Divorce is one of the most unpleasant realities of a modern life. When the couple meets, falls in love, marries and has a child, it is considered that their life becomes full now. Nevertheless, the time passes and under the influence of a modern life stress there often comes cooling in their relations and they do not want to be together any more. This causes the divorce, a separation of estates and the children who observe the parents’ quarrels and arguments.
When the parents reflect on parting and divorce, the kids endure the strongest emotional stress and quite often get a psychological trauma. The psychological divorce fallouts for the children became a target of psychologists’ studying a long time ago. However, there are methods how to help the children to come through the parents’ divorce, it is impossible to eliminate consequences of this event completely.
The Impact of Divorce on Children
The divorce, as psychologists consider, is a stressful situation menacing to composure of one or both partners, and especially children. The divorce situation in a family causes an enormous harm to mental health of the child for whom there can be a divorce neither with the father nor with the mother. The parents cannot become strangers for him/her. “5 – 7-year-old children, and mostly boys, react to the divorce especially painfully” (Goldstein, 1999). Girls suffer the separation from their father mostly at the age from 2 till 5. According to the physicians, “every fifth child suffering neurosis endured the separation from the father in the childhood” (Goldstein, 1999).
The consequences of parents’ divorce can affect negatively all subsequent life of the child. The “fight” of the parents before or after the divorce period results in (Goldstein, 1999):
- the educational progress decreases at 37,7 % of the children (Goldstein, 1999);
- the discipline at home suffers at 19,6 % (Goldstein, 1999);
- 17,4 % demand special attention (Goldstein, 1999);
- 8,7 % escape from the house (Goldstein, 1999);
- 6,5 % of the children have conflicts with their friends (Goldstein, 1999).
At the same time some psychologists consider that divorce can sometimes be regarded as the benefit if it changes “the conditions of the child’s formation of identity to the best, puts the end to a negative impact on his/her mentality of the matrimonial conflicts” (Amato, 2000). But in most cases the parting of the parents makes an injuring impact on the child. And a big psychological stress is caused by divorce and by the conditions following it in a family.
Joint researches of psychologists and physicians showed that even being infants the children are capable to endure a psychological trauma which they get in process or as a result of the mother’s divorce. Even” the death of the baby can be caused by a depressive condition of the mother” (Amato, 2000). It occurs because newborns stay as though in symbiosis with the mother, remain a part of her organism. At an adverse situation in a family the mother is focused on the conflicts and disputes with the spouse, and the child appears deprived of her love. Besides, when a young mother has been in a conflict before the divorce or in a difficult situation after the divorce for a long time, the process of breast feeding which is so necessary to the kid almost always stops as the mother’s breast milk usually vanishes because of a nervous tension.
There are also opposite situations when the mother having a stress gives the child an excessive care so her sensual condition is transferred to him/her in a direct contact.
But especially a complicated situation arises when the mother is compelled for any reason, even if it is not constantly, to be detached from the baby, to give him/her into strange hands.
The children of the preschool age suffer the family’s divorce not less than infants. The researches of the psychologists showed that for the preschool child the parents’ divorce is a withdrawal of the steady family structure, “habitual relations with the parents, the conflict between the attachment to the father and mother” (Amato, 2000). “The experts studied the reactions of the children of the preschool age to the family disintegration during the period before the divorce, during the divorce and in some months after it” (Lamb, 2005). “They were interested in the changes of the children’s behavior in a game, their relations with contemporaries, emotional manifestations, character and the degree of understanding of the conflicts endured by the family” (Lamb, 2005).
The children at the age of 2,5 – 3,5 reacted to the family disintegration with a cry, sleep frustration, increased fearfulness, decrease in informative processes, slovenliness manifestation, addiction to own things and toys. They parted with the mother with great difficulty. In a game they created the invented world occupied by hungry, aggressive animals. “Negative symptoms disappeared when the parents restored nursing and physical care of them” (Lamb, 2005).
The children at the age of 3,5 – 4,5 showed the increased anger, aggression, suffering the feeling of loss, uneasiness. The extroverts became reserved and silent. Some children “showed regression in game forms as they were characterized with a guiltiness manifestation for the family disintegration” (Lamb, 2005).
Children at 5-6 years
The increased aggression, irritability, restlessness and anger were observed at the children at the age of 5 – 6. The kids of this age group represent rather distinctly what changes in their routine are caused by the divorce. They are capable to tell about their experiences, melancholy for the father, a desire to restore the family, the children were not observed any delays in the development or decrease of self-image, but the “most vulnerable had a disturbed sleep and appetite” (Lamb, 2005).
According to the research data “the mostly wounded is the only child during the family disintegration” (Camil, 1990). Those, who have brothers and sisters, endure the divorce much easier; the children in such situations vent aggression or angry on each other, therefore they reduce an emotional pressure considerably and reduce a probability of nervous breakdowns.
One of the closest consequences of the stress for the children after the divorce is a violation of their adaptation to an everyday life. The father, who has left the family, is often considered as a traitor by the child. Therefore, the entry of the child into a social life becomes complicated and deformed.
The kids from the divorced families quite often appear the objects of moral pressure of the kids from safe, full families which causes them the formation of uncertainty, and it also leads to embitterment, aggression. The formation of the identity of the kid and his/her adaptation becomes even more complicated if he/she witnessed or participated in all the family quarrels and scandals which led his/her parents to divorce, and especially if the kid is set by one parent against the other.
The child’s adaptability “decreases in proportion depending on the duration of the period during which he/she lives in such a collapsing family” (Children and Divorce Website).
Persevering attempts of the parent after the divorce to arrange the destiny, having forgotten about the feelings and attachments of the child, complicate the social adaptation process of the children. For example, the mother, with whom the child lives, often has new applicants for a role of the husband. The child is abandoned. He/she feels necessary to nobody. In such conditions the identity formation of the misanthrope, for whom neither ethical nor written rules exist in the relations with the people around, is not excluded.
“The absence of a man in the child’s environment is an important factor but not a defining” (Camil, 1990). The education of the child is endured almost completely on the mother’s shoulders in this situation. Therefore the absence of the father is not only a reason but a precondition of the development violations.
The divorce for adults is a painful, unpleasant, sometimes drama experience on which they go at their own will and on their own accord. For the child the parting of the parents is “the tragedy connected with a destruction of habitual environment” (Goldstein, 1999). Therefore the emotional experience of the children of their parents’ break-up changes ranging from a languid depression, apathy to a sharp negativism and disagreement demonstration with the opinion and the decision of the parents. In addition to it, adults, having been unable to control their own experiences, change their relation to the child; they often use it as an object of a discharge of their negative emotions.
And this naturally leaves traces on the identity formation of the kid as he/she in many respects perceives events, being guided by the reaction of the grown-ups during so crisis time.
The life in an incomplete divorced family, according to the experts, leads to that the child gets” a mental trauma because the parents could not or did not want to live together for any reason”(Goldstein, 2000). The consequences of the divorce are reflected in mentality of the child, causing the emergence of feeling of inferiority, shame and fear. Therefore the desire and hope of especially small children on the father and mother’s reunion are natural. The long-term supervision showed that the children of the preschool age consider themselves guilty of the parents’ divorce, the feeling of hatred and thirst of revenge develops. “The children at the age of about 10 years condemn both the parents and the one who, in their opinion, deprived of them security” (Goldstein, 2000).
A distinctive feature of the divorced families is also that the mother often comes back together with the kids to her relatives after the divorce. The inversion of the educational roles, when “the mother’s role is assumed by the grandmother with authoritative features of the personality, will be a characteristic phenomenon in such an incomplete family, and the role of the father is carried out by the mother with firm character traits and an adherence to some principles or the grandfather” (Lamb, 2005). It is considered that moral and material supporting of the grandparents sometimes contributes the divorce.
The attempts of the lonely parent to be a mother or a father for the kid simultaneously appear usually unsuccessful. It is almost impossible constantly to reproduce examples of behavior of the persons of a different sex. The person all the same remains only a man or a woman, a mother or a father. The kid in the family with one adult becomes “more dependent on the parent bringing him up to the detriment of his/her freedom and self-sufficiency, he/she loses (or does not manage to get) psychosexual points, is away from the standards of sexual parts” (Camil, 1990) . The confusion in his/her ideas of the parts of a man and a woman in a family and of admissible ways of realization of these parts has been created at the kid for many years if not forever.
To say it briefly, if the husband and the wife split up, they should think of the child’s emotional loading being not so strong. After all they are still his/her parents and can continue to love him/her despite of everything. It is good if they find forces to try to explain to the child if not everything but the basic. Instead of throwing a stock phrase, “You will grow, you will understand everything” (Camil, 1990). Certainly, he/she understands that something goes wrong with the parents, only the reasons are not clear. The explanation gives the chance to keep respect at least (for all partners).
Life, of course, sometimes gives surprises, but, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. Any vital lesson goes on advantage both to the children and the adults. Everybody should remember it and do not give up.