Divorce has become a common aspect of our society. Current divorce statistics have been estimated to be 50% in America. This portrays a society where people are moving from a situation where family institutions were used as refugees and comfort zones to a one where they are viewed as a place of doom and suffering.
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We cannot deny that divorce has devastating and far reaching effects than we are ready to admit. This paper looks into the impacts of divorce to the various members of the broken marriage, and how they try to live through it.
Impacts of divorce
The effects of divorce are experienced by each and every member of the family regardless of who was at fault.
“The effects of divorce can change virtually every aspect of a person’s life including where a person lives, with whom they live with, their standard of living, their emotional happiness, their assets and liabilities, time spent with children and other family…” (eJustice 2002),
Effects of divorce to couples themselves
Even though the couple is the author of the outcome of the marriage, it does not affect them any less. The effects are on all aspects of life i.e., socially, financially, and psychologically.
Socially, individuals relations with the outside is influenced by the persons failed marriage. “Divorced individuals generally experience more social isolation and have smaller social networks than do married individuals” (Henley & Parsley, 2011).
This may result from self pity and feelings of inadequacy that may be developed by the individual in question. Further, there are societies where divorced people are viewed as failures and are allocated a lower social standing as compared to married people. In such traditional societies, divorced people and especially women are not allowed to remarry. So they may end up spending their lives in solitude and unhappy.
Moreover, even where it is completely allowed to remarry, “remarriages are less stable than first marriages…Therefore; divorce appears to influence future marital relationships, making them less stable and more vulnerable to dissolution” (Henley & Parsley, 2011).
Economically, a person’s normal life is disrupted and normally one of the couple may have to establish a home elsewhere, which requires funds. Further, divorce legal proceedings can be quite expensive, to hire lawyers and paying witnesses not to mention countless hours spent in courtrooms. In addition, the property accumulated during the subsistence of the marriage is ordinarily split up between the couple and these lowers the standards of living from both ends.
Sometimes, a couple may be unable to obtain judicial help in determining property ownership leaving weaker party, especially women, under the mercy of the other couple. This normally causes unfairness where the party refuses to divide the property in his possession fairy, not to mention hiding some of the property, leaving the other party financially starved.
Researchers have reached a conclusion that there is a disparity between the economic situation of women and that of men after divorce, with women generally being on the lower edge while men experiencing an economic upsurge (Braver and O’Connell 1998).
Psychologically, research has revealed that divorced people portray higher rates of anxiety and depression, low self-esteem and psychological instability, with those having more than one divorce experiences exhibiting more of these tendencies as compared to those with one.
Researchers has it that those who stay married, even though they were unhappy before, are likely to be happier five years later in the marriage as opposed to those who opted for divorce (Waite & Gallagher 2000, P. 148).
The psychological impact causes health implications to the couple. It has been shown that both spouses will greatly suffer a decline in mental health but this may affect women more than men. Further, a couple diagnosed with a terminal illness is more likely to recover within the marriage as compared to a divorced individual (Goodwin et al 1987, P. 3125-3130).
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This shows that there are deeper issues associated with divorce besides the financial hurdles and social effects.
Impacts to Children
Divorce has profound implications on the children of the marriage. This is regardless of whether they are adult children or otherwise. Study has shown that divorce has serious implications on development of children and affects their future relationships. These effects may be discussed in terms of what the child has to lose resulting from the divorce. These may include such things as economic loss, lack of parental care and other social disruptions.
Economically, since children are moving from an institution where there are two breadwinners to, in most cases, one-breadwinner family it is normal that the financial status will have to be adjusted to suite the new family setting. This will mean cutting costs to incorporate all the needs of the family to the now constrained family budget.
In extreme cases, where the single parent is unemployed and without a stable source of income, the children may be forced to survive without basic necessities. It has been established that, “[children] in single-parent families have less than one-third the median per capita income of kids from two-parent families, and half of them fall below the poverty line in any given year, compared with 10% of their counterparts in intact families” (Magnet 1992, p 43)
Parental factor has various aspects to it. First of all, divorced parents will no longer live together. The children who were used to being with both parents will have to live with one of them. Adjusting to these new casual relationships between parents may pose problems to most children.
Mostly the children grow up without having the fatherly input in their lives. For children below 5 years, “sleep disturbances and an exacerbated fear of separation from the custodial parent are common. There is usually a great deal of yearning for the non-custodial parent” (Eleoff 2003).
It was concluded that youth of around 20 years still carry around with them painful memories ten years after their parents’ divorce. Billings and Emery (2000) among the things that still weigh down on them is the loss of the relationship with their fathers.
Further, the parent bestowed with the custody of the children may not be very effective on his/her own on the over burdened parental obligation. It could be the ordinary imperfections of a parent or it could have arisen from the after-effects of the divorce process. As argued out before, the psychological stability of the parent may be in question, and this is transmitted to the children, albeit unknowingly.
“In the wake of a divorce, most custodial mothers exhibit varying degrees of disorganization, anger, decreased expectations for appropriate social behavior of their children, and a reduction of the ability of parents to separate the child’s needs and actions from those of the adult” (Eleoff 2003).
The other issue on parents is the fact that, after divorce, parents will remarry and the children will have a different set of parents, step parents. Obviously, the step family will not function as naturally as a normal family does.
More often than not, there will be conflicts of loyalties between step parent and biological parent for the child. “Evidence suggests that each change in parenting arrangements represents a risk factor, thus increasing the likelihood that a child will react negatively to their post-divorce environment”(Demo & Supple 2011).
Social disruptions involve such things as moving houses, changing schools and having adapting new and very different surrounding for the child. Sometimes, it means that the new surroundings are worse off than the one the child is used to. This may be due to financial strains on the single parent.
Study has shown that, constant moving for children of single parent families, increased school drop-outs and chances of unplanned pregnancies. (Crowder and Teachman 2004)
When these children move from their original home and schools, they lose their friends and are forced to start all over again in life, a situation that most children have a problem adjusting to.
Overall, children experience such internal and emotional conflicts as low self-esteem, unfamiliarity to the new surroundings and set of parents, feelings of rejection especially from the parent who is not living with them and feelings of hopelessness and insecurity.
How divorced spouses cope with the divorce
Despite the devastating impacts of a divorce, all the members have to find a way of surviving the divorce. Some of the factors that help family members cope may be economical, social or personal factors.
Personal factors have to do with the personal attributes that are specific to an individual. They include such matters as age, level of education, financial security and psychological stability. Research shows that older people are less likely to cope with a divorce as compared to younger people owing to their impaired chances of remarriage and due the comfort they have established in the marriage all those years.
Also, a person who is financially stable will be more likely to adjust to new family set-up as opposed to people who are unemployed. This is made stronger by the now widely adopted principle of property settlement between spouses, which requires a 50-50 property division. This ensures that both spouses’ living standards are least affected by the divorce.
Also, parties will seek to establish new social networks for support. Some spouses will start new romantic relationships or even remarry so as to forget their former spouses as well as help in the hardships of day to day living.
Divorce is a horrible ordeal to go through. The post-divorce experiences are beyond devastation, both to the members of the family involved and to the society at large. Parties should try to resolve their disputes before rushing for divorce and it should only be a last resort.
Many studies have been done on the level divorce with statistics showing that they are currently very high. However, there hasn’t been conclusive research on what are the causes of this rapidly increasing pandemic or even on how it could be stopped.
Therefore, future studies should concentrate more on how we can combine efforts to reduce the occurrence of more divorces. It is a duty and responsibility of each and every member of the society to uphold and protect the sanctity of the institution of the marriage.
Braver, S. L and O’Connell, D. (1998) Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths. New York: Putnam.
Billings, L & Emery, R. E. (2000). Distress among young adults in divorced families: Journal of Family Psychology, 14, 671-687.
Crowder, K & Teachman, J. (2004). Do residential conditions explain the relationship between living arrangements and adolescent behavior? Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 721-738.
Demo,H.D& Supple,A.J. (2011). Divorce– Effects On Children, Effects On Couples, Effects On Parents: Effects On Children: Retrieved from https://family.jrank.org/pages/413/Divorce.html#ixzz1RKIAMjFY
Eleoff, S. (2003). An Exploration of the Ramifications of Divorce on Children and Adolescent: The Pennsylvania, State University College of Medicine eJustice.
Goodwin, S et al. (1987). The Effect of Marital Status on Stage, Treatment, and Survival of Cancer Patients; Journal of the American Medical Association 258: 3125-3130.
Henley, K & Pasley, K. (2011). Divorce- Effects On Children, Effects On Couples, Effects On Parents: Effects on couples. Retrieved from https://family.jrank.org/pages/413/Divorce.html#ixzz1RKIAMjFY
Magnet, M. (1992). The American Family: Fortune 10 Aug: 42-47.
Waite, L & Gallagher, M. ( 2000). The Case for Marriage. New York: Doubleday p.148.