THE PROBLEMS OF DIVORCE Introduction In today’s society, one of the toughest things many parents and children have to face or deal with is divorce. It is usually extremely tough on the parents getting the divorce however many times the children simply get lost in all the mess and are left to cope as best as they can. Eventhough people get divorced for many different reasons; often times the children tend to try and shoulder some of the blame. In this paper I plan to look at a few of the effects divorce has on the parents getting the divorce, plus look at some of the affects it has on the children caught in the middle. In today’s society it is rarely even a shock that people are divorced. It has become as common place as the marriage itself.
Between 50% and 67% of all first time marriages end in divorce (Gottman, 1998). This same report done on divorce rates (Gottman, 1998) also found that for second marriages, the rate is about 10% higher than for the first. The rate of divorce has leveled off some within the past six years, but a large number of families continue to experience it each year (Shaw, Emery, & Tuer, 1993). In fact, approximately 2% of children living in the United States are faced with parental divorce each year (Emery & Forehand, 1994), and, in one sample of children, it was observed that 25% of the children experienced a parental breakup by age 14 (Baydar, 1988). In most all of the newspapers you can look in there and see a list of all the people getting married.
In contrast, you can look across the page and see a list just about as long of people getting divorced. Effects on Parents There have been numerous research studies done on the effects divorce has on the parents. One such report found that many of the spouses of divorce have mental and physical health problems, as well as, increased risk of psychopath-ology, increased wrecks with fatalities, increased physical illness, suicide, violence and homicides (Gottman, 1998). In another related study done on adults, it was found that adults, who had gone through a divorce, usually reported less satisfaction with family and friends and an increase in anxiety. They often felt that bad things more frequently happen to them, and that they found it more difficult to cope with life’s stresses in general (Friedman, 1995). Friedman (1995) also published a recent report based on the Terman longitudinal study of gifted children.
The report stated that survival curves showed that the combination of one’s parents having divorced and one’s own divorce reduced longevity by an average of approximately eight years (Friedman, 1995). In looking at problems for parents associated with divorce, researchers have also begun to look at different avenues that they feel are important in getting good research. For example, they have begun to study loneliness caused by divorce and the effects it has on the parents and even the children. One study in particular suggests that 25% of the U.S. reported feeling intensely lonely in the two-week period following divorce (Rokach, 1997).
They say that the effects of loneliness are evident in its identification as a frequent presenting complaint to telephone hotlines, college psychological clinics, and youth and marriage counseling services (Jones, Rose, & Russell, 1990). Researchers have also begun to study the social importance of loneliness due to the large number of effects it has on emotional, physical, and behavioral problems (Jones et al., 1990). Jones (1990) also found loneliness to be inversely related to measures of self-esteem and has also been found to be largely associated with depression, anxiety, and interpersonal hostility and with substance abuse, suicide, and vulnerability to health problems. Effects on Children In much of the research being done today, it has been found that divorce has a relatively small, but significant impact on multiple areas of child functioning (Forehand, Armistead, & David, 1997). However, one study discovered that a major risk factor in a child’s psychosocial adjustment is parental divorce (Forehand, 1998).
Another particularly good study conducted a meta-analysis of 92 different studies comparing children from divorced families to children from families that were still together. It was found that there were short-term negative effects of divorce in the areas of school achievement, conduct problems, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, and parent-child relations (Amato & Keith, 1991). There was then a second meta-analysis conducted of 37 studies, which found similar results in terms of the long-term impact of divorce (Amato & Keith, 1991). However, the path of research has taken a small turn in recent years. For example, the research is starting to focus more on whether the negative effects that have been found on children existed prior to the divorce or are simply the effects of the divorce (Forehand, Armistead, & David, 1997). The research is also examining two family processes, in order, to better understand the mechanisms that may account for child maladjustment prior to or subsequent to the parents divorce (Forehand, Armistead, & David, 1997).
The two areas they have begun looking at more closely are conflict between parents and disrupted parenting. This change in research has led to two main questions that must be addressed: (1) Do children whose parents get divorced display adjustment problems prior to the divorce, and (2) are conflicts between the parents and disruptive parenting evident prior to the divorce (Forehand, Armistead, & David, 1997). Most of the results to this research have been very mixed. One study found that when compared with children whose parents were still married, children whose parents were divorced were already having behavior problems and poor achievement prior to the divorce (Elliot & Richards, 1991). Other researchers found similar results to this after their own research. However, one study did not find this to be true. It did not find that the child’s adjustment difficulties that traditionally attributed to parental divorce existed prior to divorce (Morrison & Cherlin, 1995 & Shaw et al., 1993). The researchers in this study did not see a reduction in the negative effects of divorce when the child’s pre-divorce characteristics were controlled (Cherlin, 1995).
The second mechanism, which has been identified as, important to child functioning in the context of parental divorce is parenting (Capaldi & Patterson, 1991; Fauber, Forehand, Thomas, & Wierson, 1990; Forehand, Thomas, Wierson, Brody, & Fauber, 1990). There has been only one study done that has compared parenting in families that are together to those that are broken by divorce (Shaw et al., 1993). In this study, it was found that for boys, but not girls, to-be-divorced parents demonstrated less concern and more rejecting behavior than parents who did not divorce in the future (Shaw, 1993). One aspect that has received increased attention in recent years is the study of risk and protective factors for psychosocial adjustment of children and adolescents (Haggerty, Sherrod, Garmazey, & Rutter, 1994). In addition to temperament, gender and factors outside of the family, there has also been an increase in the research of factors within the family such as risk and protection (Forehand, Biggar, & Kotchick, 1998). Along with the studies done on parental divorce and conflicts among parents, there are also studies being done on parental depressive moods, parental physical health problems, and conflictual parent-child/adolescent relationships which were discovered to be related to adolescent psychosocial functioning (Forehand, Biggar, & Kotchick, 1998).
Because of this, it has become increasingly important to study any single disruption in family life regardless of size or type simply because the magnitude of the effect on any one risk factor is relatively small (Amato & Keith; Reid & Crisafulli, 1990). Put more simply, researchers feel that each of these small factors can begin to add up to one big factor. The research has also found that the five family stressors that were selected for study are interrelated and so they usually don’t occur in isolation (Forehand, Long, Brody, Fauber & Slotkin, 1998). Researchers also found that family risk factors interact such that high levels of stress on two factors are associated with more adolescent adjustment difficulty than one would expect based on the additive effects of two family stressors (Forehand, Neighbors, Devine, & Armistead, 1994). Researchers feel, that these studies have suggested a need to study multiple family stressors in order to understand the child within the family context (Armistead et al., 1995).
One method of doing this, found by researchers, is to study the cumulative risk index. The cumulative risk index examines whether or not a relationship exists between a number of family risk factors and youth psychosocial adjustments (Jessor, Bos, Vanderryn, Costa, and Turbin, 1 …