Divorce’s Effects On Children Essay

1755 words - 7 pages

The dramatic rise in the rate of divorce in the United States between 1960 and 1980 is well known, and even more so are the high divorce rates over the past twenty years. In 1970, twelve percent of American families with children under age eighteen were headed by single parents, and by 1984, one-fourth of American families and nearly sixty percent of black families were headed by single parents (Demo & Acock, 1988, p. 619). These high divorce rates have resulted in numerous changes in American family life. While predictions vary, the consensus is that most youth will spend some time prior to age eighteen in a single-parent household based on recent social and demographic trends. Individuals with divorced parents are at increased risk of experiencing psychological problems in adulthood (Amato & Sobolewski, 2001, p. 900). Growing up divorced has become an alternative developmental path for a substantial number of children in this country (Kalter, 1987, p. 587). These trends in family composition have major repercussions for the life course of children and their well-being. Studies have shown that adults with divorced parents, when compared with adults with continuously married parents, report to greater unhappiness, less satisfaction with life, a weaker sense of control, more symptoms of anxiety and depression, and a greater use of mental health services. Overall, most children of divorced parents have experienced dramatic declines in their economic circumstances, abandonment by one or both of their parents, the diminished capacity of both parents to attend meaningfully and constructively to their children’s needs, and diminished contact with many familiar or potential sources of psychological support.
Marital dissolution is a process that begins before physical separation and generally continues after the marriage is legally ended. Separation is typically preceded by a period of conflict or mutual disengagement between spouses, and divorce is usually followed by a series of stressful circumstances for children (Amato & Sobolewski, 2001, p. 901). These circumstances can include reduced contact with noncustodial parents, increased tension between children and custodial parents, continuing rancor between parents, a decline in standard living, and an increase in residential mobility. One-fourth to one-third of parents have considerable difficulty trying to work through their anger, disappointment, and loss in order to establish healthy interpersonal relationships with other adults (Lamb, Sternberg, & Thompson, 1997, p. 396). In addition, divorce is most normally followed by the remarriage of one or both parents which brings on a whole new source of stress for many children. Parental remarriage also gives way to a possibility of multiple parental divorces. All of these stressful situations are likely to impact negatively on children’s psychological adjustment; consequently, the high level of distress among adult children who grew up in divorced...

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