Psychological Impact of Divorce
Divorce refers to the termination of marriage between two spouses and it involves breaking all matrimonial bonds. In the past, marriage was defined as a union between a man and a woman but this has changed in the recent past with the legalization of the same sex marriages in several countries. Divorces are everywhere in the world as couples are increasingly finding it difficult to live with one another. This paper looks at divorce including recent statistics in the United States as well as the legal processes involved. More to this, the paper will also address the different types of divorces as well as the most common causes of break ups in marriages. Above all other issues, the paper will address into detail the psychological impacts of divorce on both the children and the spouses involved.
Keywords: no fault laws, war of roses
As stated earlier, divorce refers to the termination of the union of marriage between spouses. There are many reasons why spouses can decide to end their marital union and the causes differ from one person to another. There are those who end their marriages because they feel that they got married to the wrong person and there are those who terminate a marriage after discovering a negative trait of their spouse that they cannot live with. In the past marriage was considered as a union between a man and a woman and cases of same sex marriage were very few. In many countries, especially African countries, gays and lesbians were considered as sociopaths and were mainly isolated or discriminated in the society. In some instances, suspected gays and lesbians would be handed long jail terms and sometimes could receive a death sentence. Over the years, things have and many societies have started to embrace the idea of living with gays and lesbians as part of the society (Knox D., Schacht C., 2009).
The recent change in the mindset of many people has seen a redefinition of marriage where same sex marriages are now legal in many parts in of the world. Many countries, including African ones, recognize marriage between people of the same sex. Cases of divorce are on the rise in the recent past with the United States recording the highest number followed by Europe and the United Kingdom (Philip Michael Stahl, 2007). Other countries that have recorded increased cases of divorce are Canada, Australia and the republic of South Africa .In the traditional western law, a spouse who wanted to initiate divorce proceedings was required to prove a fault on the part of their spouse that necessitated the annulment of their relationship. Without this, many spouses were forced to live in abusive relationships since they were considered legally married. During these early times, some of the most common basis for divorce was cruelty, abandonment, unfaithfulness and desertion among other reasons. After several decades, many governments under pressure from civil society groups revised the divorce laws. It was discovered that they there were some other types of maltreatment in marriages other physical abuse and infidelity. Beginning in the 1960s, many countries revised this clause and replaced it with the no fault laws. Under these laws, a spouse who wanted to initiate divorce proceedings against their partner was not required to prove any ground for the proceedings. Compared to the traditional laws, these laws were much better because they gave couples the freedom to decided whether they wanted to be in a marriage relationship or not. Although these laws gave couples the freedom they wanted in a marriage, they have been faulted by many people as they have led to the collapse of the institution of marriage as couples can marry and divorce anytime they feel like.
The no fault laws were first enacted in the United Kingdom followed by Australia, U.S, Canada and south Africa among other countries. Under the no fault laws, simple allegations like irreconcilable differences are enough for a spouse to initiate divorce proceedings in a court of law. According to a 2004 study carried out by Grant Thornton in the United Kingdom, the main cause of divorce was found to be unfaithfulness, infidelity or adultery. According to this study, 75% of men in the United Kingdom were unfaithful to their wives while only 25% of women engaged in extramarital relationships. Other major causes of divorce in the UK were found to be domestic violence, midlife crisis, addictions and workaholism respectively (Knox D., Schacht C.2009).
Psychological impact of divorce on the divorcees
The annulment of a marriage is a very traumatizing experience for both the divorcees as well as the children if there are any. One of the main reasons why divorce is such a traumatizing experience to the partiers involved is because many relationships are initiated with a promise to stick together till death separates the two. This means that people invests a lot of feelings , time and other resources in relationships and its only natural for them to feel wasted when the other party decides to terminate the marriage (Das C., 2011). In many societies, marriage is considered as a major stage in ones life and this explains why divorce is such a painful experience. As stated earlier, people become after marriage and promise to stick with each other for the rest of their lives. This includes sharing all their secrets and this makes it so overwhelming to part ways with a person whom you considered part of you and best friend. The emotional loss that comes with divorce coupled with both the legal and financial ramifications that follow can have very far reaching psychological impact on both parties (John H. Harvey, Mark A. Fine, 2010).
Some of the most common mental health signs affected by divorce are strained social life, depression, anger, aggressiveness and low self esteem. Regardless of who initiated the divorce proceedings, both divorces exhibit signs of metal disturbances which can in some causes result in accidental death, heart attack, liver cirrhosis and high blood pressure. These disease and deaths come as a result of the psychological adjustment that a divorcee has to make in their life. The first and most common psychological impact of death is anger. Many divorcees find it hard to come to terms with the fact the relationship that they valued so much has come to an end. Such people get irritated quickly and it becomes difficult for them to cultivate good relationships with other people. However, such cases of outbursts of anger can be reduced through keeping pets and talking with close relatives about how one is feeling.
Regardless of whether one is getting divorced for the right reasons, there is likelihood that they will suffer from stress. Divorce causes a lot of emotional imbalance in the lives of the involved parties as they try to move on with life in the absence of the person that they considered dearest to them. Many spruces are dependant on each other in all areas of life and they need both internal and external reorganization after divorce so as to continue with life. Such adaptations can have both short and long term effects which can make it difficult to associate with a person of the opposite sex. Its worthy noting that the levels of stress suffered by men is different top that suffered by women in case of a divorce. For example, men are more stressed after divorce as they are forced to take care of some chores that they never took care of during the marriage. Women on the other hand experience a lot of stress before a divorce as they fear the financial burden they are to shoulder as well the social stigma they may undergo. Recent studies have revealed a connection between increased rates of car accidents, drugs and alcohols abuse, anxiety and depression among men who decide to remain single after divorce (Das C.,2011). Unlike men, women who remain single for a long time after divorce must handle increased stresses like financial strains, raising children on their own and clashes with their former husbands. These challenge coupled with the emotional challenges of divorce can pose risks to their emotional wellbeing. Mothers with teenage children especially boys have a more daunting time as such children keep on asking questions that can sometimes be every hurting to the mother.
Psychological impact of divorce on children
Recent studies have shown that children brought up by two parents are better adapted, more confident and secure compared to those brought up by single parents. These findings are reasonable keeping in mind such children receive support from tow parents. One thing which this finding fails to point out is that for children to receive maximum support from the two parents there must be love and harmony between them. This means that children cannot benefit much if the parents keep on fighting and quarrelling openly even if they are together. According to (Nowinski J, 2010), conflicts between parents stresses the environment in which the child lives therefore threatening their sense of security. Many married people think that despite their best efforts, a divorce is most likely to have a negative impact on the wellbeing of their children. Consequently, they decide that the only way to ensure that their children are okay is to stick in the marriage regardless of how unhappy they may be in the relationship. The conflicts that lead to a separation begin 2-3 years before the actual annulment of the marriage. This period is known as the crisis period as the conflict between the parents begins to affect the day to day life of the children. Although many parents opt to remain in dysfunctional marriages as a way of ensuring that their children are brought up in a secure environment, this is not always the best option.
Although the difficulties in such a marriage may be hidden from the children for some time, it can result in more harm than the actual divorce. According to Nowinski J (2010), repeated and prolonged parental conflicts can cause more serious and far-reaching harmful effects on the children compared to parental absence caused by either death or divorce. The study also indicates that exposure to increased parental conflicts puts children at a risk of several psychological problems similar to those posed by the divorce itself. Some of the most common problems that children may suffer from as a result of exposure to parental conflicts are aggression, anger, anxiety and conduct disorders. Social development of children is very important in early years especially in school going children. Exposure to prolonged parental discord even without resulting in a divorce can affect the overall growth of a child. More specifically, children brought up in dysfunctional families where the parents are always fighting exhibit poor social skills, poor performance in school and low self esteem. Other than developmental problems, children from abusive and dysfunctional families have strained relationship with other children. According to a recent research, many children copy the behaviors of their same sex parent (Allen Li, 2008). For example, a girl copies the behaviors of her mother while a boy copies the behaviors of his father. This means that an abusive father can influence his sons to be over aggressive and hurt women without any remorse. On the same note, female children who witness brutality and aggression towards their mother may get the idea that females are supposed to submit to males and develop detrimental ideas that women should act as victims in marriages.
The psychological effects of divorce on children are more serious and devastating than what the divorcing couple could ever imagine. As the couple engage in their so called war of roses, the children suffer silently. During the divorce process, children are not only affected by the divorce itself but also by how their parents continue to malign one another. As the children grow up, they have the same love for both their parents and this explains why its very difficult for them during divorce as their royalty is divided. The situation is even more serious when teenage children are involved as both parents try to manipulate them either for social, personal or financial gains. Such situation can result in substance abuse, depression, anxiety, teen pregnancy in girls and delinquent behaviors (Philip Michael Stahl, 2007). In some extreme cases, the children may even attempt suicide. On top of this, therapists have also noted that many children who have been caught up in the hostility between their parents during divorce exhibit problems like sleep disorders, concentration and attention problems, anger outbursts and academic difficulties. Consequently, its the responsibility of the parents to come up with measures to ensure that the children are less affected by the divorce proceedings. Taking the whole family into therapy sessions or taking children into individual therapy sessions if they are teenagers are some of ways through which parents can prepare the children physically and mentally for the divorce.
The main challenge faced by children of divorced parents is that they feel responsible for the breakup. They also feel that there is something they can do to help their parents reconcile and get back together again. Such children require a lot psychological help so that they can understand that they had nothing to do with the separation of their parents and so need to feel guilty. A visit to a therapist can along way in helping such children get over their guilt, eliminate depression, dangerous thoughts like suicide, anxiety and other unnecessary behaviors that might have resulted from the separation of their parents (Weiten W., Dunn D. S., Hammer E. Y., 2011) Having said that, there are instances where a divorce is good for all the parties involved including the children. In most cases, divorces is beneficial in instances where both parents are violent and are not willing to visit counseling or therapy sessions to help them deal with the problem. Divorce specialists have acknowledged that divorce is essential especially in situations where children are exposed to physical, sexual or emotional abuse that cannot be dealt with using therapy. Parents are always advised to try all their best to shield their children from any kind of danger when there is a pressing marital or family problem that can affect their wellbeing.
Its worthy noting that the impact that a divorce has on children largely depends on their age. Whereas a divorce increases the dependence of young children and toddlers, it raises the feeling of independence in adolescents (John H. Harvey, Mark A. Fine, 2010). In other words, divorce can bring out aggressive behaviors and responses in adolescents and regressive ones in young children. This difference is caused by the fact that a young child is more dependant and closely connected to its parents with the family making up all it social life. The adolescents on the other hand are more independent and are not that closely connected with their parents. Whereas the social life of a young child revolves around the family only, an adolescent social life goes beyond the family into the outside world. As a dependant on parents, a divorce shakes up the trust that young children have in their parents. A separation becomes tricky to young children as they dont understand why their parents are behaving strangely compared to what they are used to. As the parents separate and the home is turned into two different households, the child must learn to move from one household to the other.
Great care should be taken by all the parties in a divorce case to ensure that the break up does not affect their psychological wellbeing as that of the children. Although its assumed that all divorces are bad, there are instances where annulment of a marriage is better than staying together. For example, children brought up in abusive relationships where the parents are always fighting suffer more psychologically compared to those of divorced parents. During the early stages of a divorce, both parents and children should be taken to counseling sessions so that they can learn how to cope with the expected change in their lives.
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