Effects of Parental Divorce on Children

Topics: Divorce, Family, Parent Pages: 11 (3677 words) Published: March 7, 2013
The Effects of Parental Divorce on Adolescent Cognitive Behaviors Kathlene T. Ferguson
Liberty University

There is an enormous amount of literature that found that experiencing parental divorce is negatively related to a wide variety of adolescent’s outcomes such as educational attainment and cognitive development. This study reviewed several empirical explorations which highlight the effects of parental divorce on adolescents. This research reviews parental loss, economic loss, poor parental adjustment, lack of parental competence, and exposure to conflict between parents and the effects that these factors contribute to the cognitive behavior and development of adolescents. Keywords: adolescent behavior, parental divorce, conflict, cognitive behavior

In recent decades family structures are undergoing changes due to the high rate of divorce (Heck & Walsh, 2000). Divorce has become significantly more common and it is a life crisis for almost all families who experience it. The high number of divorced families over the past decade has raised concern regarding the effect of divorce on children and adolescents (Amato, 2000; Kelly, 2003; Hetherington, 2003; VanderValk et al., 2004). Researchers have found that parental divorce place children and adolescents at greater risk of adjustment problems (Amato & Keith, 1991; Amato, 2000; Kelly, 2000; Hetherington, 2003; Kelly & Emery, 2003: Dimitrieva et al., 2004: Santrock, 2007) especially externalizing problems such as aggression, antisocial behavior problems and delinquency, and internalizing problems such as depression, anxiety and self-esteem and low level of academic performance (Hetherington et al., 1993; Amato, 2001; Malone et al., 2004; Demuth & Brown, 2004; Lansford et al., 2006).

Researchers suggest that adolescents from divorced families have poorer academic, behavioral, and social-emotional outcomes than their peers from intact families (Peris & Emery, 2004). Parental divorce has been associated with maladaptive academic and behavioral outcomes for children, such as depression, anxiety, school dropout, drug and alcohol use, and poor academic performance (Wolchick et al., 2000). Higher levels of misbehavior, more under-controlled behavior, and less competence also are associated with children whose parents have divorced (Ruschena, Prior, Sanson, & Smart, 2005). The effects on these children often linger into adulthood. In general, children of divorce tend to earn less income and obtain less education over the course of their lifetime (Amato & Cheadle, 2005).

As a group, adolescents from divorced families display lower levels of academic and vocational attainment. They demonstrate lower academic performance and achievement test scores and are two to three times more likely to drop out of school (Kelly & Emery, 2003). Compared to adults from intact families, those with divorced parents are less likely to have attended or completed college, are more likely to be unemployed and on welfare, and have fewer financial resources (Hetherington & Stanley-Hagan, 1999). Parental Conflict

Based on parental conflict perspective, an unhappy home environment which is marked by high levels of parental conflict can negatively affect children and adolescents’ adjustment. Adolescents react to their parental hostility with fear, anger, and distress and may even blame themselves for conflict between their parents. These reactions may contribute to more problems such as drop out of schools (Amato, 2000).

Post-divorce parental conflict is characterized by parents’ inability to communicate politely, parental battles, and hostility (Neff & Cooper, 2004). It is often assumed that parents in high-conflict marriages continue their conflict after divorce and separation (Hetherington, 2003). Studies have shown that 8 to 15 percent of parents continue high conflict 2-3 years after divorce...
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