The science behind the effects of divorce on children in sound. Although each family is unique, divorce has been shown to have a negative impact on a child. However, research supports the notion that the impact of staying in an unhealthy marriage can be worse, as a child learns that it is ok to be unhappy or in an unhealthy relationship.
Simply put, divorce is often the better of two evils and enrolling a child in therapy to help cope with the negative effects of divorce can help insulate a child from negative consequences.
Every family and child is unique, with different strengths and weaknesses. However, research has shown that divorce can have consequences on development which are best addressed through therapy.
A research paper published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) entitled: “The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorce” by Jane Anderson summarizes nearly three decades of research on the effects of divorce on children, a partial summary of the studies are provided below:
Two large meta-analyses, one reported in 1991 and the other reported ten years later in 2001, showed that “children with divorced parents continued to score significantly lower on measures of academic achievement, conduct, psychological adjustment, self-concept, and social relations”
(Amato and Keith 1991; Amato and Booth 1997 as quoted in Amato 2001).
A divorce child may have a weakened relationship with both parents, grandparents and friends. Divorce can impact academics, social relations, anxiety and depression.
. . . divorced mothers are less able to provide emotional support (Miller and Davis 1997). A study in 1996 found that fewer than half of children living with a divorced mother had seen their fathers at all in more than one year, and only one in six saw their fathers once a week (Popenoe 1996, as quoted in Fagan and Churchill 2012, Divorced fathers are rated as less caring by their adolescents (Dunlop, Burns, and Bermingham 2001). The child may find it more difficult to trust his/her father (King 2002).
The child may have a weakened relationship with grandparents or relatives—especially the parents of the noncustodial parent (Kruk and Hall 1995).
The child may lose family traditions, celebrations, and daily routines. Even adult children whose adult parents divorced later in life experienced the loss of family traditions and disruption of celebrations (Pett, Lang, and Gander 1992).
The change in residence may lead to loss of friends, school environment, and other support systems.
Children of divorced parents may have lower scores on self-concept and social relations (Amato 2001).
Anxiety and depression seem to worsen after the divorce event (Strohschein 2005).
Simply put, divorce has consequences on a child’s emotional health which is only exceeded by staying in an unhealthy relationship.
The key learning of this blog is to consider therapy to address the effects of divorce on a child when divorce is the better alternative then remaining in an unhealthy relationship. With therapy, the impact of the effects of divorce on children can be minimized leading to a healthier and happier future.
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