Parental separation, divorce, remarriage, and family reconstruction have become common experiences in children’s and parent’s lives, the idyllic image of the two parent, multiple-child nuclear family of the 1950s has been replaced with a more complex yet more realistic view of parenting and families in the 1990s (Hetherington, 1999).The intricate networks of family relationships that are formed, nurtured, and sometimes broken over the lifecourse of a family that experiences parental separation and remarriage present a complex array of risk as well as protective factors that are, in part, responsible for the wide range of individual differences seen in children’s post-divorce and post-remarriage adjustment, and these remains no doubt that experiencing such family changes during childhood and adolescence caries some liability for emotional and behavioral problems (Hetherington, 1999).
The fact that the process of divorce takes place in relation to a complex network of social, cultural, legal, economic, and psychological variables, makes it difficult to determine a real net effect of divorce on children (Gutmann, 1993). A study sponsored by the NAESP may represent found out that there is a large gap between the Grade Point Average of children from one-and two parent homes, and on the other study, it was found out that the effects of divorce proved quite consistent among grade levels and high schools (Jeynes, 2002).Part of the reason for this specificity in the research on high school students may rest in the fact that most people associate the teenage years with considerable change, and indeed, evidence suggest that a good deal of behavioral changes associated with divorce emerge during the teenage years (Jeynes, 2002). It was assumed that the variables accounting for disruptions in children’s growth and development are inter-parent hostility and poor mother-child relationship, and divorce results in cessation of inter-parent hostility and an improved mother-child relationship resulting in positive adjustment in children (Gutmann, 1993).Regarding the assessment of the value of conceptualizing divorce as one instance of the father absence, a preponderance of studies reviewed do indeed suggest that father-absent and father-present children reveal differences in patterns of growth and development, and the findings suggest that loss or prolonged absence of the father has a telling impact on his children’s subsequent development (Gutmann, 1993).
Specifically, father absent children shows lower levels of self-esteem, marital stability, and academic achievement, and higher levels of aggression and disobedience; and equivocally, disruptions in moral development and heterosexual functioning (Gutmann, 1993). Studies indicate that the element of time along a number of dimensions can play an interesting role in determining how much impact divorce has on educational achievement of children, and the three most studied dimensions include, the age of a child at the time of the divorce, the number of years since the divorce has taken place, and the long term effects of divorce (Jeynes, 2002).According to Keynes, there are three central hypotheses which social scientist considered, and these are, the cumulative effect hypothesis which asserts that the earlier the parental divorce occurs in the child’s life, the more profound its impact will be, the critical state hypothesis which asserts that the first two to three years of a child’s life are the most critical to ensuring the development of a child, therefore, a divorce taking place at this age would have considerably greater impact that for any other age, and lastly, the recency hypothesis which asserts that divorce constitutes a trauma from which the child can recover within a year or two. According to a study by Wallerstein, he often-cited longitudinal study of children of divorced parents and he found that divorce had significant effects even ten and twenty five years following the divorce, and on the other study conducted by Love-Clarks, it was found out that the average effect size for divorce on both academic achievement and psychological adjustment measures remained considerable even seven to eight years after the divorce.The weight of evidence suggests that there may be somewhat larger effect for divorce when it occurs early in a child’s life, and in a study by Santrock in 1972, he found out that divorce produce the most negative impact on cognitive functioning when it occurred during the first two years of a child’s life, and similarly, according to a study conducted by Love-Clark, the mean effect of divorce was greater for children whose parents divorced between the ages of two and six than children whose parents divorced between the ages of seven and twelve or thirteen and eighteen (Jeynes, 2002). The ongoing stressful experiences produce any number of long term behavioral changes in children, even into their adult years, for example, as teenagers and adults, children of divorce are more likely to have nervous breakdown, seek professional counseling, and go through divorce themselves (Jeynes, 2002).
Also, children of divorce are also more likely to eventually commit suicide. Indeed, research indicates that the long term effects of divorce may last for decades and appear considerably vast than originally believed.Ultimately, the individual characteristics of each child of divorce help determine precisely what long term effects of divorce are. Nevertheless, the effects of divorce do display certain patterns which are dependent on the timing of the divorce, the length of time since the separation transpired, and the age of the child at the time of the divorce.
To the extent that we understand the interaction of divorce with these variables, we possess a better understanding of the influence of divorce on children. However, there is still much about these interactions that we do not understand. Certainly on of the challenges of the coming years will be to uncover more specifically how divorce, time, and the age of the child all interact (Jeynes, 2002).