Children & Divorce

MA Law student, Talisa Mitchell, recently conducted research on children of divorce for her Master in Laws degree.  Combining social science research with personal interviews, she discovered how divorce can affect children.  Read her work, Divorce and the Psychological Effects on Children.  Her guest post follows:

Divorce can take a major toll on a family especially if children are involved. 
Research shows that 1.5 million children in the United States whose parents’ divorce every year feel as if their worlds are falling apart.  Research also suggests that divorce increase the risks of negative effects on children.  Statistics show that children from divorced homes suffer academically and experience high levels of behavioral problems from poorer grades and lower graduation rates, to children of divorce being more likely to be incarcerated for committing a crime as a juvenile.  Statistics also show that children in divorced homes are more likely to live in poverty. My research also revealed that divorce affects children emotionally especially in displaying anger towards others, frequent guilt, and feeling alienated from their peers.  Furthermore, with anger and confusion, a child may become defiant and have an increased frequency of breaking the rules.
Divorce also affects children mentally by causing them to bear a significant amount of stress that can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and even attempted suicide.  Children often feel as though they are in the middle of their parent’s divorce, which causes negative psychological effects.   Divorce can also affect children sexually because from adolescents to adults, their attitudes about sexual behavior may change.  Research shows that premarital sex, cohabitation and divorce tend to rise drastically for children of divorce compared to children from intact families. 

I was able to conduct interviews on adults whose parents divorced when they were only seven years old.  It was quite interesting because they had similar viewpoints, and the interviews exposed how children actually feel when they experience their parents’ divorce.  One child interviewed revealed that when she saw her mother cry it often made her sad and more confused throughout the process.  In another interview I discovered a child who felt brainwashed from what her mother told her and her siblings about their father.  She added, however, that once she became older she was able to form her own opinion of her father.  Ultimately, the children of divorce interviewed – now adult children of divorce - were too young to understand what exactly was happening during the divorce process.  Each mentioned that the divorce did not have its major impact until they were older.

For additional helpful resources see:
A Prospective Analysis of Family Fragmentation: Baby Mama Drama Meets Jane Austen, 29 B.Y.U.J. L. & Pub. Pol’y 101(2015).
Lynne Marie Kohm and Alison R. Haefner, Empowering Love and Respect for Child Offenders Through Therapeutic Jurisprudence: The Teen Courts Example, Sociology and Anthropology 4(4): 212-221 (2016).


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