Most people, when thinking about divorce, worry about the impact that it has on the children that are involved. Even though children are most likely better off if totally incompatible parents separate instead of staying together, divorce is about loss and change, and it is still hard for children. Everyone knows that divorce has its effects on children. There are three different sources that try to explain these effects. Graham Blaine Jr. states that divorce is a threat to all children, whereas Rhona Mahony states that divorce is not always the cause of behavioral or academic problems in children coming from divorced families. Yvette Walczak and Sheila Burns state that the extent of the damage can be determined by the parents and their methods of explanation to the children. Graham Blaine Jr. who is the Chief of Psychiatry at Harvard University health services writes a chapter in the book Explaining Divorce to Children. This chapter is entitled "The Effect of Divorce upon the Personality Development of Children and Youth." He addresses this chapter to parents who are considering getting a divorce or are in the middle of the divorce process. The author uses a combination of Ethos and Pathos to support his theory on divorce. Blaine uses these strategies to highlight the mixed emotions a child may endure while going through such a confusing stage of their early lives. This then gives the audience a better understanding of the certain personalities children may gain while coping with sad situation of split parents. He also draws on his experience as a psychiatrist to give statistics as well as true stories to back up his reasoning. Blaine uses five specific guidelines for parents to follow in order to try and lessen the effect of divorce upon the child. These are: 1) Place children with whichever parent remarries unless there is a marked incompatibility between that parent and the child. 2) Children under twelve should not be sent to boarding school. 3) If children must be shuffled between two families, then one household should be established as home and the other as a place to visit. 4) Do not give children under twelve a choice regarding the parent with whom they are to live, and do not tell children about an impending divorce until definite plans for the future had been agreed upon. 5) Children should not be placed in a position where they serve as confidants or spies for one parent against the other. Every effort should be made to help them retain whatever feelings of love or respect they may have for each parent (Grollman,84). He admits that these guidelines cannot eliminate all of the damages that are a result of the divorce. He gives many real-life examples of children of divorced families that are emotionally scarred and unable to have normal relationships once they reach adulthood. He targets the actual divorce as the cause of these problems. Rhona Mahony is a visiting scholar from Stanford Law School. She is writing this article as a rebuttal to the general perception that divorce is the cause of most behavioral and emotional problems in today's youth. As an example of higher learning and a known savant, she uses logos to back up her theory, and uses a study of children from divorced families. In Mahony's article she argues that " there could be several reasons [that]
children of divorced parents have more emotional and behavioral problems, and also do less well in school than children who live with both of their biological parents"(Mahony, 2). By using strategies such as research and stating logical facts, Mahony gives the viewer a better understanding of the psychological issues children encounter with divorced parents. According to the study which she writes about, parents with psychological problems are more likely to get divorced and children of parents with these problems are more likely themselves to have a rough time. Another reason is some parents who wind up divorcing have a long period of unpleasant conflict before they separate. This conflict causes children to act up and do less well in school. The last reason that Mahony brings up is that the divorce itself may cause kids to have problems. Factors such as income and the decrease in time that they are able to spend with their parents cause them to see more conflict and the separation may scare or anger them. (Maloney, 2) Yvette Walczak currently practices as a Family Therapist and works as a volunteer in a day center for the mentally ill. Sheila Burns is a senior lecturer in social work at the Polytechnic of North London. Their book Divorce: The Child's Point of View, is written for parents to understand what their children are going through during and after a divorce. They use their own daily experience as resource as well as statistics. These two women have the opportunity to work hands-on with families dealing with many problems and would appeal to a younger audience that have already been a product of divorced parents. These authors have found four basic profiles that describe various effects of divorce on young children. These are: Negative profile, positive profile, mixed profile, and the no effect profile (Walczak and Burns, 107). A viewer with divorced parents would unquestionably take interest in these profiles due to the fact that any child that is a product of divorced parents would fall into one of these four categories. The titles are pretty much self-explanatory, children that fit the negative profile tend to do poorly in school and have behavioral problem (108). The positive effect children are better adapted and able to understand far more than most people their age (112). The mixed profile children dealt with some gains and losses but overall had no major problem (114). Finally the no effect profile says that life went on the same, as before, the children were satisfied with whatever had been told to them (115). In their studies, the authors have found that divorce does not always have to have a negative effect upon the children involved. In the cases with the positive, mixed, and no effect profiles, the parents had some responsibility for the positive outcome. All of these sources were successful in presenting different aspects of the effects of divorce on children. They brought up valid points that the general public is not usually aware of. All of these articles were effective in their approaches to the topic of divorce and it's effects on children.
Grollman, Earl A. Explaining Divorce to Children. Beacon Press: Boston, 1972.
Mahony, Rhona. Kidding Ourselves: Breadwinning Babies, and Bargaining
Power. Basic Books: New York, NY, c1995.
Walczac, Yvette. Divorce: The Child's Point of View. Harper & Row:
London, San Francisco, 1984.