Varying Negative Impacts of Divorce and Their Lasting Effects on Children
November 27, 2010
Varying Negative Impacts of Divorce and Their Lasting Effects on Children Countless research studies have been conducted on divorce for example, California family law and the no-fault divorce law. Ironically there was no consideration on how it would have a negative lasting impact on children. Judith Wallerstein (2002) suggest that “It's a major part of history that shows how little we consider the impact of so much of legislation and so much of social change on the family and especially on children, who unfortunately don't vote”(para1). In order to understand how divorces can have a lasting negative impact on children it should be studied focusing on how divorce makes children insecure, how children can feel afraid of loss, and the effect of their childhood. This paper examines Wallersteins’ research on the negative emotional effects on the children of the married couple.
The marital relationship, or in today’s society, the lack thereof, is the first relationship that a child witnesses. At home is where a child learns manners, most basic beliefs, and of course, first lessons in love. Drawing on common phrases such as “A father is his daughter’s first boyfriend” to the most recent psychological studies, it has been proven that in the home is where a child has their first account of any type of “man-woman” relationship. By witnessing the relationship his or hers between parents, a child will gain an idea of what he or she wants, or does not want, out of their own relationship. Although studies have also shown that some women follow in the cycle of choosing physically or verbally abusive mates, there is also a likely hood of a child raised in that same type of family environment deciding to break the cycle of abuse within their own personal adult relationships. But even if the parent’s marital relationship is not abusive, albeit dysfunctional as it must be to warrant divorce, it is the child’s first blueprint to a family unit, and as such, the child is likely to build his or hers own family in the same fashion. Although the marital relationship is the most common relationship pattern studied in the case of emotional damage to children of divorced parents, there are many other relationships that change within the family unit negatively impacting the children of divorced parents, the most pertinent of those relationships include: the parent-child relationships, the sibling relationships if more than one child is in the home, and most importantly the child’s relationship with his or herself. In the parent-child relationship, there is an undeniable bond between the child and each parent. A mother-child relationship is usually one of unconditional love and devotion, along with a maturing and ever-changing friendship as the child grows. In a father-child relationship, there is a sense of security, love and friendship that also grows with the child. When parents divorce and the family unit is broken for whatever reason, the child or children in the home are usually the last to know. In Wallerstein’s (2008) article she states “The children had a sense of loss, and anger at their parents. Their great fear was that they would be abandoned….They was overwhelmed with frightening fantasies that had to do with the fear that the scaffolding of their lives was collapsing under them” (para4). Most children of divorced parents also feel inadequate, or that in some way, they are responsible for the divorce. This feeling is magnified if step-parents are introduced and new siblings come along.
Wallerstein (2008) also states that “almost all…of the children of divorce, as adults, suffered with a residue of symptoms in which they were afraid that disaster would strike suddenly, unaware. The happier they were, the better their life, the better their job, the better their love life, the better their relationship, the better their children, the more frightened they became that they would lose it”( para15). Trust and abandonment also become issues with the child throughout his/her life, and why should they not? In the child’s eyes, she has already been let down by his parents, the people who were supposed to love him more than anyone else in the world, so why should he expect anything different emotionally from anyone else.
In the sibling relationship, a child may bond with its siblings throughout the horrific divorce experience. No one will understand a child in this situation better than another child in this same situation, more so if both or all of the children in question are in the same household. The living arrangements of the children throughout the process are also influential to the relationship that the children will have with one another for the remainder of their lives. If a child feels favored by one parent over the other, he may choose to live with that parent once the family divides, and then once the children are separated; they may take one parent’s side over the other, alienating themselves from the other parent as well as their sibling.
And the most important relationship that changes as a result of a child’s parents divorcing is the relationship that the child will have with himself. As previously stated, a child may feel responsible for their parent’s divorce, and in turn may feel inadequate, and could potentially carry that emotional baggage with them their entire life. Any person who has a defective relationship with themselves cannot hope to obtain and sustain normal functioning emotional relationships with anyone else, family or otherwise. For instance, should a child of divorced parents marry and start a family, he or she may not be able to remain happy in their family life, simply because he or she has seen the pain that can be caused by a marriage ending. These same children, now adults in their own right, may knowingly sabotage their happy marriage to avoid the pain that a divorce could bring them should their spouse ask for one. Adversely, children of divorced parents may grow up and end up in unhappy marriages but do not want to end them in divorce because they do not want to end up like their parents. It is most children’s worst nightmare to end up like their parents, especially when it comes to failing at marital relationships. Wallerstein (2008) also states: [From the child's perspective, [their parents] failed. It's very hard for grown-ups to realize. It doesn't mean they've failed, it means from their child's perspective they failed. From their child's perspective they failed to keep it together….. [The child will] trouble in their third decade of life, in their twenties, in knowing what they are looking for in a man or a woman, in believing that they can keep it together, in believing that they can have a lasting relationship. Their fear of failure is very powerful—as powerful (and this is their conflict) as their intense wish to do better than their parents did.] And as a result, they may remain in unhealthy, unfulfilling marriages, simply to prove that they have the tenacity to sustain a marriage, good or bad. And as to not appear a failure, the child may not even let on that he or she is in a bad marriage to begin with. He or she may simply act as though he or she has the perfect marriage when outside eyes are watching.
Divorce is an unfortunate situation that no family should endure, and although it is hard on all family members involved, the children in the home are the least emotionally prepared for the situation. As a result, the children in the home are most emotionally damaged in this process because besides all of the issues discussed, the child may also be used as a weapon by one parent to hurt the other parent, which psychologically damages the child as well.
Although divorce may be the only answer to certain marital issues, this process must be implemented as smoothly and as confrontation-free as possible so as not to unnecessarily damage the children involved. Children are innocent and should not be subjected to any more emotional turmoil then absolutely necessary for as long as possible to maintain this innocence. Their reality should not be tainted simply because Mommy and Daddy no longer want to be married. These children did not ask to be here, and the adults that bring them into the world have the job to protect them from harm, both physical and emotional, and by no means should adults be the ones to inflict misery, heartache and inferiority on these precious little beings who did nothing to bring about their present familial situation. It is also the duty of parents to make sure that children’s emotional well-being is secured during this tough time, and all applicable transitions are made as smoothly as possible. It may also be beneficial to talk to children and make sure that they know that no matter what, they are special, they are loved, and that the problems between their parents are not their fault.
Wallerstein, J. (2008). Divorce Has a Lasting Negative Impact. In A. Ojeda (Ed.), Opposing Viewpoints. The Family. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. Retrieved from http://ezp.tccd.edu:2048/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow?displayGroupName=Viewpoints&prodId=OVIC&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010136220&userGroupName=txshracd2560&jsid=17b2becf06994b4a30546b7f246a62ad