“At least one out of every two marriages ends in divorce” (Ambert, 2009, p. 6). However, this rate includes hidden divorce, cohabitation and marriage, separation without divorce, as well as second and third divorces of the same people. In fact, this rate may become higher if “younger cohorts continue to enter into cohabitation as a first union in greater numbers” (Ambert, 2009, p.6). One of the reasons is that young people start living together without sufficient experience, and after several years (or even earlier), they notice that this marriage was a mistake. Moreover, other couples live together, have children, and suddenly realize that they cannot co-exist in one apartment. Furthermore, some persons fall in love with other men or women, while the others just want to stay alone. Nevertheless, nobody thinks of children and the impact of divorce on them. The problem is that children are the weakest link in the family, and when parents decide to live separately, offspring are the first who suffer from it. Though the couples argue that living with constantly quarrelling parents is worse for children than living with a single parent, the short-term and long-term negative effects of divorce on children are inevitable.
Stages of Divorce
A decision to annul the marriage is not spontaneous. In fact, it usually appears after some harmful events and attitudes toward another spouse, and it takes a long time until the couple divorces. According to Matthews (n.d.), experts distinguish several stages of divorce: emotional, legal, economic, co-parental, community, and psychic divorce. The emotional divorce begins when negative feelings such as offence, anger, hurt or envy replace love and fondness. As a result, the partners become cold and indifferent to each other. Talking about the legal divorce, it takes place when someone of the couple is guilty, and the spouses get legal documentation about their marriage annulment. With regard to the economic divorce, it is hard for children and adults because they need to divide all the properties that they bought during marriage. Apparently, this stage of divorce is the most unsteady, and every situation needs to be regarded separately. Concerning the co-parental divorce, it can be subdivided into parents’ cooperation, free parenting, and struggling parenting. The first type means high cooperation and little conflicts, the second one engages low cooperation and little conflicts, and the third type is characterized by low cooperation and too many controversies. Talking about the community divorce, it is hard for children because it often means that the divorced parent with a child moves to another region, and a child has to change school and friends. Finally, the psychic divorce has to do with the spouses but not with children. It denotes that a man or woman has to adjust to being alone after a long period of marriage.
There is also a non-fault divorce, “which allows the opportunity to live without a mutual agreement” (Allen & Brinig, 2012, p. 316). In fact, this kind of divorce has a smaller impact on children. However, all these stages have a different influence on children. Some effects of the parents’ separation may continue long, and others may be short. In order to prevent the negative outcomes, the parents should effectively treat their children. They “can help children develop their own abilities, learn what is solvable and what is not” (Pedro-Carroll, 2011, p. 4), as well as try to explain that their feelings are normal. Close relationships on every stage of divorce can help children to undergo this period with minimal consequences.
Short-Term and Long-Term Impact on Children
It is essential to discover how many children are engaged in the divorce process. In 2007, the research showed that “15 percent of all children will see their custodial parent divorce more than once before age 18” (Ambert, 2009, p.10). Moreover, half of those children observe their parents’ divorce again. However, these estimates were made only in the USA; the number of divorces in other countries may vary. The divorce differently influences children taking into account their age. Those children whose age is under preadolescent experience short-term effects more often than the teenagers do. Talking about younger children, they often cannot realize the changes which occur in the family after the divorce. Therefore, they become confused when one of the parents moves from their home. It may lead to fear that the second parent may abandon them as well. With regard to little children, they often think that the whole world whirls around them, and when parents divorce, children may blame themselves for it. However, they adjust more quickly to the new surroundings and the fact that one parent lives separately. In fact, some scholars believe that though the children forget everything quickly, the subconscious trauma may emerge in the adulthood (Matthews, n.d., p. 4). On the other hand, preadolescents and adolescents suffer from long-term consequences because, unlike small children, they reveal their feelings to the friends, and it makes easier to handle the short-term effect. Nevertheless, short-term and long-term effects are negative for children of all ages. When considering short-term effects, one may notice that children express their anger, sadness, and depression as well as become aggressive and non-compliant. What is more, children endure stress and shock, while their school grades become lower. The duration of these effects may differ. Apparently, everything is dependent on the parents and their post-divorce actions, as well as on the child’s age and gender. If parents are able to cope with their emotions after divorce, the consequences for children will be less adverse. However, if the parents cannot manage their feelings, the aftereffect will continue longer.
The most influenced group of children is a teenage group. They suffer most of all because their age is transitional, their bodies transform, they do not understand these changes, and if a divorce happens, it is a big disaster for them. If after divorce a teenager is constantly moving between parents’ houses, it may lead to “decreasing educational attainment” and “to poor occupational outcomes” (Uphold-Carrier & Utz, 2012, p. 250). These arrangements may cause the decline of a sense of control and affect mental health. The adolescents may feel angry and depressed; however, unlike little children, they do not blame themselves but rather one of their parents. What is more, teenagers may think of their personal relations with the opposite sex and of their ability to keep the long-term relationship. Moreover, in the future, such persons are likely to select a life partner who looks like their alienated parent, thereby fulfilling a lack of attention in the childhood. It means that long-term effects of divorce transfer from adolescents to adults and influence their lives on a large scale.
Other negative outcomes are “the early loss of virginity” and “diminished sense of masculinity or femininity for young adults” (Fagan & Churchill, 2012, p. 1). As a consequence, it can lead to different problems with dating, early and frequent cohabitation without marriage, risk of divorce in the future, and no desire to have children (Fagan & Churchill, 2012, p. 1-2). Thus, when parents part, their children suffer more than the spouses themselves do. Furthermore, boys and girls react differently to the divorce. Several researches discovered that boys have greater troubles in post-divorce period than girls. The reason is that when girls live with mothers, they observe the same-sex behavior and actions. On the contrary, most boys need to adjust to living without the same-sex role model in a family. It, in turn, may lead to the derangements in social behavior. Moreover, such boys may become more feminine since they are not aware of their male role in a family and the society. However, these effects may occur only when boys are of pre-school age because in older age, gender roles of a child are already established. Another study shows that men who were raised in divorced families may become both hostile and “‘a rescuer’ of the women to whom they are attracted” (Fagan & Churchill, 2012, p. 10). Nevertheless, girls are also affected, and the ones from single-parent families are more likely to be weak and dependent in their future relationships.
According to Kim (2011), there are three periods of divorce, namely pre-divorce, in-divorce, and post-divorce. The results of the conducted study showed that math scores of children worsened during both in- and post-divorce periods, while interpersonal skills were also negative affected in these periods. The author also observed “a pronounced in-divorce effect on the internalizing behavior dimension” (Kim, 2011, p. 506). However, pre-divorce effects were non-significant.
Another harmful outcome of divorce is a socioeconomic status of a child when they become adults. After the divorce, educational achievements of a child are worse, while some adolescents may decide not to get higher education. It may lead to negative consequences in their career and socioeconomic status, as well as a personal outcome (Davis, 2008, p. 37). When children experience their parents’ divorce, they become more inattentive and absent-minded; hereby, their attention is distracted, and they cannot concentrate on the study. It is worth mentioning that all these short-term effects transform into long-term effects and prevent the adolescents from getting higher education. As a result, they cannot find appropriate job and earn enough money. These problems can cause difficulties in creating a new family because of the fear of not being able to financially support family. Thus, the more divorced families with children appear, the more is the possibility that such children will suffer misfortune.
After divorce, the relationships between parents and children change. Children see one of their parents (the father in most of cases) rarer, and because of lack of communication and support, they become angry and do not want to listen to both father and mother. The parents lose their authority and cannot control their child’s behavior. Thus, one problem causes several others, which, in turn, leads to the above-mentioned consequences. However, if the parents stay in friendly relations after the divorce and do not impede the father-children meetings, the well-being of a child has more chances to be preserved. That is why, it is a task of every parent, who decides to get divorced, to think of the whole situation repeatedly and make everything possible not to involve a child into adults’ problems.
Uphold-Carrier and Utz (2012) distinguish two dimensions of divorce timing; hereby, the first is the amount of time that has passed since divorce, and the second is the age of children at which parental separation happened (p. 251). The study showed that the mean age at parental divorce was fourteen, the mean age of the young group was nine, and the mean age of the adult group was twenty-four years old (Uphold-Carrier & Utz, 2012, p. 254). The timing dimension varied from one to seventy-three years after parental divorce, with the mean age of thirty-six years (Uphold-Carrier & Utz, 2012, p. 254). The number of participants of the study was 580, and 392 of them “were between the ages of 0 and 17” when their parents divorced (Uphold-Carrier & Utz, 2012, p. 253). It means that the majority of children were under eighteen, and the influence of the divorce on them was more negative than on the adults.
The students whose parents are divorced are often not able to resolve conflict in a peaceful way. That is why they use violence more frequently than the students from nuclear families do (Fagan & Churchill, 2012, p.16). Moreover, the girls whose father lives separately are more likely to have early sexual intercourse and have many sexual partners before marriage. With regard to the daughters of single mothers, they are also more likely to get pregnant at an early age. It leads to abortions, single parenthood, and broken life of young women. On the contrary, the daughters who live in a full family do not experience the above-mentioned problems and are more likely to create a happy family in the future.
The Duration of Long-Term Effects
Several researches were conducted with children from divorced families after five and ten years of the separation. At first, all the children were not much affected. However, in five years, the children vented their anger at the parent who initiated divorce, longed for the absent parent, desired to return their family, and one-third of them had clinical depression (Matthews, n.d., p. 4). In ten years after the divorce, the children showed the following results. They felt sorrow for their parents and wanted them to be together again. Moreover, their physical health was worse than that of children from nuclear families. What is more, they felt negative emotions such as depression, anger, fear of being betrayed and abandoned, hostility, and low satisfaction with life. The social outcomes were also not positive. In ten years, children had poor relations with opposite gender because of fear of being betrayed or repeating their parents’ mistakes. Furthermore, they showed less trust to their partners and were afraid of close and intimate relations. On the other hand, such children have traditional view on the perfect family and seek to reach such ideal during their life.
However, not all children felt bad after the divorce. There were those, who adjusted fine to the situation. For instance, the children who stayed with mother believed that she did well and had her personal live. Those children who lived with father had close relationships with him because the father made some changes in the career. The relations with both grandparents were also good. Moreover, they remembered only positive moments of the pre-divorce life, and the rules and customs did not change in the family. Furthermore, these children had good attitude toward the new partners of their parents. Some studies showed that the majority of adult children “were clear that divorce had positive outcomes for both themselves and their parents” (Kushner, 2009, p. 506). Thus, in some situations, divorce does not negatively affect children. However, in most cases, children are suffering from it.
Various researches showed that divorce negatively influences children of all ages. Little children are more likely to have short-term effects after divorce than the teenagers and adult children do. However, some scientists assert that short-term effects may transfer into long-term effects after five, ten, and even more years after the parents’ divorce. To prevent or simply diminish negative outcomes, parents have to take some measures. Thus, they need to pay as much attention to their children as possible. What is more, even if the spouses are in bad relations, their children should be able to see the separate-living parents as often as it is feasible. Parents should show their love to children and engage them to participate in different activities. Moreover, if the father or mother decides to remarry with another person, he or she should allow the child to adjust to that person and feel comfortable with them. These pieces of advice can help to diminish some aftereffects of the divorce. However, the men and women should think well before they start marriage in order not to annul it when the children are already born. Sometimes, it is better to divorce than to let children observe constant fights and quarrels. Nevertheless, children of divorced families are more likely to face negative consequences and problems in the social and personal life than those of nuclear families.