The obvious question: what happens when there are children involved? Divorce has a deep and permanent psychological effect on children. Some would argue that the occurrence of it in the life of a child (which would include adult children) has more of an impact than a scar or two; it totally alters the child’s emotional development. While others argue that perseverance in a bad marriage can be just as damaging to the child or children. The question in truth: while both a divorce and bad marriage can destroy the life of a child, which one has a more destructive effect on children in the end?
Before delving into the effects of both situations on children it should be mentioned that divorce can be avoided in most situations. Because of this reality it is arguable that restoring a bad marriage through counseling and healthy compromise is optimal for both parents and children. The top three reasons for divorce are infidelity, disagreement on finances (surprisingly, not lack of money), and breakdowns in communication respectively. While the next statement is more easily said than done, a couple that has the maturity to think of their children while considering divorce is a step ahead of couples so deeply entrenched in selfishness that they don’t care what happens to their children.
The statement and point of persuasion: mend the marriage for the sake of the children. The issue is not whether or not one should “stay married” for the sake of the children but whether or not they should make the investments to mend the marriage. Statistics show that mended marriages actually have the best and lasting impact on children. They see an example of perseverance; but more so they have an up close and personal look at a winning situation in the face of extreme difficulty. These children, statistically, will grow into healthier and stronger adults. So then if the main concern in the decision making process is the effect on the children then the best course of action would be to fix the marriage. That is easier said than done; however, mature adults fully understand the children are worth taking the proverbial ‘road less travelled.’
Statistically, children of split families will exhibit behavior problems that can be traced directly to the loss of the family unit. These children are more prone to delinquent behavior. These are attempts to compensate for the loss of attention or the inability to process the anger and pain involved in losing a parent. Divorced mothers of children will often see marriage to a “better man” as a solution to the problem of delinquent behavior. She rightly assesses the need for partnership in raising children. However, most blended families will be subject to rifts in the home because of deep insecurities developed in the children and parents involved.
In many cases, but certainly not all, the blended family will manifest the disturbing effects of the loss of a caring parent and an unstable atmosphere. One such case involved the grandparents of one of the children within the nucleus of the blended family. The grandparents would procure favor and necessities for their child while virtually ignoring the needs of the biological children of the in-law. The effect of this on the children (including the child receiving favor) is discomforting at best. It drives in the insecurities and causes sibling rivalry beyond imagination in the worst case.
Children subject to a home split will suffer insecurities related to abandonment in general. Normally children having to deal with instabilities that they are not wired to handle will compensate in unhealthy ways. That compensation will look different and depend on the environment in which the child lives. If the there are opportunities within the child’s circles to get involved with a gang he or she is more to get initiated. This is an attempt to recapture stability. Once the world of a child has been torn apart the most important elements of stability become somewhat of a non-reality. The parents are no longer reliable and gang members or fraternizing companions come in to fill the void.
Children who live in the context of an unhappy marriage suffer as well; but then their sense of stability is kept intact. Statistics are clear in that children of split homes are more prone to gang activity and deviant behavior. While there are many programs aimed at helping children to cope with a broken home the effects of divorce on children remain the same throughout different cultural groups, social and economic classes as well as in different demographical groups. No child, regardless of the strength of the support network, is immune to the ills brought on by the breakup of his or her biological parents. Surprisingly, research demonstrates that even adults whose parents break up are subject to deep levels of depression and a loss of a sense of stability.
Even in the case of a parent’s remarriage to the other biological parent children will suffer from the insecurities found in the real possibility of a break up. Although, if the marriage has been mended, there is a significant amount of healing in a remarriage of biological parents the children will suffer the insecurities and guilt associated with the breakup of their home.
Men and women who love their children will be hard-pressed to find solutions to the disturbing effects of divorce on the minds and hearts of their children. The passage of divorce is permanently damaging. Not only will children seek solace but research also shows that children that have experienced divorce are three-times more likely to divorce than children developing in a more stable context. This statistic denotes the problem of children who don’t develop into adults who can resolve conflicts and work though personal issues. They’ll more likely go the route of their parents and give up before a resolve can be reached. This will affect areas in their lives that go beyond marriage and personal relationships. Statistically they are more prone to instability in job history and have more difficulty under duress. Although children can recover and become more stable and cooperative individuals, the process of that repair is often difficult and requires a stronger-than-usual support network for the child. That network has to be geared toward replacing that which was lost in the split of the parents.
Most parents care deeply for their children and will go to lengths to give the most comfortable and stable environment. Last question: if parents are willing to make large investments in creating the best environment in giving their children a lasting sense of stability then why not make the investment on the front and mend the marriage. Except in cases of extreme abuse in a marriage, the stable environment of two biological or at least close step or adoptive parent is best for the children. All remedies outside of that context will have second rate results in the lives of children.
Most marriage difficulty falls into one of a few categories with disagreement in finances, not physical or verbal abuse, listed as the top reason for on-going conflict. If material possessions or the mismanagement of them are good enough reason to disturb the life of a child then the value systems and priorities of the adults involved need to be evaluated. Resolve conflicts in marriage for the sake of the children and move into the future as a family intact rearing intact children.
1. Way2Hope Home-Help With Family And Life Problems “Blended Family Problems” http://www.way2hope.org/blended_family_problems.htm
2. Mining for Gold Marriage “Blended Families: How Children Are Affected by Divorce”
3. Divorce.com “Top Ten Reasons Marriages Fail” http://www.divorce.com/article/top-10-reasons-marriages-fail