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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Effects of Divorce on Children, Sociology

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Divorce Children and Society


Each year, over 1 million American children suffer the divorce of their parents; moreover, half of the children born this year to parents who are married will see their parents divorce before they turn 18. Mounting evidence in social science journals demonstrates that the devastating physical, emotional, and financial effects that divorce is having on these children will last well into adulthood and affect future generations.





Divorce Children and Society


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Since there is so much discussion of the effects of divorce on children, it is important to begin stating divorce (overall) does have negative effects on children. Divorce not only has an effect on the family institution, but also effects the other institutions religion, economy, education, and state. Children that come from a divorced family have more difficulty in school, more behavior problems, more negative self-concepts, more problems with peers, more trouble getting along with their parents and less likely to participate in a religion. With half of American marriages ending in divorce, divorce greatly affects the younger generations (York, 18).


Most psychologists and sociologists agree that there are six major hypotheses regarding the causes of childrens difficulties loss of a parent, economic loss, stress, poor parental adjustment, lack of parental competence, and exposure to conflict. These six effects are affiliated much more with family institution and the economy institution. If the family is the building block of society, then marriage is the foundation of the family. However, this foundation is growing weaker, with fewer adults entering into marriage, more adults leaving it in divorce, and more and more adults eschewing it altogether for single parenthood or cohabitation. American society, through its institutions, must teach core principles that marriage is the best environment in which to raise healthy, happy children who can achieve their potential and that the family is the most important institution for social well-being (York, 18).


One of the most significant factors in divorce is a child has a loss of a parent, affecting more the family institution. Divorce often results in the loss of a parent for the


Divorce Children and Society


children and with this loss children also lose the knowledge, skills and resources (emotional, financial, etc.) of that parent. Though many no custodial parents still spend time with their children, there still is less time being spent. One finding that emphasizes the importance of parents as a resource to children, is that children who lose a parent due to death are somewhat similar to children of divorce (Fagan, 000). Generally, children who lose a parent due to death suffer some of the same problems as children of divorce. However, the effects of death are not exactly the same as the effects for divorce as studies suggest that children of divorce have greater problems than children with a deceased parent. Another finding that fits with this hypothesis is that children of divorce who have other adults who take over the function of the absent parent will fare abetter (York, 18).


Another significant effect on children comes from the economic loss they suffer. Another result of divorce is that children living in single parent families are less likely to have as many economic resources as children living in intact families. Due to limited economic resources children in single-parent families may have more difficulties. Most mothers become the custodial parent. And since women make only about 70 cents for every dollar a man makes, this gives way for a much tighter budget (Fagan, 000). Given that both parents work in one home, there is now only one income coming into the household and most likely the expenses do not decrease dramatically when a parent leaves the home. For example, a couple with one child rents a two-bedroom apartment; later they decide on a divorce. There is now one income coming into the home and there


Divorce Children and Society


is still a need to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Of course there are laws that require a man to pay child support, but less than half the men ordered to pay child support pay the required amount; some pay less and some do not pay anything at all. There is a common belief that many of the difficulties experienced by children are the result of the economic difficulties experienced in these families. The overall evidence is not as strong in support of this hypothesis as might be expected. Generally, family income is positively associated with childrens well being, but some studies have not found that income improves childrens well being. Also, researchers have statistically controlled for income differences between intact and divorced families and all of the differences between children in these two types of families do NOT disappear. In other words, there are still some other factors affecting childrens well-being above and beyond money (York, 18).


Stress is another effect of divorce on children; there is much more of it. Divorce often results in many changes in childrens living situations such as changing schools, childcare, homes, etc. Children often also have to make adjustments to changes in relationships with friends and extended family members. These changes create a more stressful environment for children. Of course there are areas that the child will be experiencing less stress, such as not having to live in a home when one or both parents is unhappy in the marriage (York, 18). Religious worship, which has been linked to better health, longer marriages, and better family life, drops after the parents divorce. The institution of religion suffers greatly when parents divorce. Despite what most believe,


Divorce Children and Society 4


Americans are less likely to go to church when they are stressed out. This contrasts with the belief that religious worship aids in the relief of stress. Also, parents (who become


custodial parents after divorce) that actively involve their children in religion before divorce involve their children about half as much after divorce (Fagan, 000).


Another effect of divorce depends on how well both parents adjust. Some parents adjust very poorly; this also affects the family institution. Generally how children fare in families is due in part to the mental health of the parents, this is likely to be true for children in divorced families as well. The psychological adjustment of parents is a significant factor in childrens well being. There have been many studies examining the relationship between divorced parents psychological well-being and childrens well-being. Of the 15 studies that have examined this relationship 1 found that there was a positive relationship between the mental health of parents and childrens mental health. That is, children whose parents are better adjusted fare better than children whose parents are not adjusting well. There is some evidence to suggest than when the divorced parents adjustment is taken into account that some of the differences between children from intact and divorced children disappears. Despite the general support for these conclusions, there is at least one important caution. The causal relationship between parents and childrens adjustment is not clear. It could be that having better adjusted children improves the well-being of the parents (York, 18).


Of course, there is always different degree of parental competence. Much of what


Divorce Children and Society 5


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. The skills that parents have in dealing with children have a profound influence on childrens well being (Fagan, 000). Overall, the evidence indicates that many parents report diminished parenting practices immediately following divorce that appears to contribute to some of the problems that children experience. Many studies have also examined the relationship between child-rearing skills and childrens well being. There is overwhelming research evidence that indicates that parenting skills and the types of relationships between parent and child are strong influences on how well children are doing (York, 18).


A major hypothesis regarding the causes of childrens difficulty is that conflict between parents prior to, during and after the divorce contributes to lower well being. There have been a number of studies examining this relationship. Generally, it has been found that children in high conflict families (either intact or divorced) fare worse than children in low conflict families. Some studies have found that children in non-conflicting single parent families are doing better than children in conflicting two-parent families (Fagan, 000). There is also evidence that children begin to have difficulties prior to divorce and that some of these difficulties are associated with the conflict present prior to divorce. Post-divorce conflict has a strong influence on childrens adjustment. Children in those families that can cooperate and reduce conflict are faring better than other families. Conflict is frequently part of families and may be especially common in


Divorce Children and Society 6


families that have undergone divorce. The degree to which children are exposed to conflict may have substantial effects on childrens well being (York, 18).


As noted, many institutions suffer when divorce occurs. With broken homes, there is a greater chance of poverty, but the religion and state institutions suffer as well. Since the mid 0th century, the government has imposed more regulations on divorce, child support, custody, and counseling. Restoring the importance of marriage to society and the welfare of children will require politicians and civic leaders to make this one of their most important tasks. To set about the task of rebuilding a culture of family based on marriage and providing it with all the protections and supports necessary to make intact marriages commonplace, federal, state, and local officials must have the will to act. The federal and state governments spend $150 billion per year to subsidize and sustain single-parent families. By contrast, only $150 million is spent to strengthen marriage. Thus, for every $1,000 spent to deal with the effects of family disintegration, only $1 is spent to prevent that disintegration. Refocusing funds to preserve marriage by reducing divorce and illegitimacy not only will be good for children and society, but in the long run will save money (Fagan, 000).


Although it has been proved that divorce does have negative affects on children, divorce rates keep climbing. The social institutions bear the effects; there is a lower well being for the younger generations. With half of marriages ending in divorce, the effects of divorce are not a culture shock, but they are becoming a trend, perhaps a norm in the American society. The effects of divorce surround the family institution, a habitat where


Divorce Children and Society 7


love, comfort and support is supposed to partake. If this is to suffer the most, our children surely are not given the best of life (Fagan, 000).








1. Ambert, Anne-Marie. 18. Divorce Facts, Figures and Consequences. Ph.D. Department of Education. Dissertation, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Retrieved August , 00


(http//www.vifamily.ca/cft/divorce/divorce.htm)


. Fagan, Patrick. 000. The effects of Divorce on America. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved August , 00


(http//www.heritage.org/Research/Family/BG17.cfm


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