The Effects of Unconventional Guardians on the Behavior of Adolescents
We live in a society in which the unconventional or non-traditional family has become more or less the social norm. More and more households are divided or consist of blended families, single parents, gay and lesbian couples, etc., and it can have a major effect on the behavior of youth of today. A predominant factor in all of this is the incidence of divorce. Two people get married too early and decide to have children, then the marriage doesn’t work out for various reasons, and the children are forced to take on a new lifestyle, which can be extremely shocking and potentially traumatizing to them. This can lead to a variety of different behavior problems in adolescents. For example, in situations in which an adolescent feels like the parent isn’t emotionally available to him or her, the adolescent is much more likely to express aggressive or delinquent behavior because the adolescent feels like he or she has to internalize his or her issues (Van der Graaff, Branje, De Wied, & Meeus, 2012). The more parents are caught up in their personal lives (for example, divorce), the less likely that those parents will be emotionally available to their child. In contrast, many people claim that gay and lesbian couples are unfit to raise children; however studies show that said children are equally advantaged academically, socially, and emotionally as their peers (Amato, 2012). Both sides of the spectrum are important to address because many adults don’t recognize the long-term effects of a marriage. Some people talk down about gay marriage being detrimental to the health of children, and yet a leading factor in adolescent delinquents rests in divorce, which predominantly exists in heterosexual marriages.
For any child, parental divorce can be an extremely traumatic event. In young, egocentric preschoolers, they might view parental conflict and eventual divorce as something of their own fault. This stress can lead to adolescent depression in the future (Amato & Cheadle, 2008). In addition to the potential depression, a child watching open parental conflict, especially in violence or substance abuse situations, is much more susceptible to expressing those traits later on in life as well through social learning. In contrast, causes of divorce such as substance abuse, violence, and other mental health disorders (Breslau, Miller, Jin, Sampson, Alonso, Andrade, Bromet, de Girolamo, Demyttenaere, Fayyad, Fukao, Ga˘ la˘on, Gureje, He, Hinkov, Hu, Kovess-Masfety, Matschinger, Medina-Mora, Ormel, Posada-Villa, Sagar, Scott, & Kessler, 2011) can be inherited from the parent, causing the child to still express those traits, but through genetics rather than social learning. In this situation, neither cause of behavioral problems consists of the divorce itself, rather parents who express those traits first. Too often children and parents alike blame the situation (the separation,...