Divorce signifies of a major change in the life of a child regardless of the age. Observing how love between mom and dad evaporates, witnessing their marriage breakdown, adapting to moving between the two households, and trying to fill the void of the departure of a caring parent are hurtful but inevitable moments of a family rupture. For particular boy or girl, the end of parental relationship is a critical event. The life that comes after is drastically different from what the child had known before. In this paper, I will make an attempt to provide a multifaceted evaluation of how divorce impacts the lives of the youngest members of the family and to compare how the effects distinguish among the younger and older children.
The toughest issue that comes to mind when thinking about divorce is that the family split forces children to decide with whom to live. If parents divorce when they have small children, the latter, obviously, do not partake in the decision-making process. As far as the child is unable to choose, the custody conflicts are what usually happens (Hetherington & Arasteh, 2014). Irrespective of which type of custody will be agreed (or adjudged), joint or split, the decision will be traumatic for the child.
In case split custody is approved, a child (or the court) is to choose only one parent to stay with. As a result, the child spends sufficient time with neither of the parents. If a boy or a girl lives, for instance, with a father, his or her ties with the mother are seriously injured. According to Riggio (2004), over 40% of children from the broken families had not visited their nonresidential parent in over a year. Because the child sees both parents rarely, the residential parent is frequently seen as stern and authoritarian as he/she is in charge of the kid and imposes discipline (Solinger, 2004). On the contrary, the other parent is often perceived as more loving and exciting, the one that the child is willing to spend time with. The child, however, will not develop the feeling of secure family because of having to move from place to place all the time.
On the other hand, joint custody seems to hold even fewer benefits. Even when both parents constantly stay in contact with their child, harmonious childraising is uncommon. Most frequently, the ex-partners lack effective communication and mutual support, which contributes to perverse child-parent relationship. Furthermore, under such type of custody a child, apparently, has an even more ephemeral sense of family security (Bayless, 2013). With a split custody, the child visits his or her nonresidential parent according to an established schedule, while in the case of joint custody there is constant movement between the two houses, which results in even deeper deficiency of quality time between child and parent.
Although the custody clashes may be harsh, the divorce itself, I believe, is highly confusing as well. Children do not comprehend what commitment is. Kids are superb imitators: what is right for parents is also suitable for them (as they see it). The breakup demonstrates children that problems should not necessarily be negotiated and resolved as long as one can just retreat. Partially because of this, children are shown that it is not obligatory to keep promises.
Response to parental separation is also different across various age groups, which I find logical. According to Pickhardt (2011), divorce accentuates a child's dependence while boosting a teenager’s independence; it often evokes regressive reactions in children and aggressive reactions in adolescents. The more independent teenagers are prone to respond with more aggression to a family split, frequently adopting a rebellious, showy behavior and neglecting family discipline; since their parents failed to keep their responsibilities towards the family, children are now in charge of themselves (Pickhardt, 2013).Where the kid would try to get parents back, the teenager would take revenge on parents. Where the child would feel sorrow, the adolescent would complain.
Up to this moment, divorce has been discussed exclusively in the bad light, and, therefore, seen as an absolute evil. However, there may also be situations where separation might be seen as beneficial. For instance, violence and infidelity in relationships have an even more hazardous effect on a child’s psychological condition than parental breakup (Sousa et al., 2010; Geffner, Igelman & Zellner, 2003). When one of the parents is abusive, whether verbally, physically, or sexually, it is better for the child if that parent leaves (Huffman, 1998). Analogously, if physical methods of problem solving are practiced in the couple, it is better to end such marriage. If a boy or a girl encounters violence in a family on a regular basis, he or she may assume it is acceptable to act like that. The same applies for infidelity in the married couples (Amato, 2014).
In conclusion, no universal statement can be made about the effects of divorce on children since every single case should be viewed individually. Most frequently, parental separation has deep psychological impacts on children, who lose the feeling of security and suffer from the deficit of attention. Saving an unsound yet intact marriage would, probably, be more beneficial for them in such cases. Moreover, children of different age also have various reactions to a family split: younger children are stressed and anxious while adolescents feel betrayed and adopt extravagant behavior to emphasize their feelings. However, effects much worse than separation can be exerted by home violence and infidelity in a relationship.