Divorce causes mental anguish which contributes to psychological issues for both parties and their children. The potentially traumatic event of divorce and the years of distress that follows occur during their developmental years and could potentially cause psychological trauma that affects their lives for many years to come.
A divorce encompasses many variables, all or some may play a role in contributing to difficulties for children. The loss of daily contact with one parent from the family situation, usually the father, results in the children losing the amount of affection they were receiving when both parents were in the same house. The life-skills, knowledge, and financial resources formerly supplied by the missing parent, whether they are out of their lives on a part or full-time basis is forever lost to the children. Divorce usually means that the children are living with one parent now earning just one salary which creates hardships beyond the emotional crisis of the divorce itself. The stress involved in divorce goes beyond the emotions involved as well. Many children are forced to move to a new, usually less desirable neighborhood, possibly put into a daycare for the first time and must make new friends in an unfamiliar environment. These life-changing events can cause great and lasting amounts of stress for children of all ages. Whether or not the divorce is amicable and the general stability of the parents plays a role in how the children will adjust to the divorce. “Much of what happens to children in general is related to the skill of parents in helping them develop. The competence of parents following divorce is likely to have considerable influence on how the children are doing” (Kelly and Emery, 2003).
Divorce defines the termination of marriage but it also terminates the family unit. It is a death of sorts for all involved and grieving is a natural part of the human process following divorce. Children are likely to be surprised when their parents announce they are divorcing more so than the marital partners who have ‘seen this coming’ for a long time. Therefore, the perception for children more closely resembles the shock of an actual death. Divorce causes anxiety, grief and depression for much of the same reasons and degree as does a death. “Loss of a loved one or a marriage can cause depression, and depression is a part of grieving. Grief is an inevitable, universal experience” (“Depression”, 2004). Divorce produces three life-shattering events for children, one right after the other; the break-up of the family, separation from one parent and being placed in an unfamiliar setting combine to cause stress which manifests itself in a variety of negative ways for a long period of time (Gindes, 1998 p. 1).
The extent to which parents expose their children to conflict has a significant effect on children’s ability to adjust emotionally to the situation and is a predictor of their future psychological welfare. Contentious divorces cause higher levels of stress therefore produce longer lasting residual effects especially with respect to the children. ‘Messy’ divorces commonly bring about many enduring, psychologically scarring emotional feelings such as anger, grief, fear, loneliness, guilt, frustration and thoughts of revenge all of which compound the stress factor and lead to varying degrees of depression. “Contested divorces can result in mental and emotional crisis, to the point of requiring a medical doctor or psychiatrist or psychotherapist and medication” (Roshkind, 2005).
Divorce causes stress which leads to emotional imbalances and physical health risks which could last a lifetime. Divorce is inevitable but the way it is handled by parents is a choice. The choice to put children’s welfare ahead of their own self-interests is what parents are supposed to do naturally and in the case of divorce would shelter the children from great psychological, emotional and ultimately, physical harm.
“Depression Following Divorce.” (2006). Health and Age.
Gindes, Marion. (1998). The Psychological Effects of Relocation for Children of Divorce.
Kelly, J. B., & Emery, R. E. (2003). “Children’s adjustment following divorce: Risk and resiliency perspectives.” Family Relations. Vol. 52, pp. 352-362.
Roshkind, Robin P.A. (2005). “The Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Frustration, Grief, Guilt, Regret, Sadness, and Stress of a Divorce in Florida” Divorce Headquarters. Web.