The Negative Effect of Divorce on Children

Introduction

Divorce causes mental anguish which contributes to psychological issues for both parties and their children. Depression is a common result of divorce, a condition that initiates a variety of other health concerns. The more contentious the relationship and consequential separation, the worse for all concerned but the children may be most negatively affected.

The potentially traumatic event of divorce and the years of distress that follow occur during their developmental years and could potentially cause psychological trauma that affects their lives for many years to come.

Stressful experience

Divorce defines the termination of marriage but it also terminates the family unit. It is a death of sorts for all involved and grieving is a natural part of the human process following divorce. Children are likely to be surprised when their parents announce they are divorcing more so than the marital partners who have ‘seen this coming for a long time. Therefore, the perception for children more closely resembles the shock of actual death.

Divorce causes anxiety, grief, and depression for much of the same reasons and degree as does death. “Loss of a loved one or a marriage can cause depression, and depression is a part of grieving. Grief is an inevitable, universal experience” (“Depression”, 2004).

Divorce is a stressful experience for all concerned and the more contentious the divorce, the more intense and enduring the levels of stress. It is well known throughout the medical community and in the general public as well that high amounts of stress induce a somewhat proportionate rise in blood pressure which causes irreparable damage to health if allowed to persist. Stress also leads to a variety of other health-related issues (Bouchez 2005 p. 4).

Unfortunately for all concerned, the conflict between divorcing parents is frequently the rule rather than the exception.

The extent to which parents expose their children to conflict has a significant effect on children’s ability to adjust emotionally to the situation and is a predictor of their future psychological welfare. “Parental conflict has been consistently associated with poor psychological outcomes for children” (Gindes, 1998: p. 18). ‘Messy’ divorces commonly bring about many enduring, psychologically scarring emotional feelings such as anger, grief, fear, loneliness, guilt, frustration, and thoughts of revenge all of which compound the stress factor and lead to varying degrees of depression. “Contested divorces can result in mental and emotional crisis, to the point of requiring a medical doctor or psychiatrist or psychotherapist and medication” (Roshkind, 2005).

Daily routine changes

Divorce usually means that the children are living with one parent now earning just one salary which creates hardships beyond the emotional crisis of the divorce itself. The stress involved in divorce goes beyond the emotions involved as well. Many children are forced to move to a new, usually less desirable neighborhood, possibly put into daycare for the first time, and must make new friends in an unfamiliar environment. Some are moved farther away from the familiarity of the extended family, uncles, aunts, grandmothers, etc. One, some or all of these life-changing events can cause great and lasting amounts of stress for children of all ages.

Whether or not the divorce is amicable and the general stability of the parents plays a role in how the children will adjust to the divorce. “Much of what happens to children, in general, is related to the skill of parents in helping them develop. The competence of parents following divorce is likely to have considerable influence on how the children are doing” (Kelly and Emery, 2003).

Conclusion

Divorce causes stress which leads to emotional imbalances and physical health risks which could last a lifetime. Divorce is inevitable but the way it is handled by parents is a choice. The choice to put children’s welfare ahead of their self-interests is what parents are supposed to do naturally and in the case of divorce would shelter the children from great psychological, emotional, and ultimately, physical harm.

References

Bouchez, C. (2005). “Does Personality Affect Your Health?” WebMD. Web.

“Depression Following Divorce.” (2006). Health and Age. Web.

Gindes, Marion. (1998). The Psychological Effects of Relocation for Children of Divorce. Web.

Kelly, J. B., & Emery, R. E. (2003). “Children’s adjustment following divorce: Risk and resiliency perspectives.” Family Relations. Vol. 52, pp. 352-362.

Roshkind, Robin P.A. (2005). “The Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Frustration, Grief, Guilt, Regret, Sadness, and Stress of a Divorce in Florida.” Divorce Headquarters. Web.

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