The Affects of Divorce on Youth (Canada)

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In Canada, it is estimated that four in ten marriages end in divorce. Despite the “’til death do us part” vow couples participate in at the time of marriage, there were 69,600 separations in Canada in 2004 (Statistics Canada, 2004). It has also been determined that every one in two divorces involves children. Although there have been many studies done which attempt to prove that children who experience parental divorce do have behavioral problems, fail to complete high school, and have emotional discrepancies, the effects of divorce on the overall outcome of a child is not detrimental to his or her development. Those who take the stance that divorce is a determining factor through their various studies have not taken a proper representative sample of cases from children nor considered other determining factors which could also lead to a child's lack of well-being.

Today a divorce is when a marriage is legally dissolved because the relationship is irretrievably broken. However, before the Divorce Act of 1968, divorces were increasingly difficult to obtain. In order to be granted one, the couple would have to meet at least one criteria of marital breakdown – they would have to be living apart for a year or longer, one of the spouses has to have committed an act of adultery, or one spouse has treated the other in a cruel way.

The average Canadian family features parents who deal with a plethora of stressors. One of the main reasons for marriage dissatisfaction, however, is money. This problem is prevalent when a family does not have enough income to support its needs or wants. Pressure to fulfill these desires will create an unhappy relationship between everybody involved. Regardless, when parents separate, it can create a whole new distress in the child which can outweigh that of any economical situation the family could be facing.

While parents toying with the idea of divorce may think that by legally separating, they could be risking their children’s overall happiness; by staying together they could be putting the child at greater risk of mental and emotional problems. Children who are witness to their parents constant fighting and conflicts are at higher risk of long-term distress (Jekielek, 1998). Divorce where there is little parental conflict will actually do a child less harm than no divorce with high parental conflict. The symptoms of being in an environment where there is high parental conflict is very similar to those seen in children of divorce; they can develop anxiety and aggression (Morrison and Corio, 1999), as well as behavioral problems in school such as antisocial behavior and difficulty concentrating (Amato and Sobolewski, 2001).

Socialization of children is essential during school years. Children who are affected negatively during this time by parental conflict or divorce can create problems for the future by making them socially withdrawn. Poor social skills and shyness can force children into complications which have the potentiality to permanently damage their views and impact the formation of healthy relationships. There are three factors which account for much of the distress among children, and high parental conflict is the most determining factor. The second is a decline of living standards; this is where the child’s family has a low economic status and cannot fulfill the needs and basic wants of a child successfully. A child’s family can reach poverty if the mother or father who is granted custody does not earn enough money to support the child, due to the loss of complimenting income from the noncustodial parent or the fact that they cannot get a job because they had sacrificed their education and employment opportunities in order to care for the child. The third factor is the absence of the noncustodial parent. This is because the child loses a role-model who they look to for emotional and physical support (Resnick et al., 1997), an issue which the social learning theory commends. The...
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