Divorce and the effects it has on children

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I wanted to discuss the increasingly important topic of divorce and it’s impact on children. I have first hand experience regarding this issue. My parents divorced when I was 13 years old (I was the youngest of four boys).  I remember many conflicts that led up to the announcement.  I remember being relieved by their announcement, which is not a good thing. Many married couples looking at divorce tend to focus on themselves and neglect the children in the process. In counseling, there are very few problems that couples cannot work through if they truly are committed to their relationship and to their family’s overall well being. Below are some articles on the impact of divorce on the children.

Dr. Stephen Joseph stated in his article (published February 12, 2013), “Trauma of Divorce and its Effects on Children”,

“As a rule, people who get married don’t expect to get divorced. Sadly, we know that given time a substantial number of people will be unpleasantly surprised. Often the turmoil brews for several years before the decision to divorce is made. A factor, which many take into account, is the well being of their children.  In the past people have often decided to wait until the children are older thinking that a stable family home is important in the early years. Increasingly, however, this advice has been turned on its head with the message that children are better off out of an environment where the parents do not love each other.  I would emphasize that we must not underestimate the effects of divorce on young people.

In a study my colleagues and I conducted some years ago, we surveyed over 400 young people in their early teens. We asked them to answer a checklist of upsetting life-events. Life-threatening events and witnessing attacks were among the most common events. For those who had experienced such events there was a high prevalence of post-traumatic stress. But what surprised us was that parental separation or divorce was also a common event associated with post-traumatic stress. We found that 29% of boys and 39% of girls who reported that their parents had separated or divorced had high levels of post-traumatic stress.

While the results of any one study need to be treated with caution, the bottom line is that we should not underestimate the trauma of divorce on young people. If we love our children then whatever we decide to do has to be done with their welfare at heart. Young people need a sense of belonging, safety and security if they are to develop psychologically, spiritually and relationally. Our task must be to ensure they get their needs met whether the decision is to stay together or get divorced.

In her article, “The Effects Of Divorce On Children.”  Dr. Foulkes-Jamison wrote,“Boys and girls tend to react differently to their parents’ divorce. As a rule, girls tend to become anxious and withdrawn, while boys tend to become more aggressive and disobedient. Girls from divorced families may become sexually active earlier than girls from intact families. Interestingly, boys often adjust better when their mothers remarry, while girls have more difficulty. Children of divorced families tend to have long-term adjustment difficulties when there is ongoing conflict between their parents. Boys, in particular, are likely to display marked behavior problems when this exists. Children’s adjustment is also determined by the amount of conflict the parents had before the divorce.”

*Originally submitted 1/1/2001 and previously published in Gainesville Family Magazine

Conclusion:

If you are currently in a marriage or in a relationship with significant issues, please seek out marriage/relationship counseling immediately. The problems will not go away on their own, many couples end up having children knowing the problems they are facing. This places those children at a disadvantage relative to other children raised in healthy households. Unfortunately we live in a society that will encourage couples to leave or avoid a problem in their marriage rather than understanding it, to quit instead of persevere through it or to pretend to others outside the family that everything is fine. Our society devalues family (i.e.uplifts the individual wants over community goals) or uses other dysfunctional relational arrangements as a substitute for true family structure and stability. This mentality destroys present families and compromises the future relational health of our children.