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Abstract

Throughout the history of humankind, the problem of divorce has undergone significant changes; however, today’s situation is much larger than it was a few decades ago. Due to a large number of divorces, the institution of the family today has a different meaning, and people do not consider it mandatory to enter into a legal marriage. The reasons for such changes are a large number of problems and difficulties that children suffer after divorce. Children who survive the divorce of their parents face both internal and external consequences, which also have a long-term effect. In adulthood, people do not always manage to get rid of all consequences, which affects the level and quality of human life. After divorces, it often happens that one of the parents disengages from raising a child, while a child requires equal attention from both a mother and a father to have normal development. In the absence of one of the parties, in the later life of a person, either female or male qualities may prevail. Most often, divorces occur at the most impressionable age of 7 to 18 years, when children begin to form as individuals, become interested in the environment, and understand everything. During this period, children more than ever need support from their parents; however, because of involvement in a divorce, they often cannot give it. The problem of divorces is increasing every year; therefore, it is necessary to pay attention not only to their consequences, but also to how they affect a child over a long period.

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Introduction

Many families face the problem of divorce, and as the number of divorced marriages grows year by year, research on this topic is of great interest to study. Even though the situation of the divorce of parents in every family is unique, many external factors, such as age, the gender of a child, individual characteristics, socio-economic situation, influence the consequences of the difference in parents that has a negative effect on human well-being, the effect of which persists in adulthood. According to a statistical study, 40 percent of children living in the United States experience parental divorce before they turn 18. Every year, more than a million of American children suffer from the divorce of their parents. Even though all participants in a divorce suffer, children suffer the most negative consequences due to age and lack of form. Divorce reduces a future competence of children in matters of the family, school, and the level of socio-economic status. This leads to deterioration in relations with parents and with other individuals; in society, this may affect the inability to build dialogue and aggravate conflicts. Development experience in a single-parent family also has an impact on building personal relationships in adulthood. Often, children of divorced parents experience distrust and jealousy of a partner, dissatisfaction with romantic relationships, inability to find a compromise, and low level of close communication. Besides, children from inferior families are often prone to early sexual relations and cohabitation. People often encounter a large number of sexual partners and, as a result, various diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases. According to the latest data from the 2009 American Survey, only 47 percent are 17 years old in an intact family. Due to a constant absence of one of the parents and financial instability, children undergo difficult changes related to psychological health, are subject to stress, the loss of confidence, deterioration in learning outcomes, abuse of alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, and an increased level of attack. This work aims to study the relationship between the growth and development of a child in a single-parent family and the impact on internal and external changes in the long and short term. The importance of this work lies in the fact that in the modern world, there are a large number of divorces, and the description of the consequences of divorces and a greater awareness of people will help to treat marriage more responsibly. This study examines short-term and long-term consequences of the development of children in a single-parent family and its impact on various areas in adulthood, including attitudes towards children, marriage, and divorce, psychological and emotional changes, conflict management skills, the use of illegal substances, and even suicide.

Literature Review

In the course of this study, a large amount of academic literature has been studied. Mainly, attention is paid to articles from scholarly sources and online magazines, such as The Guardian and The New York Times. The main problem in the topic of divorces and their impact on children is not only the issues that children face at an early age, but also how they affect adult life. The main issues that will be revealed during this study are how divorce affects the physical health of children, how emotional and psychological well-being of children from divorced families develops, and how divorces affect further relationships between parents and children. Since this topic is extensive and has many questions for research, this work will focus in more detail on some of them, namely, suicide, drug use, alcohol consumption, learning ability, relationships with parents, and emotional, mental, and physical conditions and well-being. Thus, Anderson’s work entitled “The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorce” looks at numerous consequences of a divorce. The author claims that children who grew up in a family with two parents had better overall well-being, mental and emotional health, and were less prone to drug and alcohol abuse. Al Gharaibeh’s work from 2015 represents the first study in the United Arab Emirates regarding the effects of divorce on children. One thousand seven hundred forty-two divorced women participated in the questionnaire, and the results proved that children suffered from a divorce and faced problems such as sleep disturbance and concentration. The article in The Guardian magazine titled “Parents’ break-up more likely to harm the mental health of children aged seven to 14” describes a group of children who face the most serious consequences of breaking up due to a difficult teenage transition. The author notes that children aged from 7 to 14 years require parental support, which parents cannot provide as they are engaged in divorce. Furthermore, the article written by Rabin in The New York Times in 2011 focuses on the perception of divorce by girls and boys. According to the results of the article, boys are more susceptible to the effects of divorce, and this is because girls have greater permission for the manifestation of emotions. Such emotional closure can lead to the suicide of children who face divorce in the family under the age of 18 years. Amato’s work focuses on facts that precede divorces; however, the author notes that the topic has been studied insufficiently, and more information is needed on this issue. According to another work by Amato entitled “The consequences of divorce for adults and children: An update,” due to individual characteristics, divorce affects everyone differently. Thus, one person may be depressed for a long time and not get out of it, while another will be temporarily stressed, and the third will benefit from such situation. The work entitled “Consequences of parental divorce for child development” offers a three-stage study of divorce and its impact on children and includes periods before, during, and after the separation of parents. In conclusion, the author says that negative consequences are noticeable already at the stage of divorce, and over time, they do not increase or decrease. According to Weaver and Schofield analysis, some factors, such as the IQ level and the socio-economic situation of the family, can mitigate the effects of divorce on a child. Additionally, Kalmijn’s article explores a narrow aspect of the topic, namely, how divorce affects the relationship between parents and older children. The author separately considers the relationship between a mom and a baby and a dad and a baby. The conclusion is that after a divorce, inequality in communication increases in the relationship between individual parents and a child. Finally, Ongider in his work notes physical and mental problems associated with divorce, and the article focuses on the problem of a failed marriage in children who have experienced divorce in the family. Thus, all of the above materials can help in conducting a qualitative study on the effect of divorce on the future life of children who have experienced this situation.

Methodology

For this study, the retrospective analysis method was used, consisting in analyzing data on temporary changes. This type of analysis is perfect for studying the problem of the impact of divorce consequences on a person’s adult life since it makes it possible to give an objective assessment based on the analysis of various data. Thanks to the retrospective analysis, it can be concluded that children who witness parental divorce experience negative consequences in education, further family life, emotional and mental stability, well-being, relationships with parents, and sexual experience.

Effects of Divorce on Children

Every year, more and more children suffer from the divorce of their parents, which leads to negative consequences, such as the violation of the relationship between children and parents, an unstable psychological and emotional state of a child, economic problems, the appearance of prejudices about a happy marriage, unwillingness to have children, and others. According to the latest data from the 2009 American Survey, only 47 percent are 17 years old in an intact family. Every year, the number of divorces is growing, which is detrimental to all participants in the process; however, children are more affected. Following statistics, most divorces affect young children as 72 percent of divorces occur during the first 14 years of marriage. In rare cases, divorce is the right decision; however, it still has temporary consequences for lowering the quality of life. Divorce affects every child differently, and it is not possible to predict which areas of life an individual child will affect. The consequences of parental divorce can have both short-term and long-term effects. Children are exposed to the effects of divorce in various areas of life, for example, education, health, and well-being. Since the problem of the influence of divorces on children is a very multifaceted topic of discussion, this study will pay more attention to the following aspects: the influence of divorce on the relationship between children and parents, child sexual practice, and emotional and psychological behavior. Moreover, the paper will cover the aspects of the ability to cope with conflicts, attitudes towards children, divorce, and marriage, decreased learning ability, increased alcohol and drug use, and suicidal tendencies.

Effects on the Relationship between Parents and Children

One of the most significant consequences of divorce between parents is a deterioration in relationships with children. Stress from divorce destroys parent-child relationships for 40 percent of divorced mothers. Because of divorce, children often face the problem of sharing time with each parent. Often, a child spends time with one of the parents and loses either a male or a female part of the upbringing. Due to a lack of attention from one of the parties, in the future, this may result in the predominance of masculine qualities either over women, or vice versa. Children in divorced families also receive less emotional, financial, and practical support from their parents. This often happens at times when support is especially needed, for example, while studying at school or college. Furthermore, divorce affects the level of trust, care, and intimacy between parents and a child. If to consider the relationship between a mother and a child separately and then compared to married mothers, divorced mothers are less affectionate and sociable with their children and discipline them more severely and inconsistently, especially during the first year after divorce. The situation is even worse in the relationship between fathers and children because often after a divorce, children remain with a mother, and they see fathers rarely. According to the study, among adolescents aged 12 to 16, less than half of children living with divorced mothers saw fathers for more than a year, and only one in six saw fathers once a week. This contact with time decreases even more and leads to a lack of paternal education.

Emotional State and Well-Being

After parents’ divorce, a child often receives less emotional support from a father than children in a full-fledged, but unhappy family do. Children who have experienced divorce also have low self-esteem, increased anxiety, aggression, and depression. Fathers often leave their young children, do not fight for meetings with a child in case of the refusal of legal guardianship, and are careless. It is also known that boys are more likely to experience parental divorce than girls are, and girls, if they remain with their fathers after divorce, feel worse than boys. Because of a divorce, the general well-being and normal emotional state of children undergo strong changes.

Psychological Behavior

Divorces contribute to various psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, decreased self-esteem, and the development of antisocial eating in children. The first environment in which a person learns life is the family, therefore, a favorable environment contributes to normal emotional development, and such cases as divorce harm the psychological health of children. Children aged 7 to 14 years are at a high-risk zone because during this period, a person begins to understand everything. One British study, in which 6,245 children and young people participated, examined the relationship between divorce and mental health. According to the results of this study, underage children aged 7 to 14 at the time of divorce show a 16 percent increase in emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression, and an 8 percent increase in behavior disorders. Children of divorced parents are more prone to disobedience, participating in thefts and fights at school than children brought up with the participation of both a mother and a father. The reason for such statistics is the fact that during a divorce, parents pay more attention to separation and do not provide emotional support to a child, which leads to negative mental health problems. Thus, the normal psychological health of a child can be destroyed because of the separation of parents.

Attitude towards Children, Divorce, and Marriage

One of the long-term results faced by children from divorced families is the model and attitude towards the marriage of children and divorce. Girls who survive the divorce of their parents may have less confidence in men in the future as they are deprived of the attention and care of their father in childhood. On the other hand, men growing up in the family with one parent can either show excessive cruelty and aggression in the future or experience a female identification more than male. This is due to greater attention from a mother, when a child observes only one model of the behavior of care and love and is deprived of the examples of masculine qualities. Thus, girls who enter into relationships with a man who grew up in an inferior family might be subject to dominance instead of an open and equal relationship on the part of a partner. Concerning attitudes towards children, due to distrust and prejudice towards marriage, the victims of divorce often give birth to children outside of marriage. Besides, according to the Finnish study, daughters of divorced parents have more abortions than daughters of undiluted parents. With regards to attitudes towards marriage and divorce, people who have experienced parental divorce in childhood have a more positive attitude towards divorce and a more negative attitude towards marriage. People who have grown up in divorced families are less likely than whole families to think that marriage is long-lasting and permanent. Men and women grew up in an inferior family as a result of divorce would experience the fear of betrayal, violence, conflict, aggression, lack of love, care, and trust. Research evidence suggests that “adult children of divorce who are ultimately married are more likely to divorce than adult children of full-fledged families”. In the event of a successful marriage, a person from a divorced family may experience problems with trust, jealousy, and conflict. Thus, the divorce of parents increases the chances of the divorce of children, the fear of romantic relationships, affects the number of people entering into unsuccessful relationships, forms a more negative attitude towards marriage and a more positive attitude towards divorce, and increases the chances of abortion and illegitimate children.

The Ability to Deal with Conflicts

One of the reasons for divorces is the inability of partners to come to a common agreement and the inability to resolve family conflicts, therefore, children who have experienced divorce in the family can also experience problems with this in adulthood. In the future, children from divorced families will tend to aggravate the conflict instead of dialogue and communication, do not compromise, use physical violence and aggression, and rather shout instead of communicating, making contact, and finding a solution to a problem. Thus, divorces reduce the ability to resolve conflicts in adulthood, which may result from the transfer of divorces from generation to generation.

Sexual Behavior

After a divorce, children’s attitudes toward sexual behavior change dramatically. Based on the above facts, children who have experienced divorce are more positive about divorces and more negative about marriages. At the same time, the likelihood of early sexual experience and the birth of children is not growing. Divorced girls are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, have more frequent sexual intercourse, and have more sexual partners. It is more likely that girls from divorced families will be more loyal to sexual relations outside of marriage. Such an attitude to sexual life increases the possibility of contracting diseases, primarily sexually transmitted diseases. Besides, in adulthood, children of divorced parents experience less trust and satisfaction in romantic relationships. Any change in family composition increases the likelihood of early sexual intercourse due to insufficient attention to a child. Children who have experienced divorce in adulthood are more likely to have short sexual relationships, have more partners, are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, have the experience of cohabitation at an early age, and are not satisfied in romantic relationships compared to those who grew up in a full-fledged family.

Learning ability

Parental divorce, school performance, and learning ability are directly related. Daniel Potter of the University of Virginia has found that elementary school children who are experiencing divorce from their parents immediately begin to study worse than their peers from intact families. In connection with emotional depression due to divorce, children have less desire for learning and achieving high results. Children from divorced families are more likely to skip school and have a lower average mark, which can lead to keeping them in the same grade. Children in single-parent families were two times more likely to be absent from school for eleven or more days last year due to illness or injury (6 percent) compared to children in families with two parents (3 percent). In one study in which 699 randomly selected students from different families participated, the results demonstrated that children from divorced families showed lower reading, spelling, and math results than children from full-fledged families. The socio-economic situation of the family in which a child lives has an indirect effect because, after a divorce, one of the problems is financial instability. School-age children who develop in a single-parent family have less involvement in educational processes, a lower average score and ability to solve tests correctly, and more absenteeism, which, in the long-run, can affect the level of income in adulthood.

Alcohol, Drugs, and Committing Crimes

Parental divorce leads not only to internal changes, but also to negative effects in external behavior, such as an increased use of alcohol and drugs, committing seizures, and violence. In adolescence, when children are most exposed to the influence of society, including a negative one, divorce can be a key point on the path to the use of illegal drugs, tobacco products, and alcohol. Men and women who have survived the divorce of their parents between the ages of 7 and 16 are more likely to smoke and use drugs and alcohol than those who have grown up in a family with two parents. In addition to the use of prohibited substances at an early age, divorce forms a negative attitude towards crime and violence in a child. One study examine 171 cities in the United States with the population of over 100,000. According to the results, cities with fewer number of divorces have completely fewer crimes and higher social control. Furthermore, the Professor of Criminology David P. Farrington has found that divorcing parents under the age of 10 is a major determinant of juvenile delinquency. Divorce in the family increases the risks that a child will become an offender in the future, will carry weapons, break discipline during the school process, will participate in fights, and will use alcohol and drugs. Girls who are left with one parent are also prone to such behavior and can commit crimes, steal, skip school, abuse alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes at an early age. Many children after divorce encounter parental abuses or violence, therefore, in the future, they often resort to the same behavior to other people as a way of revenge. The likelihood of the abuse of alcohol and other prohibited substances, the use of violence in future relationships, and an increased level of seizure are the consequences of growing in an inferior family.

Physical Health

Although psychological and emotional consequences are more obvious than physical ones, the latter are also the consequences of divorce. Children who face parental divorce often experience health problems at the physical level, which also affects longevity. According to studies, people who survived a divorce as a child often faced cancer of the upper respiratory tract, esophagus, anus, pancreas, lungs, and cervix. Also, less serious problems, such as increased injuries, the risk of developing asthma and premature death, or an increased possibility of mortality happened in these people. According to the study, divorcing parents under 21 years of age is associated with an increase in mortality risk by 44 percent and a decrease in life expectancy by the average of 4.5 years. It is quite difficult to cope with the consequences of a divorce without professional intervention from specialists. After a divorce, children often experience difficult times and a wide range of negative emotions, such as rejection, fear, anxiety, and anxiety, which after a year manifests itself as a low level of a person’s physical health.

Suicide

Suicide is not a frequent consequence of divorce experienced by children; however, it occurs. According to studies, men who survive a divorce before the age of 18 are 2-3 times more likely to commit suicide than those who lived in a full-fledged family before the age of 18. As for women, this percentage is not so large and depends more on the experience of child abuse than divorce. Esme Fuller-Thomson, the professor of family and public medicine, explains this by saying that after a divorce, boys lose touch with their father, and the absence of a male example affects their well-being. The male model of behavior that children can observe in childhood is an example of the development of gender identity, emotions, and mental health, and if there is no role model, this can lead to negative consequences, including suicide. This fact can also be explained by the fact that girls are mostly more emotional than boys and can share experiences, unlike men who prefer to deal with the problem on their own. The 2006 study shows that men of divorced parents are 10 times more likely to commit suicide than men whose parents are not divorced and that women are not at all at increased risk. Because of parental divorce, children may feel that their parents have lost interest in a child, rejected him/her, or sometimes consider themselves guilty of a family breakdown. Due to these reasons, the risk of suicide in inferior families is higher. At an early age, children are very sensitive, take everything to heart, and react sharply to various changes; therefore, the departure of one of the parents can lead to the direst consequences – suicide.

Comparative Analysis

Throughout history, the concept of family and marriage has undergone significant changes from the concept of one partner for life as it was before to cohabitation as a norm of healthy relationships in the modern world. Therefore, compared to 1970, when the number of couples who did not enter into a legal marriage and chose cohabitation was 500,000, and in 2002, this figure was already 4.9 million. Such changes in thoughts led to a decrease in the birth rate and later marriage. For example, in 1960, the average age of a woman’s first marriage was 20.3 years; men’s were 22.8 years old. Nevertheless, by 2010, the situation changed, and the average age of the first marriage was 25.8 years for women and 28.3 years for men. Besides, men and women began to treat children out of wedlock more easily; therefore, in the USA, 41 percent of all births in 2009 were from unmarried women. Besides, compared to 1970, the percentage of children who lived in a full-fledged family of biological parents decreased by 24 percent in 2009. Based on statistics and evidence, the philosophical approach to marriage, family, and children continues changing. In this connection, research on this issue and community awareness may be the first step towards a change in the situation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the number of divorces is growing, which negatively affects several areas at once. Divorces lead to both internal destruction and external changes. Since divorce weakens a person, the study of this topic is of interest and importance for all institutions of society, from the family and school to the government, because the welfare of a person weakens human capabilities as an employee, citizen, family man, and student. Children from seven to 18 years are most affected by divorce because during this period, a person is formed and needs support and attention to take an example of the adult behavior model of life. However, parents who concentrate on divorce do not care about a child, which leads to short-term and long-term changes in adulthood. In the internal aspect, this causes problems with sleep and self-confidence since children can often think that they have caused their parents to divorce and are now rejected. Besides, children experience increased levels of stress, distrust, jealousy, anxiety, and a decrease in self-esteem. Divorces affect the ability to learn and develop normally. Furthermore, because of a depressed state, children encounter a lack of enthusiasm for learning at school or college. As for external changes, people who survived their parents’ divorce as a child tended to abuse alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes. Children from divorced families are more likely to commit offenses, resort to violence against other people as a way of revenge, and may even commit suicide. This research may help improve people’s awareness of the subject, provides real facts, figures, and statistics on the topic, so that a person can see the real picture of what is happening and take steps towards restoring family culture.

Annotated Bibliography

  1. Campbell, D. (2019, January 17). Parents’ break-up more likely to harm mental health of children aged seven to 14. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/17/parents-break-up-more-likely-to-harm-mental-health-of-children-aged-seven-to-14. This article focuses on the topic of divorce. Special attention is paid to the period from seven to 14 years, and the author claims that children who experience the divorce of their parents during this period are subject to the most negative consequences. Furthermore, the author notes that it is possible to explain this by the fact that at this stage of development, children most of all need support, especially emotional, from their parents. However, parents cannot pay due attention to a child as they focus on divorce.
  2. Rabin, R. C. (2011, January 25). Sons of divorce fare worse than daughters. The New York Times. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/25/sons-of-divorce-fare-worse-than-daughters/. In his article, Rabin considers the consequences of divorce separately for boys and girls. Thus, the author claims that boys tend to be more difficult to experience the separation of parents. Rabin explains this by saying that boys are taught to be more emotionally closed than girls are. Therefore, girls are more likely to share their experiences with someone to make it easier, and boys often cope with problems on their own. Silencing a problem, as a result, can lead to negative consequences and even suicide.
  3. Williams-Owens, W. M. (2017, September). The behavioral effects divorce can have on children. [A master’s thesis, The City University of New York]. CUNY Academic Works. https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3353&context=gc_etds. This work is an extensive study. In the course of the work, the author considers such consequences as a separate relationship between a dad and a son and a dad and a daughter, increased alcohol and drug abuse and crime, depression, and analyzes different ages from preschool children to adolescents. In conclusion, the author claims that divorces are often viewed from the negative side; however, in some cases, this is necessary. At the same time, research on this aspect of divorces is not enough to give accurate conclusions.

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