Divorce and the Mental, Physical, and Emotional Effects it has on Children

Subject: Family
Type: Exploratory Essay
Pages: 11
Word count: 2848
Topics: Divorce, Childhood Trauma, Marriage, Parenting
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I. Introduction

Family instability has become a huge challenge to maintain proper development of children in the recent days. The continuous increase in the number of children facing separation in their childhood and living with single parent indicates a distractive future for them. Fagan & Churchill (2012) therefore affirmed that every year more than a million American children face family separation or divorce of their parents. Even though divorce leads to a huge distraction for every individual involved in the process, the children suffers the major issues due to several factors such as custody, change in school, and child care among others. Divorce not only risks the family members but the society as a whole, as it consumes human and social capital. There are five fundamental factors such as school, family, region, environment and people surrounding the children that help to provide a better future to them, which is completely damaged as a result of family separation (Eryigit-Madzwamuse & Barnes, 2014). 

Apart from the United States, Israel possesses higher divorce rate in the recent years which has become one of the essential social issues in the 21st century. It has hence been proved that the phase of adolescence or childhood is the most significant period for developing physical and mental stability of children. Thus, family separation might become a huge barrier to this development, thereby risking their future as well. However, it is also necessary to concentrate on issues faced by children due to conflict within family along with divorce. The paper therefore aims to explain the negative impact of divorce or family separation on the children in terms of their physical, emotional and mental state. 

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II. DISCUSSION

A. Impact of Divorce on Children’s Mental and Emotional Health

The children, who experienced divorce, face comparatively more problems in schools in maintaining a friendly behavior with other children from “regular” family. According to Sandler et al. (2008), quality of parenting and interpersonal conflicts is considered as the most significant factors that influence the ability of children to adjust after divorce. All the factors are related in complicated ways for which understanding the proper impact is difficult. In the US, around 43%-50% of marriages end with divorce, wherein children need to change their daily life schedule. The study provided by Haimi & Lerner (2016) conducted research, wherein it is found that 90% of the children in “regular” families were in the normal range in terms of having mental problems, whereas 10% faced severe issues that even required professional help to some extent. However, in other families with those experienced divorce or separation, 66% of girls and 74% of boys survived, while 34% of the girls and 26% of the boys were in the “problematic” phase. The divorce process suddenly forced the children to lose contact with one of the parents, which not only limits their opportunity to have a normal life but also restricts better chances for skill development or capability in future (Haimi & Lerner, 2016). Another essential factor for children within divorced family includes limited availability of economic resources. In the recent decade, the parent needs to spend a huge amount for their children in terms of schools and other curriculum (Eryigit-Madzwamuse & Barnes, 2014). Thus, the children, who depend on single parent, might not get the similar resources as compared to the regular children. 

In addition, the divorce process includes huge changes in the family structure of the children along with the neighborhood and schools or friends. Children therefore need to adapt to the stated changes, for which they often face difficulties and avoid interacting with others present in their surroundings. This will lead them to a mental instability for them, as they always try to spend time alone. Stating precisely, continuous conflict within a family always tend to intensify the probability of behavioral issues and stress amid children, as they often becomes its object. It is also revealed in the study of Haimi & Lerner (2016) that in case of children within 3 years, both-parent-functioned system provides better outcome as compared to the solo parent. For example, the boys remaining in the custody of mother become more prone to criminal behavior due to lack of positive identification from their father. The presence of father has proved to be an essential factor in controlling criminal tendency and alcoholism behavior. Conversely, the presence of mother ensure whether the children face any kind of stress regarding their study or any other factors and can discuss with them (Eryigit-Madzwamuse & Barnes, 2014). Thus, it clearly indicates that absence of any of the parents can lead to huge mental stress or may push them towards criminal activities. Furthermore, it has also been noted that the children who are more involved with father are active in academic achievement, thereby leading to a better future in terms of career. Apart from this, suicide is another significant effect of mental stress and depression amid children due to divorce or conflicts between their parents (Haimi & Lerner, 2016). 

B. Changes in Behavior in Children

In the adolescent period, children adopt their preferable behavior, long-term vision and priorities, which are directly influenced by their surroundings. The children are generally unable to understand the whole process of divorce, for which they often create misunderstanding, thereby leading to tremendous level of stress or depression (Haimi & Lerner, 2016). In this case, Eryigit-Madzwamuse & Barnes (2014) asserted that parent should maintain consistency in their child-care, based on which the children can concentrate on a particular object as well as develop their understanding capability. However, divorce brings major changes in every factor of the children’s life and their intention to overcome these transformations weakens their mental stability to a large extent. Their behavior clearly depicts confusion and is prone to be influenced by any negative factor, for which majority of the children end up becoming an alcoholic and sometimes even an individual with criminal tendency. As a result of divorce between parents, often the children consider themselves as the main cause of this separation and start to punish themselves for their conduct. This stress is a base that leads them towards mental instability, which in turn brings about changes in their behavior, which can be inferred from the symptoms of depression, delinquent behavior, substance abuse and sometimes suicide (Haimi & Lerner, 2016). 

Therefore, it can be stated that lack of satisfaction and a sense of blame triggers the behavioral change amid children after the divorce. In families, the presence of both parents can provide a happier and positive environment for the children, wherein they can easily share their issues with the expectation of obtaining their solutions (Desrosiers et al., 2013). However, considering the characteristics of children, they become close and are unable to share anything within t violent environment which can again be considered as the major factor for changing their behavior. In this situations, the younger children, such as those within the age limit of 12-14, create a boundary around them and reduce external contacts, whereas the children beyond the stated age limit focus to seek intimacy outside the house (Haimi & Lerner, 2016). A study conducted by U.S National Library of Medicine (2000) further identified that the developmental issues or reaction of children towards the divorce process differs based on their age. For instance, the preschool-aged children might blame themselves for the separation of their parent, while early school-aged children are expected to understand the actual concern and focus to maintain relationships with both the parents. On the other hand, in the adolescent period, the children become independent and often take harmful decision (U.S National Library of Medicine, 2000). 

C. Influence of Divorce on Physical Health of Children

Even though the major impact of children due to divorce has been identified in the mental or behavioral field, the physical decline is also defined as a significant consequence. According to the information provided by Haimi & Lerner (2016), there is a direct link between divorce of parents and chronic headache of children. Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is also considered to be another prominent disease that is believed to develop amid children due to parental divorce. Considering the process of physical effect due to parental divorce, it can be affirmed that in case the children are continuously subjected to severe or homotypical stimuli, their organisms experience a drop in their ability to react or response on any kind of scenarios, thereby increasing the probability of severe diseases (Haimi & Lerner, 2016). The stated factor is expected to be expressed through several instances such as through insulin-resistant diabetes, increased behavioral depressive states, immunosuppression and hypertension. Nunes-Costa et al. (2009) further stated that the children, who experiences chronic depression or stress because of their parents’ marital separation, face a noticeable increase in dendritic branching in the basolateral amygdala, which induces atrophy of pyramidal cells of the hippocampus, specifically in the CA3 region. The stated fact clearly indicates that chronic stress of children due to some negative impact on their mind, which might in turn lead them to an instable Hypothalamo-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis along with the loss of control over the pituitary gland (Nunes-Costa et al., 2009).

There are several reasons for such chronic health issues of children in this situation. In the majority of divorce cases, the custody of the children is given to any of the parents, based on their economic resource and child-care potential. Stating precisely, in case the custody of children remains on the father then the particular child is expected to lack proper care in the home, thereby leading to physical illness (Desrosiers et al., 2013). In the post-divorce situation, children eventually experience sudden anger, confusion and sadness, due to which they often avoid proper diet. The parents, therefore, should concentrate more on their physical as well as mental requirements so that they can get proper care, which can only be satisfied by the mother (Haimi & Lerner, 2016). 

On the other hand, solo custody on mother might result into lack of economic resources due to which the child might not be provided with the proper diet that is essential for children in the particular period (Fagan & Churchill, 2012). There has always been an indirect link between the physical wellness and mental satisfaction, due to which several children might face severe health problems in the adult age because of stressful childhood. Stress and depression are the causes of several health issues, which become prominent in the children experiencing divorce of their parents as well as mental instability due to the same. In the childhood period, the growth of body and neurons continues which largely depends on the parental influence, environment, and surroundings. Thus, any conflicts in the stated field might restrict their development, which further results in chronic physical illness (Haimi & Lerner, 2016).

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D. Affect of Living Arrangements of Children after Separation 

At the initial period of parental divorce, children need to enter into new living arrangement with their new family as per the system determined by their parents, or the decision of the court as recommended by the lawyer. Majority of such cases determine to provide lifelong custody to a particular parent and the other parent can visit their children as per the routine mentioned by the court (Haimi & Lerner, 2016). These kinds of decisions can be taken based on several factors such as traditional belief and opinion or preferences of parents among others. Stating precisely, it is believed that the mother is more likely to take care of children in terms of their diet, study or other emotional instability, whereas the father supports the family by providing economic resource and by visiting the children in a manner indicating their minor role in the growth of children. The children often lose contact with the non-custodial parent, which possesses a huge negative impact on their growth. It has already been explained that father helps to control negative behavioral changes among the children and any criminal activities, which are expected to be a common driver for depression (Haimi & Lerner, 2016). 

However, there is another type of decision, wherein the children are allowed to live with the non-custodial parent for a specified period of time. This particular parental system is comparatively easier and preferable as it helps to maintain the children during their growing phase, as they can then spend time with both the parents. In the recent cases, considering the increased empowerment of mother and the significant contribution of both parents, the court sometimes provide the custody to the father as well. Apart from this, it has also been noticed that during0 the childhood period, children prefer to be with their friends and this factor eventually changes during the time of separation, thereby establishing a distance between them and the external environment (Fagan & Churchill, 2012).

E. Methods to Help Transition Children to Cope with the Change

There are innumerable adverse consequences that are evident in children due to parental divorce or family separation and this has lead to several negative outcomes in long-term. In few cases, divorce can also be considered a better decision, wherein the family might be able to move towards a healthy lifestyle only after separation (Sandler et al., 2008). However, in both cases the parents or the court need to consider the satisfaction or preferences of children while implementing any decision on their living arrangement or custodial factors. The children were found to be sad or depressed due to the separation of their parents, wherein a majority of children might blame themselves for the action. In such cases, the parents should explain their children the actual reason of the particular decision, which will help them to understand the need of the action as well as ascertain them that they are in no ways responsible for the same (Anderson, 2014). 

The children often become stressful in trying to explore the changes and in getting adapted to them, which in turn leads them towards becoming violent within the family or amid the parents, for which their perspective towards living arrangement or family changes largely. Due to the stated factor, they might not be able to maintain a familiar environment in their married life as well. Thus, the parent should also avoid creating any kind of conflicts in front of the children and focus to maintain a happy and healthy environment surrounding them for the development of positive behaviour (Lansford, 2009). On the other hand, considering physical illness apart from mental stress, lack of proper diet or child-care has proved to be the major cause for the children (Cameron, 2008). To avoid such severe consequences, the court should provide custody to both the parents instead of sole custody, which will not only help to create better opportunities for the children, but also maintain frequent contact with them as well. Since the mother is believed to possess more active bonding with the children and can always take care of their health, the court should provide lifetime custody to the mother, wherein the father can visit the children on a regular basis or can get the chance to live with him for the specified time-frame. It is often found that children face problem to adjust due to frequent change in their livelihood. Thus, it is suggested that the parent should maintain a stable environment for them so that they can easily adapt to the environment and develop friendly behavior as well (Nunes-Costa et.al., 2009). 

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III. Conclusion

 Parental divorce or separation is a common action nowadays in the US, for which concentrating on reducing the negative consequences of such actions is essential. The increase in the number of children facing physical, mental or emotional problems is majorly due to lack of concentration on their preferences and priorities. Childhood or adolescence is hence the most significant period for a human, in which the neurons develop properly within the brain and other hormones start to act in a complete manner. Therefore, the parents should take extra care of their children while pushing them into a tough situation. The children under sole custody often lack proper care and availability of necessary diet or other resources with a comparison to the children with normal families. Furthermore, divorce includes changes not only in the family structure but also during schooling, among friends and in their overall childcare process, which need to be bridged at the earliest. However, in the adolescent period, children are normally expected to be confused, which is increased by the negative events and hence leads to anger, depression, chronic health issues or even death. Thus, sense of blame and lack of satisfaction amid children leads to the behavioral change after the separation. In the families, where both parents provide care to the children are proved to be happier and successfully creates a positive environment, wherein the children can easily behave in a friendly manner with their parents. However, in a violent environment, the children are unable to share their issues with their parents, which are again considered as a major factor for their behavioral change.

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