Divorce and How It Raises Children General Psychology Cheyenne Lowry Cumberland University The Effect of Divorce On Siblings This article was written based off of research done to compare siblings who experience their parents’ divorce together

Divorce and How It Raises Children
General Psychology
Cheyenne Lowry
Cumberland University

The Effect of Divorce On Siblings

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This article was written based off of research done to compare siblings who experience their parents’ divorce together, and how each of them handles the split differently. Since they experience the same things their reactions are based off of personalities which may or may not allow their levels of stability to fluctuate. The researchers found that the relationship they had with their siblings tended to lessen the amount of “self-blame” and conflict they had individually, and towards each other. They found that having a sibling seemingly made the adjustment less detrimental to their mental health. All of the factors going into the study could be unstable in ways; there are many variables to be studied, such as the relationship between the siblings beforehand, age gaps between the siblings, etc.
The purpose of this study was to analyze the relationship between siblings experiencing their parents’ divorce, and how having a sibling might help or hurt the children during the healing process. They focused mainly on two points; “self-blame” (how big the children thought their part in their parents’ divorce was) and “Perceived Threat” (The way the divorce would affect the family as a whole, more so negatively). From these two points the researchers branched their study out and dug deeper, finding that “Perceived Threat” was usually a mechanism taken by the older sibling; they would, in most cases, naturally as the first born, take on the task of worrying over what would happen and how much would change, when younger siblings tended to take the Self-blame route. They also found that older siblings were more likely to suffer from anxiety, which the researchers connected to “Perceived Threat”.
During the study, the hypothesis’s they were testing were that “Interparental conflict of perceived Threat and self-blame would be associated with child anxiety” (which they proved), that “Positive sibling interaction behaviors would be associated with better adjustment” (Which was not always the case), that “Negative sibling interaction behaviors would be associated with worse adjustment” (Also not always the case), and that “Associations between interparent conflict directly connected to anxiety” (Iturralde, Margolin, Spies Shapiro p.7-16-729). They proved that self-blame was associated with child anxiety, finding that both self-blame and the threat of losing everything and dealing with the unknown affected their mental health levels. However; their assumptions for positive and negative interactions were not entirely correct in every case; in some cases they found that negative interactions were “not as understood” because of the nature of siblings to begin with (Pike, Coldwell, & Dunn 39). Many siblings often argue and fight, playfully or not, simply because they’re siblings and that’s how they handle things. This made it hard to analyze- what should be categorized as an effect of the divorce, and what should be brushed off as familial banter? Through the study they did come to the conclusion that “negative interactions put more stress on the child, as if doubling it” and “that it helps them get out any distress associated with the situation with the parents”. If the children had always dealt with each other in a more forceful manner then having that relationship remain the same could very well be something they turn to, just to have something familiar; if not then it made sense for the children to suffer more, as they had no stable familial relationship to lean on.
“Parents visited the laboratory with their two children. Siblings were asked to participate in a video?recorded tower?building task, which was adapted from past work on cooperation and communication in married couples (J. Gottman, personal communication, September 9, 2002). Siblings were instructed to work together as a team to build their tallest possible tower out of ordinary but flimsy materials, including cellophane tape, drinking straws, rubber bands, construction paper, and pens. Siblings were allowed 15 min and were instructed that their towers would be measured and compared to the results of other participating children. Experimenters provided a warning when 2 min remained in the task. This novel but ecologically valid task was designed to elicit siblings’ naturally playful and competitive interaction styles, including typical sibling behaviors such as bossiness, name?calling, and helping. The task was sufficiently unstructured to allow for wide?ranging sibling behaviors that represent both positive and negative dimensions of the sibling relationship” (Iturralde, Margolin, Spies Shapiro p.7-16-729). The researchers studied the children through behavioral observation; “Links between self-blame and anxiety were moderated by sibling relationship quality… sibling relationship quality was measured through behavioral observation”. Ethically, through these methods of bringing them in and consulting them much like a therapy or team-building session rather than a study, they were not much out of line. The study could have been better conducted in a sense that it could have been more thorough than tasks like the example they gave.
The main gap in this particular study was that there was very little to no information on what the children were like before. How could the situations be monitored and analyzed properly when such a big piece of information is missing? It’s easy to look at things and suggest possible factors, but it’s hard to know for sure what has changed, what is changing, when they have nothing to compare it to. The children and parents of course can be interviewed on it, but that alone isn’t solid information considering stories vary and people are reluctant to share certain bits of information with outsiders.

Article Two

This study focused on young children that they referred to as “preterm”. They studied the effects of parental divorce on the academics of young school children, finding that the biggest impact occurred on those who were between 3-5 years of age. The study concluded that preterm children of parents who had separated were definitely at risk and victims of academic decrease and failure. While this study and those like it are important, It can been seen as rather normal that a child’s school performance might drop for a few years while everything settles, but they study should have also maybe followed up a bit longer to see if most bounced back or not.
The purpose of this study was to analyze how pre-term children, 3-5, manage in school during and after their parents’ separation. “Since parental separation can result in multiple negative effects, including perceived guilt, blame, stressors, and diminished resources for the children, it is not surprising that parental separation has also been reported to negatively affect a child’s motivation, engagement, and learning-related behavior in the classroom” (Nusinovici 6, 7). Because of the age of the children involved in the study, they were still very reliant on their parents for emotional and stable mental support; the separation proved to be very traumatic in many cases, effecting their approach to school, which can be trying as it is because of the children being preterm.
The researchers study the same group of infants from the time they’re born pre-term, up until some time after their parents’ divorce. The children already had to be monitored since they were born early, so their check-ups were also their check-ins; at certain ages they would schedule specific tests and monitoring to be done to keep up with how they were developing and what their situation was. The researchers would check in with their pediatricians and teachers, collecting all information to determine whether or not the separation or other factors had anything to do with lower test scores, they found that they did have an affect; “Our results indicated that, for preterm infants that had an optimal neurodevelopment at two years, parental separation was associated with a decrease in school performance at five years of age that was independent of their socioeconomic background. This decrease was only noted for parental separations that occurred between three and five years after the child’s birth when the children exhibited difficulties at school. Furthermore, parental separations were associated with a decrease in the child’s motivation, engagement, autonomy, and manual dexterity” (19, 20). They also found that it was mainly that 3-5 age group that were most affected; even the infants born at a healthy time were found to be affected during those ages.
The research conducted in this study was very thorough; the researchers were careful with their age groups, their monitoring, their variables, etc. The only issue with this study was that it could have been beneficial to see the results as the children grew a bit older; did they grow back into their academic life or did the divorce permanently separate them?

Article Three

In this study, not only was divorce and its effects on children studied, but the situation of a parent remarrying and its part in causing depression was also analyzed. They found that depression rates in the children affected tended to have high depression rates between the ages of 18-30. Children who go through both the separation and remarrying processes close together tended to have high depression rates as well.
The purpose of this study was to analyze the relationships between children from divorced families as their parent(s) remarry and transition into a “Step-family”, and to question whether or not that typically leads to depression or other harsh situations for the child. “Congruent with prior research, we find that retrospective reports of divorce and stepfamily stress is associated with higher depressive symptoms in emerging adults (18–30 years of age). We also find that stress induced by parental divorce and subsequent stepfamily formation significantly interact to increase depressive symptoms in this population. The research and clinical implications of our findings are discussed” (Shafer, 1). They collected data from projects and families through questionnaires and surveys, taking note of the fact that transitions of family, especially close together, led to many young adults within households undergoing this to become depressed.
They took the results from these surveys and projects and poured over the results- how many went to college, how many got married, etc. “We found that a positive relationship with the residential biological parent had the best buffering effect for depressive symptoms, while a positive relationship with the nonresidential biological parent had some effect. We found that residential stepparent relationship quality only had a significant association with depression in Model 1. Many of the stepfamily characteristics did not appear to have an association with depression score. We also found that stepchildren from blended families had slightly higher depression scores than those from simple stepfamilies. Furthermore, cohabiting stepfamilies (compared to married stepfamilies) and stepchildren who moved (compared to those who did not) because of stepfamily formation had higher depression scores” (Shafer, 9).
These results proved their ideas right, however; they had no contact with the families they were getting this information from. Surveys, while effective, can only go so deep in terms or research- all they get is feedback. They’re not able to observe or further question their participants, which can be seen as a drawback. Ethically, they included minorities, but admitted that some of the participants coming from the STEP Program had a higher income, which definitely effects the stress level of the participants.

Article Four
In this proposition they found studies that showed that in many divorces, custody was given to the mother. This left the children without much of a father figure if they still had one at all, based off of this information they came up with the idea to create a group that would give counseling to parents so that they might learn to work together for the child’s sake. This sort of concept might really be beneficial to many families, counseling can be very impactful on relationships and allow parents to communicate properly.

Article Five

This article follows children of divorced parents to analyze their thoughts and processes following the split. It analyzed their reactions to having two houses, two lives, one with each parent, and the many other general changes. This gives insight into how the child will grow and where their life will progress to.
The purpose of this study is to get direct feedback from the children affected by the split but focusing more so on the child rather than the divorce; “Studies on this topic are typically conducted in large groups of children using such methods as psychometric tests and parents’ self-reports (e.g. Goodman, 1997) to measure the children’s adjustment and general well-being in the aftermath of divorce. So these studies report facts of post-divorce family life in term of figures and calculated risk factors. The specific, individual child, however, is rarely the focus of studies of the outcomes and harm caused by divorce and is seldom seen as a social actor in his or her own life (see further Moxnes, 2003). Relatively few studies have examined the children’s views concerning their parents’ divorce (e.g. Haugen, 2010; Jensen, 2009; Moxnes and others, 2001; Ottosen and others, 2011; Skjørten and others, 2007; Smart and others, 2001); based on these studies, this article addresses children’s specific experiences of post divorce family life involving two households — not as a potential risk factor, but as a CHILDREN ; SOCIETY and National Children’s Bureau way of living in childhood. This article examines from an everyday perspective how children attempt to manage and integrate the differences, demands and expectations of the two households, with a strong focus on their experienced possibilities, dilemmas and constraints” (Anja, 342-343).
This study goes into how having more than one home can be confusing for children as they’re discovering their sense of self, and how it makes them unnecessarily comfortable with big changes that children shouldn’t be comfortable with. Anja Marschall, the main researcher, refers to this as “when children’s lives are double looped”. She makes an effort to stay in the homes of ten families, observing their way of life and their daily happenings that come with being a split household. She interviews the children and finds that some of the children find it exciting, at times, to have more than one home and more than one immediate family. Despite this, she takes note that the children have simply become desensitized to the fact that they have so much going on to be with both parents, and that in a lot of the cases both parents have different parenting styles that lead the child to grow up knowing how to take advantage of the split in a way. Marschall found that it’s best to listen to children and hear them out, because at the end of the day they’re the source of this entire topic.
In a way, it can be argued that Marschall crossed lines by allowed her researching methods to be changed and influenced by the parents in the beginning but she maintained professionalism and did not seem to cross any other lines throughout her observing and interviewing. Her staying in the homes to directly observe may have altered the family’s usual daily lives as well; asking permission to use a camera probably would have made it easier for her to get a true idea of what their life is like since she would not have been there physically to remind them that they were being observed. She also stuck to the same vicinity of homes- her research was rather clustered when compared to most studies, and she only monitored and interviewed a handful of families. She gained steady research, but it could have been more efficient.

REFERENCES:

1. Iturralde, E., Margolin, G., & Spies Sharpio, L. A. (2013). Positive and Negative Interactions Observed Between Siblings: Moderating Effects for Children Exposed to Parents’ Conflict. Journal of Research on Adolescence (Wiley-Blackwell), 23(4), 716-729. https://doi-org.cumberland.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/jora.12020

2. Marschall, A. (2017). When everyday life is double looped. Exploring children’s (and parents’) perspectives on post-divorce family life with two households. Children & Society, 31(5), 342-352. https://doi-org.cumberland.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/chso.12202

3. Nusinovici, S., Olliac, B., Flamant, C., Müller, J.-B., Olivier, M., Rouger, V., … Hanf, M. (2018). Impact of parental separation or divorce on school performance in preterm children: A population-based study. PLoS ONE, 13(9), 1-11. https://doi-org.cumberland.idm.oclc.org/10.1371/journal.pone.020208

4. Pape Cowan, C., & Cowan, P.A. (2015). Focus on the co-parenting couple: A new approach to encouraging father involvement and strengthening parent-child relationships. International Journal of Birth & Parent Education, 2(3), 31-35. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.cumberland.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=117546277&site=ehost-live

5. Shafer, K., Jensen, T., &Holmes, E. (2017). Divorce Stress, Stepfamily Stress, and Depression among Emerging Adult Stepchildren. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 26(3), 851-862. https://doi-org.cumberland.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10826-016-0617-0