The break-up of a family can be one of the most traumatic events that can happen to a child, and can have a lasting effect on a young person's life. A child's emotional and physical wellbeing can be adversely affected by divorce, which can impact into many areas of life. Studies have shown children whose parents divorced were more likely to suffer from depression when they grew up than ...
The break-up of a family can be one of the most traumatic events that can happen to a child, and can have a lasting effect on a young person's life. A child's emotional and physical wellbeing can be adversely affected by divorce, which can impact into many areas of life. Studies have shown children whose parents divorced were more likely to suffer from depression when they grew up than those whose parents had died. In a survey of 2,867 people nationwide aged 25 or older the highest rates of adult depression were found to be among those who grew up in a family affected by divorce, violence or mental illness. Sociology Professor Ronald C. Kessler said the results were surprising because previous research indicated a parent's death was the most traumatic childhood event.
In Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce (1996), Joan B. Kelly and Judith S. Wallerstein found that five years on from a divorce there were a set of ‘complex configurations' in the individual life of each child. They found some children turned to their non-custodial parent for support and yearned for him or her when the relationship with the other parent was troubled, while others shunned family and relied on their friends for help and support. The authors discovered that: "For children and adolescents, the separation and its aftermath was the most stressful period of their lives. The family rupture evoked an acute sense of shock, intense fears, and grieving which the children found overwhelming. Over one half of the entire group were distraught, with a sense that their lives had been completely disrupted." Kelly and Wallerstein explained that the child is "riveted entirely" on the disruption to family life and becomes increasingly concerned about prospects for the future. The mechanism of support and protection for that child, its family unit, had collapsed leaving the child feeling alone and extremely frightened.
According to another study led by Arizona State University Psychology Professor Sanford Braver and published in the Journal of Family Psychology, children who had to deal with divorcing parents and the subsequent move of a parent to a location over an hour away were more inclined to feel they had a "hard and difficult" life. Braver found that the children interviewed after a parent moved away experienced health problems, and indicated their health may deteriorate as the children grew, especially in the case of stress-related conditions. Braver said that while it used to be difficult for a divorced parent to move away with a child, in many US states courts now take the view that if the move is made in good faith and will benefit the custodial parent then it shouldn't be restricted. He wrote: "The courts were working under the premise that anything that will improve the life of the primary parent will have a beneficial effect on the children."
Divorce may have an impact on a child's long term future and even their earning potential. Family Structure and the Economic Mobility of Children reported that only 26% of children of divorced parents who start in the bottom third of the income ladder move to the middle or top third as adults. The impact of divorce was also reflected when analyzing families by race, with 85% of African-American children and 63% of white children born into the bottom third of the income ladder remaining in the bottom third as adults if their parents divorce. In contrast, 62% of African-American children and 45% of white children remained in the bottom if their parents stay married. "Divorce is a meaningful barrier to a child's economic mobility," commented John E. Morton, managing director of the Pew Economic Policy Group.
Today parenting courses are becoming increasingly popular to help divorced couples who want to keep their own conflicts from interfering with their children's lives. One such initiative in the Denver area is run by Three Trusts Inc. "Reducing conflict between parents is the most effective way to ensure the child's well-being and lessen the negative effects of the separation," said Ruth Rinehart, founder of the organization. In 2006 in Ohio, the Children's Rights Council set up custody-transfer centres. The council, which advises divorced parents, explained that the key factor to success was that the parents didn't see or speak to each other as the children were escorted to the centres.