Family is considered a significant unit of any community. When it is broken, the effects are tough on parents, friends and mostly importantly, the children. As Stewart-Clarke and Cornelia explain, “it is hard to imagine a more difficult transition for a child than to be a party to his or her parent’s divorce” (106).
When going through a divorce, most parents are concerned about the children and how it will affect them as they grow up. Worries over whether the children will grow up happy and healthy are common among divorcees. It is not until recently that psychologists and sociologists began to provide reliable information about how children are affected when their parents divorce. The effects spread across their emotional, social and academic lives.
Divorce affects children in different ways. The effects are dependent on different factors such as age, gender and support accorded to them. The first negative effect is that parent-child bond is broken. Depending with age, a separation with one of the parents will affect children differently.
As Douglas explains, “infants may not understand conflict, but may react to changes in parents’ energy level and mood by losing appetite, having upset stomach and spitting up more” (1). Preschool children may deny that any changes took place, or may suffer depression and become uncooperative.
School-aged children may suffer grief when the child-parent bond is broken. Adolescents may suffer anger and loneliness when one parent is no longer there, and may feel pushed to adulthood too early, especially if they have to take up a responsibility to take care of younger siblings. They may also doubt their ability to have a stable family in future.
Divorce affects children’s academic lives negatively. Psychologists have argued that the effects are more detrimental for elementary children. While the older children may be old enough to understand the pain they are going through, and ask for help or find positive ways of dealing with it, it is not so with elementary school children.
Since they are not old enough to understand their pain, they are not able to control or deal with it. A majority of these children will experience resentment and grief, a reaction which makes it impossible for them to be actively involved in their school work. Depending with the amount of help accorded to them, even older children will have a problem focusing and performing well in class.
Divorce further affects children’s social life and the way they handle relationships. According to Douglas, “researchers are now finding that boys raised by fathers and girls raised by mothers may do better than children raised by the parent of opposite sex” (1).
The same author explains that children in a family setting seem to be less aggressive and are able to have healthy relationships from an early age. They have fewer emotional problems and tend to be more responsible. They are more open with their problems since they have had people they can trust all their lives. Children from divorced parents may live with a feeling of rejection and may have trust issues.
In conclusion, divorce is harmful to children. As Stewart-Clarke and Cornelia warn, the effects are so immense such that “even through attempts at reconciliation through family counseling, the children still suffer” (106). In the midst of all the reactions and feelings, many children blame themselves for the mess. If they are not supported to deal with the above mentioned effects, most of them may grow up in shame and guilt, a reaction which results in low self esteem and prolonged anger.
Although children want the security offered by an adult, the anger may result in them acting aggressively or disobediently. Quoting Douglas, “adults, friends and family members can provide emotional warmth, reassurance and comfort to children and minimize the effects, as well as help them deal with those which they are already going through” (3).
Douglas, Emily. The Effects of Divorce on Children, 2006. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.
Stewart-Clarke, Alison and Cornelia Brenatano. Divorce: Causes and Consequences. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2007. Print.