Last Updated 06 Jul 2020

Impact of Divorce on Children

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The Impact of Divorce on the Family Sociology as defined by Sociology: exploring the architecture of everyday life is the systematic study of human societies (Newman, 2012). By studying human societies we can observe and understand how individuals interact with each other in society and the developing global system, but in order to understand these relationships we must look at society and the world at a different perspective. In turn a sociologist would be a scientist who studies human societies.

A sociologist would be interesting in studying the topic of impact of divorce on children because it directly involves a relationship between two people. By studying divorce through a sociological perspective a sociologist can observe the causes that resulted in the divorce and the sociological implications it has on the nuclear family. Divorce is defined as the legal dissolution of marriage by a court or other competent body (Newman, 2012). The divorce rate in the United States is somewhere between 40-50 percent.

The causes for divorce can vary greatly and can range anywhere from unhappiness with the marriage to extramarital relationships. In the 1950’s to the 1970’s divorce was only fault based meaning one spouse had to prove the other spouse committed a marital offense (Jolivet, 2012). Since the culture in the 1950’s was much different than it is now divorced couples were stigmatized, and their children were also labeled as outcasts from a “broken home”. It was also thought that children from a “broken home” had a higher chance of failing out of school or delinquency since there was an obvious lack of parenting.

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In the 1970’s divorce became more common and legislation changed, therefore, no fault divorce was introduced. Once divorce became more common, society became more accepting and divorce was not viewed as taboo anymore. Instead people now see divorce as another chance to be happy. Children of divorce were now viewed as resilient instead of delinquents (Jolivet, 2012). The change in the way children were viewed comes from being able to cope with the loss of a family or growing up without living with a mom and dad.

The effect of divorce on an individual’s life can be tremendous, it can impact almost everyone the individual interacts with. In an article by Greif and Deal (2012) they explained how friend networks would overlap with marriage and when that couple divorce that network is put at risk. It was found that after 8 months of separation men and women maintained 61% of that network but after 16 months only 50% of that network remained. The individual is important when it comes to observing effects of divorce.

In a study done with 31 divorced women it was found that their physical appearance often changed as they struggled with their identity after divorce (Greif and Deal, 2012). This is most due to the high levels of stress before and after the divorce The impact parent arguing can have on the children could be very dramatic. A survey done by Dr. Robert Gordon that asked 1000 teenagers between the ages of fourteen and eighteen about their opinions on divorce concluded that the children wanted their parents “more than anything” to stay together (Jolivet, 2012).

The survey also looked into children’s opinions’ on parent arguing and found that 50% of children think that parent arguing is “terrible” (Jolivet, 2012). There are different types of parental arguing, which can range from disagreeing, criticizing, screaming and physical confrontation. When children were asked about what arguing meant to them 39% said it involved disagreement, 26% said it was criticizing the other parent, but less than 35% said that arguing involved screaming or physical confrontation.

Further research shows that most married couples agreed to occasionally arguing in front of their children. Dr. Gordon concluded that children are deeply affected by parental arguing and hopes that his research will make couples think twice about arguing or criticizing each other in front of their children (Jolivet, 2012). The social implications of parental arguing on children are mostly negative but in some situations can be positive. When children are exposed to a negative environment it threatens their emotional stability, which can result in depression, anxiety, and aggression.

Although when parental conflicts are solved sensibly children learn constructive ways to settle arguments. Children learn to compromise and use compassion instead of aggressive behavior to solve disagreements. The overwhelming message that children of divorced parents try to convey is that they want more than anything for their parents to stay together. When teenagers were asked about what they would want their parents to know the majority said that it’s “Not easy for all of us” and “they don’t want to be blamed for it” or “caught in the middle” (Jolivet, 2012).

This shows that the impacts of divorce and stress levels are not only felt by the individuals involved in the relationship but are felt almost as equally by the children. Children of divorced parents in present times are seen as resilient and being able to cope with difficult times. In a study done by Dr. Robert Gordon about teenager’s opinions on divorce found: Seeing parents divorced or growing up without mom and dad living together makes our whole view of life different.

We become more independent and strong. Marriage and kids are not such a positive thing anymore/7 Kids also wanted their parents to know that, simply, they can handle the truth of the situation. (Jolivet, 2012) As a result of viewing marriage and kids differently teenagers who come from divorced families are more likely to have trouble with their own marriage. This is because children do not know what caused their parent’s marriage to collapse, therefore, are unable to maintain a successful relationship.

The immediate effects of divorce on children is evident but there are usually no long term effects as they usually fall into the normal range of psychological and social adjustment (Jolivet, 2012). Although, the way the parents handle the divorce is the determining factor for long-term effects on divorce. The number one factor that puts a child at risk for long-term effects of divorce is the intensity and level of parental conflict prior, during, and after the divorce. For example, battles for custody can put high levels of stress on children as they have little control of the legal events and outcomes.

If a child has to suffer through a high- conflict divorce it can double the rate of behavioral and emotional adjustment problems along with many more potential effects. Studies have also examined the effect of divorce on boys and girls as different groups. Data shows that the effect on boys was more immediate and dramatic. Boys were also more vulnerable to aggression and disruption. However, the effect on girls culminated over time and resulted in increased sexual promiscuity, skipping school, and acting out (Jolivet, 2012).

This research concludes that the effect of divorce on children can be predicted by the conditions that existed before the separation. As children go through the stages of divorce with their parents they are observing everything that is going on, these observations could have a negative effect on how these children view marriage and divorce later in life. In a study of divorce done by Dr. Amato and Dr. DeBoer found that divorces were more common in children whose parents divorced than among children whose parents stayed married (Jolivet, 2012).

When parents divorce the child is familiar and used to the subject and is more likely to view it much less benignly than a child who did not grow up with divorce in the household. This results in those children being more open to divorce if they are unhappy with their marriage. Children could also view marriage as an unpredictable relationship and love and commitment can come and go (Jolivet, 2012). Although adult children with divorced parents are more likely to get divorce does not mean they are doomed for an unsuccessful marriage, they just need to work a little bit more to keep their relationship strong and interesting.

Divorce is a difficult topic for many people and can affect almost everybody connected to an individual in the relationship. In a family the individuals who opted for the divorce are obviously greatly affected as well as the children. Divorce can have many negative implications on children including social and behavioral problems as well as problems with their own marriage later in life. Unfortunately, everyone involved feels the negative results of divorce but the degree of that effect can be lowered if certain measures are taken prior to a divorce.

Dr. Lisa Strohschein suggests that instead of focusing on helping children after divorce, paying attention to what happens to the kids leading up to the divorce could lower levels of anti-social behavior (Jolivet, 2012). She also states that parents who help children cope with divorce and shape their attitude toward more positive associations could have a great effect on their mental health (Jolivet, 2012). Even though the negative implications of divorce are very prevalent I believe that they can be reduced to a degree where the effects are minimal.

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