Monday, 2 February 2015

Problems Experienced by Children of Divorced Couples

It is important to understand the effects of divorce on children’s adjustment. At a basic level, all divorces involve change for the children. These changes might occur prior to the parental separation and some might produce improved instead of worsened conditions. Whatever the outcome, children would have to adapt to new environmental conditions (e.g. significant changes in daily living for parents and children) and stresses associated with parental separation (e.g. marital conflict, loss and uncertainty).

Inability to adjust may result in problems such as:
  1. Disobedient and aggressive behavior
  2. Delinquency
  3. Depression and anxiety
  4. Impact on academic performance

Although divorce in and of itself is not a reliable indicator of child psychopathology, research shows that there has been a gradual shift in emphasis on family structure to family process – i.e. it is the events that accompany marital dissolution, rather than the event of divorce per se, have been identified as potentially more salient correlates of children’s adjustment.

In the long term, the family’s adaptation to the changes necessitated by divorce will be reflected in the child’s ability to adjust.

Factors that will affect the child’s ability to adapt:

1. Inter-parental conflict

There is some evidence to suggest that inter-parental conflict is the most salient influence on children’s adjustment to divorce. It accounts for more of the negative consequences of divorce.
Studies involving between-family comparisons support the notion that separation per se is not necessarily as important to children's later development as the quality of the parents' relationship with one another.

2. Separation from attachment figure
Some studies show that the loss of an attachment figure relates to difficulties in interpersonal relationships. This exacerbates the child’s sense of loss and provides him or her with little sense of security to function in the post-divorce environment.

3. Temporal influences

Children’s adjustment improves with time as family members learn to cope with new living arrangements, provided other variables do not interfere with the adaptation process (e.g. continued conflict between parents).

The child’s age at the time of the divorce is a practical consideration. However, relatively little empirical data have been gathered to answer this question, particularly studies that control for both the children's age at the time of divorce and the length of time since the parental separation occurred. While there are theories that preschoolers may be the most vulnerable group in dealing with a divorce because of their limited cognitive capacity, there are reasons to believe that many age groups might be more vulnerable to the effects of divorce.

4. Parenting practices and nature of relationship between residential parent and children

Parents are also affected by the changes after the divorce. This may result in a change in parenting style and consequently may affect the relationship between parent and child.

5. Relationship between children and their non-residential parents

Studies indicate that regular contact with the non-residential parent does not necessarily create a positive outcome. However, having a good relationship with one parent can buffer the adverse effects of divorce.

6. Remarriage

The step-parent may be seen as an intruder to the family, and will produce difficulty in adjustments especially when the remarriage occurs during adolescence. Remarriage may produce changes for children, including a decrease of visitation with the non-residential parent, increased parental conflict between the children’s biological parents and an additional parental divorce.

7. Family Economics

Loss of family income is a reality of divorce, particular for mothers. Since mothers are primary custodians of children following divorce, most children experience a lowered standard of living.

This would mean several changes that would have the effect of debilitating children’s coping resources. Some of the consequences include moving the family home, changing schools, losing contact with friends, spending more time in childcare settings while mother is working, and dealing with the parent's concerns over financial pressures. These factors would affect the quality and quantity of interactions children have with their residential parent.

Should you have any questions or require legal representation, kindly contact Gloria James-Civetta & Co on 6337-0469 for a free consultation, or email to

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