Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children
Research reveals divorce negatively impacts the divorcing individuals. The effects of divorce the children of divorcing parents experience, however, has not been heavily researched. Consequently, the focus for this qualitative case study examines six studies, to investigate the long-term effects of divorce on children.
“A stable family situation after divorce does not erase the negative effects of a divorce, but children in this situation fare much better than do those who experience chronic instability”
Ohio State University (2008, ¶ 4).
Marks of Divorce
In some “bad” marriages, some spouses contend divorce would likely relieve their stress and proffer the way to a happier life. According to a study of 416 rural Iowa women by researchers from Iowa State Universitys Institute for Social and Behavioral Research, however, over a 10-year span, divorce increased chronic stress and produced greater physical illness (“Divorce increases chronic,” 2006). What appears to have not been studied as frequently as the effects of divorce on the divorcing individuals, the researcher recently found, was the effects children of divorcing parents experience. The rate of troubled young adults from divorced families, 20%, reportedly doubles the 10% rate from nondivorced families, according to D. Eldar-Avidan, M. Haj-Yahia, and C. Greenbaum, C. (2009) in their qualitative study, “Divorce is a part of my life resilience, survival, and vulnerability: young adults.” This qualitative case study examines the study by Avidan, Haj-Yahia and Greenbaum, along with five other studies, to investigate the long-term effects of divorce on children.
SIX STUDIES STUDIED
Avidan, Haj-Yahia and Greenbaum (2009) identify three profiles of adult children of divorce as resilience, survival, and vulnerability in their study, conducted in Israel with 22 participating young adults, ages 20-25 years old, whose parents divorced during their childhood. The authors report that overall, participants in their study recognized the weight of disruptive experiences, along with emotional pain related to the divorce. The overall perception these particular participants related, albeit reflected that of gain. “The discrepancy between the results is explained, to a large extent,” Avidan, Haj-Yahia and Greenbaum note, ” by the difference between conceptualization of pain and that of pathology” (¶ 6). Avidan, Haj-Yahia and Greenbaum purport the following regarding the three adult children profiles they identified:
1. Resilient participants perceive divorce, with an optimistic outlook. Although they experienced losses,, there were also gains, including valued relationships with custodial parents, a sense of security, and an appreciation of satisfactory personal development.
2. Participants typified as survivors are those who portray divorce as a complex event, requiring momentous adjustment. They are doubtful about their experience and its associations, and are aware of both coping and vulnerability, of gains but also of momentous losses.
3. Survivors described their relationship with custodial parents (in all cases but one – the mother) as either close or conflicting but did not regard parents as sufficient coping agents. They have painful childhood memories connected to the divorce. (Avidan, Haj-Yahia & Greenbaum, 2009, Results section, ¶ ¶ 8-10)
Along with identifying the three profiles their study, Eldar-Avidan, Haj-Yahia, and Greenbaum noted the following three core themes:
1. The centrality of the family;
2. short- and long-term implications of parental divorce and its relations to supportive coping resources; and
3. perspective at young adulthood. (Eldar-Avidan, Haj-Yahia, & Greenbaum, 2009, Theoretical Basis and section, ¶ 4).
The profile of the child of divorced parents, as well as the affect of divorce upon the adult child of divorce primarily links to his/her parents ability to act as responsible, supportive coping agents, according to Avidan, Haj-Yahia and Greenbaum (2009). All participants in the study by Avidan, Haj-Yahia and Greenbaum (2009) focused on intimacy, a vital component of their particular developmental stage. Even though major differences existed between the three profiles, each participant reported he/she choose his/her partner carefully; creating particular methods to develop and maintain intimate relationships.
Participants from the study by Avidan, Haj-Yahia and Greenbaum (2009) reportedly understand that their personal attitude about intimacy evolved from being subjected to a divorce as a child. Each of the participants noted divorce to serve as an adequate solution when the marriage relationship fails. They were each especially attuned to the consequences of divorce, however, particularly for families with children. These participants stressed the need for parents to try to prevent divorce. When divorce could not be avoided, they contend, parents need to responsibly to minimize the harm divorce projects to children (Avidan, Haj-Yahia & Greenbaum).
In a “good divorce,” C.R. Ahrons (2007) stresses in “Family ties after divorce: long-term implications for children,” listening to the voices of children experienced a parental divorce proves vital. Even though the childs views may dramatically differ from his/her parents, the childs perception, not their parents, that lays the groundwork for their reactions and behavior. (Ahrons, 2007, discussion section, ¶ 12). Ahrons draws on the data from the longitudinal Binuclear Family Study, where “173 grown children were interviewed 20 years after their parents divorce” (¶ 1).
Ahrons (2007) addresses the following two basic questions:
1. What impact does the relationship between parents have on their children 20 years after the divorce? and
2. When a parent remarries or cohabits, how does it impact a childs sense of family? (Ahrons, 2007, ¶ 1)
Findings from this study reveal that even after 20 years after the parents marital disruption, the participants parental subsystem continued to impact his/her binuclear family, as it exerted a significant influence on the quality of relationships within his/her family system. “Children who reported that their parents were cooperative also reported better relationships with their parents, grandparents, stepparents, and siblings” (Ibid). Whether or not family relationships remain stable, improve, or worsen depends on a complex conjoining of a number of factors. Ahrons (2007) contends. When one considers the long-term implications of divorce, Ahrons study indicates, the need exists to emphasize life course and family system perspectives. Study III
“After divorce, stable families help minimize long-term harm to children,” (2008) reports that study results indicate that children living in unstable family situations after their parents divorce did not do as well on a variety of measures, in fact, much worse, than children with families who experienced stable, post-divorce situations Yongmin Sun, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State Universitys Mansfield campus, asserts: “For many children with divorced parents, particularly young ones, the divorce does not mark the end of family structure changes — it marks the beginning” (“After divorce,” ¶ 3). Nevertheless, even though children may live in a stable family situation, after their parents divorce, they will still experience negative effects from the divorce. Children in a stable, family situation, albeit will cope better than children who continue to experience chronic instability (“After divorce”).
J. Wallerstein and J.M. Lewis (2007) indicate in, “Disparate parenting and step-parenting with siblings in the post-divorce family: Report from a 10-year longitudinal study,” the need exist for expanded parent education proves critical in helping to decrease negative effects on children whose parents divorce. Along with focusing on resolving conflict, divorcing/divorced parents, as well as the children, could benefit from addressing the opportunities, along with the stressful post-divorce changes both adults and children will face in the future. In the midst of the workplace challenges parents counter, along with their efforts to establish a satisfying adult life, after a divorce, realistic advice/education could help parents allay a number of frequently justified anxieties children experience during and after their parents divorce. Consequently, expanded parent education would definitely fill a contemporary, critical need (Wallerstein & Lewis).
From the longitudinal study of divorced families that Wallerstein and Lewis (2007) conducted, they found the existence of widely discrepant psychological adjustment among siblings of divorced parents. The instability noted in numerous parent-child relationships after the parents divorce and remarry reported challenges the view that divorce constitutes a time-limited crisis for children. Contrary to this perception, divorce reshapes the lives of children of parents who divorce, long-term.
In “Parents discord and divorce, parent-child relationships and subjective well-being in early adulthood: is feeling close to two parents always better than feeling close to one,” Juliana M. Sobolewski and Paul Amato, (2007) report that studies during the past three decades reveal that children with divorced parents experience an elevated risk of countering a variety of difficulties/problems in their early adult years. These may include, but not be limited to:
Low socioeconomic attainment, weak ties with parents, symptoms of depression and relationship instability. (Sobolewski & Amato, 2007, ¶ 1)
In “Mothering mothers: An exploration of the perceptions of adult children of divorce,” K. Hughes (2007) note that a dearth of literature examines how parental separation continues to influence the relationships between adult children and their parents. It is clear, albeit, whether the parents are separated or not, the degree of ambivalence a child experiences toward.