--Original published at Rachel Bickelman's PSY 105 Blog
The effects of divorce have researched and debated on for decades. One side of the argument, which claims divorce has a negative effect on children, has garnered a majority of the attention in divorce literature. Despite this, researchers have found this claim to be faulty and have concluded divorce does not effect, or has a positive effect, on children.
J. E. Lansford examines effect of divorce, by considering demographics, socioeconomic status, and the child’s well being to find unique patterns of adjustment in children with divorced parents. Lansford’s puts old research to the test by examining factors such as age, demographic traits, location, and stigmatization of divorce. The research Lansford uses is from well known meta analyses of divorce from well-known scholars in divorce literature, Amato and Hetherington. Amato’s first publication in 1991 included ninety-two studies and his 2001 study was updated with sixty-seven new studies. From these meta analyses Lansford found children have worse adjustment abilities compared to children with married parents. Lansford claims this occurs due to consistently high levels interpret conflict the child experiences; furthermore, she observes inter parental conflict is detrimental. It has a positive correlation with externalizing behaviors, internalizing problems, and trouble getting along with peers. Lansford cites Amato, Loomis, and Booth’s studies which concluded children’s problems decrease in married homes. Additionally, Lansford notes how stress and lack of social support made the experience of divorce worse for children causing over anxiety in boys and poor adjustment in both sexes (144). Lansford, a Duke professor, reviews divorce research studies and literature and her review was published by the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, a peer reviewed academic journal. Since the peer-review process is rigorous, one can conclude Lansford is a trustworthy source to pull from.
A. Clarke-Stewart and C. Brentano’s book titled Divorce: Causes and Consequences was published by the Yale University Press and covers the experience of divorce from the child’s perspective. Like Lansford, the authors pull from P. Amato’s meta-analyses and other scholarly literature and research studies. Chapter two, “Effects of Divorce on Children,” promotes the negative effects of divorce on children. Records and studies comparing children of divorced parents to married parents concluded children of divorced parents struggle with behavior, emotional, health and academic aspects of life. Most notably, they are prone to poor social and psychological adjustment along with aggressive conduct. The negative effect on children is not just social and psychological, but according to the authors it manifests physically as well. Examples provided by Clarke-Stewart included, more social difficulties and a weak self-esteem in comparison to married couples’ children. Embarrassment, fear of abandonment, grief, divided loyalty, in lieu with sadness and anger also persist long after the initial time of divorce. Though Clarke-Stewart and Brentano state the difference in suffering varies, at the end of the day, children suffer from divorce.
R. E. Emery and R. Forehand argue children from divorced families do not experience drastic mental health issues in comparison to children of married couples. While Emery and Forehand do not negate the findings on the negativities of divorce, they claim children of divorcees experience resilience and successful coping. The authors observed resilience is the outcome of divorce not risk despite the dominant literature suggesting so. Children are able to “bounce back,” and are able to cope with the stressful situation. Additionally, Emery and Forehand highlight the difference in adjustment of children regarding cognitive, social and psychological functioning is not huge. The authors conclude a child’s resilience could explain why clinical and empirical research often have varying conclusions and consequences, basically a flaw in operationalizing the effects of divorce. Much of Emery and Forehand’s claims are rooted in the lack of specificity and operational definition. Lastly, Emery and Forehand discuss the presence of confounding variables in the effect of depression theorizing the struggle experienced by the child have more of an effect than the actual divorce itself. Emery and Forehand’s section was published in a larger book titled Stress, Risk, and Resilience in Children and Adolescents which was published by the University of Cambridge.
S. R. Rappaport’s article aims towards de-stigmatizing and finding if divorce is the “main culprit” of children’s troubles following their parents’ divorce. The article aims to create an operational definition so figures in legal practices can better understand divorce and see the other factors contributing to post-divorce problems. Rappaport’s article utilizes a wealth of references and was published in the Family Law Quarterly, a scholarly journal. First, Rappaport claims divorce has become less stigmatized and thus more socially acceptable in contemporary society thus decreasing the negative embarrassment or stigmatized effect of divorce on children. Additionally, while children initially experience stress this stress is not constant allowing children to adjust. According to Rappaport’s references, because children of divorcees are exposed to high stress situations, their ability to handle high-conflict situations increases in comparison to their counterparts. Divorce has a short-term negative impact on a child’s functioning but it does not mean ti cause long-term psychological difficulties. Rappaport concludes divorces themselves are not the root cause of psychological problems rather the level and severity of conflict experienced, the relationship children have with their parents, their parents’ own mental health and parenting style, and the economic status of the family which is influenced by the divorce.
I would agree with the research which finds divorce has a negative impact on children. The added stress and the likelihood of conflict the child witnessed, whether verbal or physical fighting and other types of conflict, harm the psychological, emotional, and mental well-being of the child. Also, the abundance of literature and research studies available which conclude the negative impacts of divorce are convincing as is. While I believe Rappaport makes a great argument, the fundamental distress and conflict experienced by children due to divorce is why I would believe divorce causes negative is correct.
J.E. Lansford – Parental Divorce and Children’s Adjustment: https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/40212308.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A7530e5c4bbf2e5a623e8a3b6ec02ef28
A. Clarke-Stewart & Cornelia Brentano – “Effect of Divorce on Children” in Divorce: Cases and Consequences: https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/j.ctt1npfks.9.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Ad34242b329d094bced9294d2131b5f19
R. E. Emery & R. Forehand – Parental Divorce and Children’s Well-Being: A Focus on Resilience: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=px9c4-2qHjAC&oi=fnd&pg=PA64&dq=resilience+in+divorced+families&ots=DGqvO2dSmf&sig=INAsP5lV6v7pK_m_7L_TD7sSLa0#v=onepage&q=resilience%20in%20divorced%20families&f=true
S. R. Rappaport – Deconstructing the Impact of Divorce on Children: Found on EBSCOhost.