Marriage and divorce are known to be quite common in our society nowadays. Having a healthy marriage are beneficial for couples’ mental and physical health. It is also beneficial for children; growing up having a good and stable home environment will help protect children from mental, physical, educational and social issues. According to American Psychology Association, past statistics have shown that in the United States 50 percent of first marriages, 67 percent of second, and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher currently.
Each year, there are over 1 million American children struggling to cope through the divorce of their parents; According to The Heritage Foundation, almost half of the children born this year to parents who are married will witness their parents’ relationship fall apart and divorce before they turn 18.(Patrick F. Fagan & Robert Rector, 2000) Every child and family are unique in their own ways, with different cultural background, different personalities and behaviors, strengths and weaknesses, and also varying level of social, emotional, and economic resources, as well as depending on each family situation prior to divorce. Regardless of the differences, divorce has been shown to subside a child’s future development in all aspects of life, affecting family relationships, education, emotional well-being, and the ability to provide and make wiser financial decision.
So how are children affected by divorce? The answer is not that straightforward, which is one reason for much confusion. Divorce can be habitually hard on children. Most children do not want to witness the separation of their parents’ unless under certain circumstance the marriage was full of resentment, emotional distress and anger or other sources of discomfort which are not suitable for children. Divorce also can put a hardship on the parent-child relationships, which will lead to emotional and physical disconnect with one parent, creating economic difficulty caused by having too little money or too few resources, and increase bitter dissension between parents.
There were two large statistical analysis, one reported in 1991 and followed by another, reported ten years later in 2001, showed “children that are from divorced parents continued to decrease significantly on measures of their academic achievement, behavior, social relations, psychological adjustment, and self-concept” (Amato and Keith 1991; Amato and Booth 1997 as quoted in Amato 2001). Giving the comparison between children of continuously married parents and of divorced parents are at greater risk of struggling with establishing relationships and building trust with others (Emery, 1996), struggling with unpleasant destructive behavior (Rex, 1996), performing at a lower level academically than children whose parents don’t divorce (Kim, 2011), and having decreased physical health (Arkes, 2013).
Divorce and separation correlate positively with decreased school achievement and performance. Elementary school children ages between 5-10 encountering events associated with parental divorce will normally perform poorly academically compare to children from an unblemished family. Children’s have lower educational achievement and test scores during the process of their parents’ marital problem. Having lower grade point averages (GPAs), being held back a grade is also result of unstable or divorced parents’.6) High school students in intact families have GPAs 11 percent higher combined English and Math than those from divorced families, The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth shows about 28 percent of students who grew up in a stable married family receive mostly A’s, followed by students from intact cohabiting families (21 percent), single divorced parents families(18 percent), married stepfamilies (15 percent), cohabiting stepfamilies (11 percent), and always single parent families (9 percent).
After a divorce or separation, it isn’t uncommon for children to display some behavioral issues dispute leading up to it can be difficult for the psychological and emotional health adjustments of the children involved and can build up to stress and anxiety. Strong emotional reaction of displeasure, uncertainty, aggravated and unhappy are all part of the cycle of emotions that the child may experience as a result of the condition happening in their life.
According to Emery and Rex (1996), divorce also affects their social health by causing behavioral problem such as increased aggression and lower communication skills. Parents often become stricter and harsher with their punishment during times of greater marital conflicts. This has shown a positive correlation with behavioral problem in children including violence, anger, and bullying (Emery, 1996).
Research conducted by Arkes (2013) reveal the physical health problem caused by divorce may include increased likelihood of their involvement in harmful substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana.
The divorce process is accompanied by many changes in daily life of children, like changing schools, the child care, the home place, etc. Children must also adapt to changes in relationships with friends and extended family. These changes create a more stressful environment for children.
Economic loss another result of the divorce is that children living in single-parent families – usually don’t have the same resources as children in regular families. The child may lose his/her religious faith and practice (Myers 1996) Following a divorce, children are more likely to abandon their faith (Feigelman, Gorman, and Varacalli 1992). As adults, those raised in step-families are less likely to be religious than those raised by both biological parents (Myers 1996). Since religious practice has benefits in areas such as sexual restraint, the child of divorce may lose this protection (Rostosky, Regnerus, and Wright 2003).