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Divorce refers to the legal ending of a marriage. Although it is taken as a legal action, divorce nonetheless has a big impact on the psychological, social, financial and often times physical aspects of the married partners and their family (Neuman and Romanowski, 1999).
Divorce has different effects on the individuals divorcing and children. For some it may take years to deal with a divorce while for others, it may take more time. This is especially in circumstances when people did not deal well with the divorce and the issues remain unresolved (Neuman and Romanowski, 1999).
How divorce starts
A divorce starts when one married partner files the legal paperwork requesting divorce in a court of law (Clark-Stewart and Brentano, 2007). This initiates the divorce proceedings. Both partners can file at the same time. The partner then gives grounds that would allow them to get the divorce. If the court approves then the divorce can proceedings can continue until the divorce is finalized. Divorces can be lengthy, costly and complex and that is why people often hire lawyers to conduct them for the divorcing partners.
Reasons for divorce
There are various reasons as to why people divorce. One of the causes of divorce is unfaithfulness. According to Clark-Stewart and Brentano (2007), unfaithfulness has been one of the reasons why people divorce even pre-Christian era. In modern society though there have been more reasons coming up. Another reason for divorce is cruelty (Clark-Stewart and Brentano, 2007). This includes physical and emotional cruelty. This is considered to often have permanent damage on marital relations.
Another reason cited for divorce is incompatibility. According to Clark-Stewart and Brentano (2007), many married couples cite incompatibility as the reason for divorce when they realize that they are on different levels and no longer have a common ground. In the modern times, socialist some up divorce as largely due to people making the wrong choices in marriage (Clark-Stewart and Brentano, 2007). As a result, divorce rates have increased.
People also divorce because of stress. The stresses of life take a toll on people and they are not equipped to handle it. As a result people feel that they can not cope with marriage demands, children in addition to other demands made on them (Clark-Stewart and Brentano, 2007). consequently, divorces have become more rampant.
Proneness to divorce
There are multiple factors that can contribute to making some people more prone to divorce. One of the factors is sociocultural settings. People who grow up with interchangeable roles in the family are likely to get divorced as they have a ‘sufficiency’ approach to life (Clark-Stewart and Brentano, 2007). Family roles in the modern society have changed and as economic and social changes evolve, people who have moved past traditional functions of marriage are finding it increasingly easier to divorce (Clark-Stewart and Brentano, 2007).
Another factor is that people from divorced families are more likely to divorce than those who do not come from divorced families. According to Clark-Stewart and Brentano (2007), divorces in families increase the rates of divorce and sometimes the children from those families when compared to other families.
Other factors are demographics for example age of marriage, backgrounds and religion. People who are religious have fewer rates of divorce (Clark-Stewart and Brentano, 2007). Those who marry young have higher rates of divorce as well.
Other factors that increase proneness to divorce include communication in marriage and lack of communication skills. People with poor communication skills have greater chances of divorce. This is because communication is key during marriage. If partners are not able to communicate, their needs will go unmet.
Due to modern lifestyles where people are too busy and dedicated to their work putting in many hours, time away from the family greatly erodes communication since people do not even spend adequate time together (Clark-Stewart and Brentano, 2007).
Effect of divorce on children
According to Temke (2006), divorce has a wide range of effect on children. The effects are usually seen in age groups and mostly depend on what the children are able to understand of the divorce. For children younger than two years, divorce does not seem to upset their life, unless the child had a very close relationship with the child and ceases to be present in the child’s life (Temke, 2006). For toddlers the most common effect on the child is an upset stomach and loss of appetite (Temke, 2006).
For children between 3 to 5 years, the common effect is that they feel guilty and feel that if they had been good their parents, especially if one leaves the home, would not have left. According to Temke (2006), they also show fear of abandonment and regress to baby like behavior like bed-wetting and desire to have toys. Though they desire companionship of adults, they may still rebel, show aggression or become disobedient (Temke, 2006).
For school going children at elementary level, the effects are even more profound according to psychologists (Temke, 2006). This is because the children are old enough to experience the pain of the divorce without ample means to deal with the pain (Temke, 2006). The common effects are feelings of acute anger, resentment and embarrassment. In addition they feel their loyalty has to be divided and grief at the situation (Temke, 2006).
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According to Temke (2006), some of the effects of divorce on teenagers are feelings of anger, guilt, depression and loneliness. They may also experience fear and feel they have to play more adult role around the home. They may experience self-doubt due to what they may perceive as their parent’s failure and fear marriage. Because they can understand, they often feel pressure to assign blame to one parent as responsible for divorce.
Coping with divorce for children
For children coping with the divorce largely depends on the relationship that parents foster and help they give to the children. One of the best ways of ensuring the children cope well with the divorce is to explain to them what is going on (Temke, 2006; Neuman and Romanowski, 1999). This allows them to have trust in the parents and also builds a firmer foundation for parent-child relationship. They also have an opportunity to ask questions and their fears and concerns can be allied especially concern for their future.
Another strategy to help children cope with divorce would be for parents to be as amicable as possible (Neuman and Romanowski, 1999). Tension, hostilities and conflict are negative for the child’s wellbeing. Additionally parents should offer children reassurance, support and love while maintaining discipline. The more parents make the transition smooth, the more children will feel secure, well taken care of with a sense of worth and esteem (Temke, 2006).
Another strategy for helping children cope is continuous involvement in the daily activities of the children (Temke, 2006). Although distance when parents are living apart may not favor one parent, it is important to keep close communication with the children and be involved in their school and social life.
This helps to assure children and help them feel loves. Keeping close contact will also help parents gauge the progress f the children so that they can address any issues in a timely manner (Neuman and Romanowski, 1999). This is especially important when joint living is not possible.
Parents can also limit the amount of changes that occur in the children’s life so that they do not have much to deal with (Neuman and Romanowski, 1999). As children may be hopeful that the parents will get together, parents should be careful not to get their hopes up. According to Temke (2006), by keeping communication open, the parents can stay open to the children’s questions and help the children to realize the finality of divorce. In this way, they avoid future heartaches for the children.
In case the children have a particularly hard time with the divorce parents can help them get professional help in counseling or therapeutic activities that will help them deal with the divorce (Neuman and Romanowski, 1999).
In the meantime they should be understanding of the children and patient when their behavior changes for the worse. However they should maintain discipline and create boundaries for the children. This is because the children need to deal with the divorce no matter how painful it is, if they are to have a healthy future.
Coping with divorce for the divorcing partners
For the individuals getting a divorce one of the best ways of coping with the divorce is trying to get as much support as possible. This is especially helpful during stressful moments. Friends and relatives can help to stay focused and deal with the emotional pressures of divorce. They can also offer advice and guide one towards acceptance of the divorce and moving on.
Another way to help coping is by creating priorities so that life does not stagnate. Rather, the divorce can be a new opportunity in life to develop other meaningful relationships, concentrate on work or on the self. Getting involved in activities, trying out new things and improving the self can be healthy and energizing while taking the mind off difficulties of the divorce for a better future.
If there is need, counseling can be undertaken. This can help one to understand and deal with their feelings. Additionally they can acquire new skills and ways of dealing with stress and pressures in healthy ways. According to Temke (2006), counseling is also helpful in helping to chart a new life when a divorced person needs assistance to deal with their new condition.
Divorce continues to have impact on the family even as psychologists and sociologists try to study its effects in society. While divorce may be undesirable it is a reality that needs to be dealt with so that it leaves behind as few negative effects as possible. Divorce has a great impact on children and unless measures are taken by parents and communities to mitigate them, children may end up with disrupted lives and possibly long lasting problems in their adult life.
Clark-Stewart, A. and Brentano, C. (2007). Divorce: causes and consequences (Current perspectives in psychology). New York: Yale University Press.
Neuman, G. and Romanowski, P. (1999). Helping your kids cope with divorce the sand castles way. New York: Random House.
Temke, M. W. (2006). The effects of divorce on children. Retrieved from: https://extension.unh.edu/