater risk of psychological disorders like “maladjustment, behavior and social problems, negative self-image, and low academic achievement, for children who experience divorce, as compared with children in continuously intact two-parent families (Behrman, 1994, par. 6).

In spite of the soaring figures of divorce rates in the US in the past decades, it is also being witnessed now that this rate is going down. The reasons behind this dropping down of divorce rates are not obvious. The assumptions relative to the causes of lowering divorce rate may include: the incapability of people to afford marriage; the age factor of baby boomers, which consists of the major proportion of the population; the societal expectation attached to divorce and the financial insecurity involved with divorce.

The changes in a person’s life following divorce cerate many psychological problems like: depression on losing one’s partner, shattered expectations and dreams, and acclimatization to a different lifestyle. The number of children of divorce is so high that it embraces almost fifty-percent of all children population (Corcoran, 1997).

The recent researches involved in the “meta-analysis” of the previous studies on the effects of divorce on children have come up with some different opinion on this subject. It is perceived that, in the previous studies, the negative effects of divorce on children are excessively represented (Corcoran, 1997).

The earlier studies suggest that, following the divorce, children go through depression, have poor academic performance and showed had issues related to discipline and conduct. This is demonstrated in the recent studies that the depressive and undisciplined behavior of the children could be due the marital conflicts prior to divorce.

They experience conflicts, bickering in the family before the divorce occurs, and this affects their post-divorce adjustment. Children may get over with this problem after divorce if they have parents with better communicative skills. There are certain factors that determine children’s psychological reactions to their parents’ divorce (Corcoran, 1997):

how was their relationship with each of their parents prior to divorce,
how intense and long was the parental conflict, and
how capable were the parents’ in paying attention to the needs of children in their divorce.

Based on the earlier studies, it was pointed out that boys have a stronger reaction to the social and educational adjustment problems than girls. Nevertheless, according to the recent evidences, it is revealed that boys and girls suffer in the same way in facing the difficult times.

They may respond to the situation differently. For example, boys are more expressive in revealing their emotions than girls are, and show their anger and frustration and hurt. They may have hard times in school, get involved into fights and trouble in school, have more disagreements with peers and parents (Corcoran, 1997).

On the contrary, girls have a tendency to internalize their anguish. Their distress is symptomatic. Depression, having regular headaches or stomachaches, and change in their eating and sleeping patterns are the symptomatic reactions of their distress (Corcoran, 1997).

Divorce affects the children in limiting their financial aids. They may be devoid of proper nutrition, may not be engaged in extracurricular activities, and may be devoid of fancy and expensive clothing. They may have to surrender their school choices. Divorce may force a parent, staying home and taking care of the children, to go out for work. This may increase their time in childcare and restrict the love and care they were getting from the parent to a limited period.

His constant involvement with both of his parents determines the success of his future relationships. A secured relationship with their parents allows them to develop sense of security and accomplishment in their personal relationships in adulthood. In cases of children in their mother’s custody and father’s involvement in meeting the special financial expenses of the children (like sport, music lessons, or a class trip), the mother’s attitude toward the child’s relationship with father matters a lot (Corcoran, 1997).

Theoretical Paradigm and/or Methodological Plan for Data Collection

This part of the assignment will focus on the steps that are to be taken to complete this research.

This research design will use case study methodology of quantitative and qualitative research. The study would focus on how divorce would influence the behavior and well-being of children by conducting observations and interviews.

Yin (1984, p. 23) states that researcher Robert K. Yin defines the case study research method as “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used” (qtd. in Soy, 1996).

Case study research is one of those research approaches that can take a qualitative or quantitative stance. Case study research is used to describe an entity that forms a single unit such as a person, an organisation or an institution. The nature of a case study research ranges in complexity. It may be simple in an illustrative description of a single event or occurrence.

The study of a social situation over a period of time tends to be more complex and the most complex case study includes the extensive examination of the events involving the same actors over a period of time enabling the analysis to reflect changes and adjustments (Hancock, 1998).

As a research design, the case study claims to offer affluent and in-depth information. It tends to identify how some complex state of affairs come together to generate a particular manifestation by trying to involve as many variables as possible. It is a highly versatile research method and employs any and all methods of data collection from testing to interviewing (Hancock, 1998).

A survey questionnaire including questions regarding the impact of divorce and experiences of divorced parents’ children will be presented. Furthermore, the ability of these children to cope with the after effects of divorce and single parenting would also be analyzed. The basic methodology requires that the data are collected through a survey conducted upon sample children based on a Likert scaling technique. For the survey, 60 families with teenage children will be used as participants (Cherry, 2012, par. 1).

The sample population for this study would include 60 children aging between 12-16 years. While selecting the subjects, it will be observed that they do not have any history of emotional or psychological problems. The families will be

All the selected participants will be observed and questioned through questionnaires and personal diagnostic interviews with reference to the dependent and independent variable (Cherry, 2012, par. 1).

These participants will be given a self-report paper-and-pencil measure. It will test their psychological functioning. They will have to answer the self-report in a large group. The same procedure will be done to the 60 children from intact families not undergoing separation or divorce (Cherry, 2012, par. 1).

The participants will be allowed to complete the given procedures at their convenience. “Only those participants who have clear memories of their parents living together and experiences during the divorce will be instructed to complete the measures related to their parents’ divorce otherwise the purpose of the study would be annulled” (Cherry, 2012, par. 1).

For the purpose of statistical ways and its analysis, the Likert scale method will be used that generates means and standard variations for the responses given (Cherry, 2012, par. 1).

“A Likert Scale is a type of psychometric scale frequently used in psychology questionnaires. It was developed by and named after organizational psychologist Rensis Likert” (Cherry, 2012, par. 1).

The minimum and maximum value can be obtained in a printed form. In Likert scale questions, the coded number directs us to the average answer.

If there is a little deviation of standard, it shows that most observations collect around the mean. Too much variation in the answers would suggest a high standard deviation. Questions drawing same responses would have standard deviation of 0. Henceforth, prior to computing a scale, that represents a series of questions; points would be assigned to each question so that the reverse wording questions will be assigned the opposite number of points than the positively worded questions (Jaarsveld, 2007).

De Vos (2002b:341) explained that the qualitative data will be gathered from the unstructured or semi structured interviews with the children. Interpretation of the data will be done with” word-by-word analysis”(qtd. in Jaarsveld, 2007, p. 5).

The acquired data will be evaluated and would prove beneficial for guiding the divorced parents and their children. These will be helpful for the teachers as well in dealing with the children of divorced parents. The children will be able to develop cognitive strategies to handle the divorce and can take care of their mental well-being.

However, it is important to determine that the cognitive and mental problems exhibited by the children of divorced parents were caused by the divorce only, or the children were lagging behind even prior to the divorce.

Ethical Aspects

There are many ethical standards established for research works that use human as well as animal subjects. Through these standards the confidentiality and dignity of every individual involved in the research is shielded.

The participants will have the assurance of their data that it would be confidential and anonymous as the identification codes and reports will be made to collect data. The participants will get all the information related to the aims of the study, which methods will be used in the study, the results of the study, its good and bad consequences, etc.

Implications for Social Policy or Social Action

The repercussions of people undergoing a divorce are many and these leave the children from such families in a state of flux. They are not able to decide what to do? Whom to trust? How to deal with this state of instability? So, there is a great need to recognize their situation and provide proper assistance for dealing with crises in their lives.

The attempt to recover this loss is done by arranging visitation with the “outside” parent. This may help them to get over with the feeling of loss of that parent. In addition, there would be many changes in the child’s new life such as a change in locality or school, involvement of new caretakers while the custodial parent works longer hours, and a lower standard of living. Proper support and care from the custodial parent can help them in acclimatizing with the new situations.

The results of previous studies on divorce and its effects on children have pointed out that divorce is likely to have short-term or long-term impact on the emotional, social, financial and academic aspects of the children’s lives. There is, however, a suggestion for the parents who do divorce that they should clarify the reasons for their decision to their children and work together to reduce its effects on their children.

Without being critical to each other, they should tell the reality behind their divorce and the need for it. The children need to be kept away from the hurtful events, like infidelity, to lessen the effects of divorce on them. So, parents should avoid playing blame game. They should present a united front in giving an explanation for separation or divorce, and stick to it.

The parents are advised to do some preparation before talking to the children before the actual divorce occurs. Presence of both the spouses at the time of explaining things to the children is required for this reason. It is highly recommended that the spouses need to be courteous to each other in explaining reasons for the marital break-up or divorce.

It is also suggested that parents should be careful in choosing what information is to be given to the children and what not and what information is to be given at what point of time. For example, it is not necessary to provide all details to the younger children but older children may expect more information and they should be provided these with honesty.

They should be prepared in advance for the changes in their living arrangements, school, or activities. Truthfulness, regarding the information to be told to the kids, is very important. Divorce means the loss of a parent, and their familiar life for the children.

Parents can help their children by supporting their feelings and making them comfortable with the changes in their lives. The children should be encouraged to share their feelings with their parents. The feelings of depression, frustration, anxiety, sorrow and dejection about things they had not expected can be dealt with a little patience and compassion. Children cannot express their feelings in certain circumstances.

Encouragement and help can be provided to them by spending more time with them and observing their mood swings. Children, at times, feel hesitant to share their true feelings from parents as do not want to hurt their feelings. Though, parents may have a hard time infixing their problems or making their lives happier, but it is important to be aware of their feelings rather than ignoring them and trying to seek the solutions for their well-being.

Works Cited

Behrman, Richard E. et 1994. “The Future of Children”. The Center for the Future of Children, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Vol. 4. No. 1. 14 April 2012.

Bryner, Charles L. 2001. “Children of Divorce” Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. May-June 2001. Vol. 14 No.3. Web. 14 April 2012.

Cherry, Kendra. 2012. What is a Likert Scale? Web. 14 April 2012.

Corcoran, Kathleen O. 1997. Physical and Emotional Aspects of Divorce. Web. 14 April 2012.

Effects of Divorce 2006. Web. 14 April. 2012.

Hancock, Beverley. 1998.“An Introduction to Qualitative Research”. Trent Focus for Research and Development in Primary Health Care. PDF file. 14 April. 2012.

Helping Children Heal after Divorce. 2009. Web. 14 April 2012.

Hughes Robert. 2009. The Effects of Divorce on Children. Web. 14 April 2012.

Jaarsveld, Anna W. V. 2007. Divorce and Children in Middle Childhood: Parent’s Contribution to Minimise the Impact. Department of Social Work and Criminology. Web. 14 April 2012

Mattthews, Wayne D. 1914, Long-term Effects of Divorce on Children. PDF file. 14 April. 2012.

Shaw, Daniel S. & Ingoldsby, Erin M. n.d. Children of Divorce. Web. 14 April 2012.

Soy, Susan K. 1996. The Case Study as a Research Method. Web. 14 April 2012.

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