Paper Example on The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Kids: Poor Social Skills and Psychological Outcomes

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Middlebury College
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Researchers have reported diminished social skills in children from divorced families. A study conducted by Gerald Patterson of the Oregon Social Learning Center found out that children of divorced parents have a higher likelihood of showing aversive and coercive interaction styles which lead to their rejection by normal peers (Patterson & Dishion, 1985). The fear of rejection among children of divorced is also twice that of children from intact families (Breen & Crosbie-Burnett, 1993). The damage to their social relation is multifaceted and is manifested by more problems forging relationships with peers, relatively few childhood friends, and a higher likelihood of complaining about the lack of peer support. Moreover, a 1987 study carried out by Kent State University on the impacts of divorce revealed that children of divorced background performed dismally when rated by both parents and teachers on relationship with other children, anxiety, aggressiveness, inattentiveness, and withdrawal compared to their counterparts from intact families (Guidubaldi, Perry, & Nastasi, 1987).

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Children from divorced family backgrounds are also at a higher likelihood of struggling socially compared to those from intact families. They are more likely to have few close friends and display poor relationships with children of their same age. Moreover, these children are less likely to be engaged in extracurricular activities or enrichment programs. This may be because they may have less money to pay for such extra activities or because their parents are less available to drive the children and attend such events. These children are also at a risk of less parental supervision. Consequently, they may become more susceptible to peer influence. This increases the chances of these children engaging in deviant behavior, such as smoking, drug, and alcohol use (Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2014).

Additionally, these children are less likely to learn valuable social skills at home. The missed social skills include negotiation, cooperation, and compromise that are crucial for success in life. Exposure of children to high conflict levels before the divorce and after divorce make them imitate the poor communication skills of their parents. Such constant exposure to intense conflict also makes the children develop long-lasting expectations of conflict. This leads to more conflict in their personal relationships throughout their lives, making them encounter difficulties developing stable relationships as adults.

Past studies have found no large differences in boys and girls adjustment to divorce (Clarke-Stewart & Brentano, 2008). However, boys have been found to show more aggression than girls leading to rejection by peers and friend. Boys are also more likely to be deviant at home and school than girls. Girls are more likely to be depressed and exhibit anxiety than boys.

There are many psychological outcomes related to parental divorce that makes some children vulnerable and others resilient. Children from divorced families show more depression and antisocial behavior than their counterparts from intact families (Strohschein, 2005). Additionally, children affected by divorce have been reported to have higher malaise scores at adulthood than those from intact families (Furstenberg & Kiernan, 2001).

Behavioral difficulties

Children from divorced families display more behavioral problems (Morrison & Coiro, 1999) and marital conflicts associated with divorce hampers childrens social competence. In intact families having low to medium conflict levels, children exhibit fewer behavioral problems compared to those from high-conflict families (Furstenberg & Kiernan, 2001). During a divorce, parents are less responsive, show less affection, and are more likely to punish their children, leaving them emotionally insecure. Such children are at a higher risk of perceiving their social environment as unpredictable and uncontrollable 89. In a school setting, children who show delinquent behaviors such as fighting and stealing are more likely to be those from broken homes (Forehand, Long, & Hedrick, 1987).

Childrens Relationship Formation and Maintenance

Past studies have reported detrimental effects of divorce on children, teenagers, and young adults. For instance, children of divorce have been reported to experience changes in views towards intimate relationships. This makes them more nervous and cautious of these relationships and uncertain of how to handle one (Cartwright, 2006). These children also have pessimistic feelings towards future romantic relationships and low self-esteem. Qualitative studies have also revealed that children of divorce undergo painful emotional states, have diminished self-worth, exhibit mistrust, and show decreased communication with their peers.

Emotional consequences

Children of divorce show persistent feelings of loneliness (Emery, 2013) . A study had revealed that about half (44%) of these children had reported having been alone when they were children compared to about 14% of children from intact families. Loneliness comes in many ways. For instance, children usually lose a father after a divorce. Even though many of these fathers try to stay in touch and get involved in their childrens lives, research reveals that after some few years many of these, approximately 70%, have less contact with their children. If their mothers are in formal employment or get engaged in dating again after divorce, they may feel to have been left alone by their mothers as well. Because of the loss of time with both parents, 40% of the adult children of divorced parents are less likely to report seeing both parents many times a week. Consequently, these children rate the relationships with their parents less positively compared to their counterparts from intact marriages. Loneliness also arises when these children lose contact with grandparents. Moreover, it is common for children of the divorced parents to move with one of the parents to a new neighborhood after divorce resulting in loss of friendship that leads to childrens feelings of loneliness.

A childs emotional state is also negatively during this difficult time. Most children exhibit fears, which are associated with the feeling that both parents will abandon them. Emotional effects of divorce are manifested in excessive anger directed towards peers and even themselves, disobedience, sleep difficulties, defiance towards parents and teachers, feeling of guilt, isolation from friends and family, substance abuse, premature sexual activity, and suicidal thoughts or violence (Hatfield & Rapson, 1993).

Many of these children believe that they are the ones responsible for the divorce or that they did something bad that made one of both of their parents to be away from them (Hatfield, 2007). Such feelings make children be in constant sadness, depression, and anger. These negative emotions lead to other problems, including poor health, behavioral difficulties in school, and challenges relating to friends. These detrimental consequences to the emotional wellbeing of the children can be avoided by using emotion coaching, a process meant to help children become aware of their emotions and talk about these emotions.

Positive effects of divorce

Even though people usually have a negative relation to the effects of a particular topic, there are positives in situations especially an issue like divorce and the consequences it has for children. A child, for instance, can be good academically in school because there is peace at home. This is because a single parent has time for the child to assist in homework or communication, only if the parent is ready to communicate. Parents make mistakes and children may learn from them. If the parents are not getting on well in marriage, the child may marry a close friend because of the connection they have and that they have been together for a long time (Divorce on Children, n.d.).

Divorce has both constructive and depressing effects on adult children who still fear things, but not as young children do. For instance, older children fear love relationship and will be uncertain of entering a one because they think that they will find themselves in a similar situation as their parents. They may not feel unwanted, but they do not see parents as the foundation of keeping the family together. This makes them cautious in choosing a partner, resulting in a small decline in the number of unsuccessful marriages (Divorce on Children, n.d.).

Divorce makes children resilient and adaptable in life (Owens & Suitor, 2007). It teaches one to go on with the changes in life and adapt to shifts in life. After the divorce, one should change and develop approaches to help in coping with the physical and psychological space left by the changes. These obstacles are beneficial because it makes children resilient in life and non-divorce counterparts may not encounter this until later in life.

Also, divorce makes children more self-sufficient. It makes one confident in own abilities and works hard so as to be self-reliant. For instance, a child whose parents are divorced can go home alone after school and prepare dinner. Some kids are even forced to do laundry and go to the grocery store. This helps them to know their real self. Economic challenges associated with single-parent family harden the child and teaches one to be accountable for the household chores. Divorce offspring learn to view themselves as more independent and get strength as an encouraging result out of the parents' divorce.

Changes that come with divorce make some children cultivate an increased sense of empathy to others (Erford, 2016). It helps a child to show empathy towards the circumstances and situations of other people, and care others whenever they have problems related to his or hers. A child will relate with those who are passing through the same problem and motivate them to show a positive attitude while handling the difficulty.

Children from divorced families have learned to have a great understanding of the various challenges in marriage and arouse one to be a diligent spouse. They feel they are successful because they have a healthy and a happy family, an outstanding success where the parents failed. Such children are creating a unique thing from their parents after experiencing a heartbreaking setback after separation. They change their history by doing better than their parents who took their marriage for granted.

Divorce makes children spend quality time with each parent individually. Kids whose parents divorced do not necessarily spend less time with their parents personally. After the divorce, a child will move with one of the parents and spend a lot of time together which makes him or her know the parents at a different level. A child will, for instance, stay with a mother for some time and later goes remain with the father. This enhances their closeness, and the child will know each parent individually.


Clarke-Stewart, A., & Brentano, C. (2008). Divorce: Causes and Consequences. Yale University Press.

Emery, R. E. (2013). Cultural Sociology of Divorce: An Encyclopedia. SAGE.

Erford, B. (2016). An Advanced Lifespan Odyssey for Counseling Professionals. Cengage Learning.

Hatfield, E., & Rapson, R. L. (1993). Love, Sex, and Intimacy: Their Psychology, Biology, and History. HarperCollins College Publishers.

Hatfield, N. T. (2007). Broadribbs Introductory Pediatric Nursing. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Mooney, L. A., Knox, D., & Schacht, C. (2014). Understanding Social Problems. Cengage Learning.

Owens, T. J., & Suitor, J. J. (2007). Interpersonal Relations Across the Life Course. Elsevier....

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