Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School-Based Interventions for Children of Divorce

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School-Based Interventions for Children of Divorce

Article excerpt

Children of divorce experience a significant upset in their family system which can result in a number of adverse effects (Cantrell, 1986). Guidubaldi, Cleminshaw, Perry, and Mcloughlin (1983) report that children of divorce are at risk for problems in school. They found that children of divorce had more disruptive classroom behavior, were absent more, and had lower IQ scores than children from intact families. These children were also more likely to repeat a grade than children from intact homes. Likewise, Bisnaire, Firestone, and Rynard (1990) found that 30;0 of their sample had decreased academic performance following parental separation. The effects divorce can have on children are relevant to both the family and society.

Dissemination of information regarding model, school-based interventions for children of divorce and their effectiveness on reducing adverse effects of divorce on children is essential. Many schools across the country are now offering some type of intervention for children of divorce. Past research has found that school-based interventions help counter the adverse effects of divorce (Pedro-Carroll, Alpert-Gillis, & Coven, 1992). In fact, Stolberg and Mahler (1994) found that even a schoolbased program that only offered emotional support for children of divorce produced a significant reduction in clinical symptomology. Another school-based study found that: "Children of divorce who perceived themselves as having more overall support had lower scores on measures of post-divorce difficulties, anxiety, and worry, and higher scores on measures of openness about the divorce and positive resources" (Coven, Pedro-Carroll, & Alpert-Gillis, 1990, p. 727). The implication from these studies is that emotional support in the school setting is effective in helping children of divorce cope with their situations.

What are highly effective components of school-based interventions? Current interventions and studies use a variety of components. These include consideration of developmental stages, parent and teacher involvement, structured activities such as board games or drawings, and skill building (Hodges, 1986; Pedro-Carroll et al., 1992). This article examines some of the best interventions being used and their effectiveness. In addition, a delineation of the salient features common across models is offered.

Effects of Divorce on Children

There are many factors to be considered when assessing the effects of divorce on children. A few of these include age at time of divorce, gender, and time since the divorce occurred.

Age of Child

In the 6-year-old to 8-year-old age group, children's cognitive ability to understand the divorce is limited. Cantrell (1986 reports that children of these ages often have pervasive sadness and experience feelings of loss and anger following divorce. .An effect often shown around age 6 is aggression, anxiety, restlessness, separation problems, and tantrums Hodges, 1986). Younger school-age children are not only seen as sad, suffering from emotional pain, and fearful, but also they have feelings of guilt about the marital break up. Children this age often believe they are that cause of the break up (Freeman & Couchman, 1985; Sanders & fester, 1996). In addition, it is not uncommon for children in this developmental stage to think that their loyalties are divided (Cantrell, 1986; Hodges, 1986). Even when children are not actually pressured by parents, they can still feel pressure to choose (Cantrell, 1986).

In 9 year olds to 12 year olds there is a change in the child's cognitive ability that affects his or her response to divorce. These children may experience loss, rejection, helplessness and fear, as do the younger children. It is often their intense anger, however, which distinguishes them from younger children (Cantrell, 1986. Their anger is not only intense but also typically directed at the parent they feel is responsible for the divorce Cantrell, 1986). …

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