According to Diane von Furstenberg’s “Life Choice,” half of all American children will witness the breakup of a parent’s marriage. Of these, close to half will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage, and the Federal Reserve Board’s 1995 Survey of Consumer Finance showed that only 42 percent of children aged 14 to 18 live in a first marriage, two parent family. Children need stability to have a beneficial childhood; but where can kids find a sense of stability in divorce? Nowhere! Divorce has extremely negative social, physical, psychological and emotional effects on children, and that is what I will explore with this paper.
Although people may not know, divorce can affect a child’s physical health. Following divorce, children are fifty percent more likely to develop health problems than two parent families, and are at a greater risk to experience injury, asthma, headaches and speech defects than children whose parents have remained married. (Fagan) In order to deal with the hurt and pain following the split of a parent, the most damaging effect of divorce comes into play; the outlets that kids turn to. These outlets include sexual activity, destructive behavior and acting out, and in most need of concern, drugs. The intake of drugs often leads to poor grades in school and even can result in the child dropping out of school completely. According to a 1994 article by the Harvard University Press, children of divorced parents are roughly two times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers. If a child drops out of high school, this leads to difficulty getting a college education, finding a job, and having a successful life.
Aside from the physical aspects, a child of divorce may develop difficulties in their social lives. Children of divorce are four times more likely to have problems with their peers and friends than children whose parents have kept their marriages intact; there is not as much income in the family, visitation is forced and kids can feel ashamed around friends with parents who are together. Harvard University Press studies also showed that children in repeat divorces’ peers rated them as less pleasant to be around. Moreover, especially boys, tend to be more aggressive toward others, which can lead to trouble. According to “Fathers, Marriage and Welfare Reform,” seventy percent of long-term prison inmates grew up in broken homes. These social aspects are derived from extremely serious psychological issues that eventually lead to long-term effects. . Teenagers in single-parent families and in blended families are three times more likely to need psychological help within a given year. The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry presented a study that concluded that after six years of a divorce, a child revealed that even after all that time, these children tended to be lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure. Other side effects include self-blame or guilt, feeling responsible for parental problems, feelings of abandonment sadness, and even suicidal thoughts. In fact, people who come from broken homes are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who do not come from broken homes. (Gallagher) According to the 2000 census, in homes with children under 18, 25% are homes run by single mothers, 5% are homes run by single fathers. Divorce can develop resentments toward parents. For example, thirty-eight percent of children in divorced families (compared to 13 percent in intact families) agree "there are things my mother has done that I find hard to forgive,” and the majority of children of divorce (51 percent, compared to 17 percent of children in intact families) agreed. "There are things my father has done that I find hard to forgive." (Marquardt) In reality, forty percent of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers, and startling enough, statistics are not good for those children coming from homes run by single mothers. (Bilotta) According to the Hudson Institute, child in a female-headed home is 10 times more likely to be beaten or murdered. The psychological effects on children are even worse if they have to go through a custody battle. About 75% of all children oppose their parents’ divorce, and the other 15% are children who frequently witness their parents’ loud arguments, accusations and even physical violence. As a result, they do not go against the divorce because they just want the fighting to stop. Psychological effects also vary by age. If the children are pre-school aged, the effects of divorce usually are behavioral; they become angry and seemingly impossible to please. Pre-school children can usually sense the tension and feel as if is their fault. Middle and high school aged children often have more advanced reactions, because of their further developed understanding skills. Children of this age might fantasize about their parents getting back together or even the use drugs and alcohol to cover up the pain they’re experiencing at home; the older the child is the more difficult it is to deal with divorce. Considering all these shocking statistics, how can a divorce possibly have a positive effect on a child? Some people could argue that when a husband or wife is unfaithful or abusive, or when relationships include large quantities of mental and physical abuse and disrespect, In reality, relationships like these are hardly marriages at all; they are counter-protective and in some cases dangerous, so, staying together “for the sake of the kids” will actually cause more harm than good, and there are benefits to children living in single parent families. (Wolf) First, spending quality one-on-one time with children allows a parent to create a closer and stronger bond than perhaps if they were married. Second, as a single parent house, the child may need to step up and receive more responsibility. When a parent shows a real need for a child’s help, children can recognize the value of their contribution and develop pride in their own work, which also may help in school. Third, children face disappointments early in life and learn how to deal with them, and finally, children who are raised in successful single parent families know that they are the main priority in their parents' lives, yet they are not treated as though they are the center of the universe; this helps to prepare for the outside world. (Wolf) While there are can be positive effects of divorce on children, the negative effects are far more numerous. Recognizing the psychological hardships placed on a child is the first step to creating a healthier environment in the wake of a divorce. Already in attempts to ease the negative effects of divorce on children, at least 28 states require divorcing couples to attend parenting classes that among other things teach the importance of parenting together. If parents can find a peaceful way to deal with their children, then the divorce may be easier to deal with, but a child will always negative effects as a result of a splitting family.