Oftentimes, the first question when divorce comes up is “why?” In some cases, couples divorce for reasons ranging from low tolerance to adultery. In some cases, it may be due to lack of communication, or even physical or mental compatibility.
This situation is nothing new. Divorce- and the acceptance of it- has increased drastically from the mid-20th century to today. Society used to frown upon it, but it is now more widely accepted.
Regardless of the cause or reasons, divorce affects not only the adults in the matter, but the children, no matter what age, as well. The Heritage Foundation, a research and educational think tank, reported that each year, more than 1 million American children experience the divorce of their parents.
“How parents handle the divorce can make a huge difference,” says Michelle Cerniglia, a life coach at Adjusted Perspectives in Phoenix. “Kids may act out or exhibit negative behavior during their parents’ divorce, including feelings of depression and anger.”
Although divorce affects more children more frequently, it hasn’t become easier for kids to adjust. Such things as coordinating schedules, misplaced feelings of guilt and confrontational parents all add to feelings of loss for the child.
“Kids need stability, especially at a time when their life is in transition. They need to know that the divorce is not their fault and that both parents love them,” Cerniglia explains. “It’s also important to allow the kids to experience their feelings. Don’t expect them to be happy or just accept it. [It’s important to] validate their feelings.”
Carina White, a mother of three in Gilbert, Ariz., explains, “One of the things they tell us in parenting classes is that children have a tendency to blame themselves.” while divorce can seriously affect a child’s emotions, some adolescents use those emotions as an excuse to participate in reckless behavior. Whether it’s taking advantage of the switching back-and-forth system of leniency differences between parents, an adolescent can use these types of situations to their advantage.
The true percentage of divorced families is a difficult one to confirm, but many researchers deny the widely-accepted “50 percent of marriages end in divorce” statistic, saying it is not one that has remained true throughout the decades. In 2005, New York Times writer Dan Hurley presented information that disputed the claim, due to miscalculation by a multitude of studies.
Researchers believing in the flawed statistic had simply compared the annual marriage rate with the annual divorce rate per 1,000 people, but Hurley noted that “the people who are divorcing in any given year are not the same as those who are marrying, and that statistic is virtually useless in understanding divorce rates.”
The article explained how a myriad of social scientists would rather determine the divorce rate by calculating the number of people who have married and subsequently divorced, meaning the rate never exceeded 41 percent in America, at most.
Ultimately, the divorce rate has decreased from what it was in the 1970s. Yet, even in light of these findings, divorce is still occurring and it remains a painful, puzzling predicament that can be detrimental to the minds of children observing the situation.
The New Norm
Years ago, when people discussed divorce, the concept sometimes brought about an off-putting feeling. Now, it has become more commonplace and is sometimes shrugged off as being almost a normal part of life.
“In previous generations, being divorced had a negative stigma. As more couples choose divorce as an option and make it work, it becomes ‘normalized’ and thus more acceptable within our society,” Cerniglia says.
The Heritage Foundation discovered that children coming from divorced parents exhibit more health, behavioral and emotional problems. “They may feel like their world is out of control and seek to find ways they can exert control in their lives, even if it’s negative,” Cerniglia adds.
The pain adolescents encounter can lead to a feeling of being jaded. The kids see a relationship that ceased to function, which can alter their view of long-term relationships indefinitely.
The experience of having divorced parents in childhood may also lead to an altered ideology on marriage, making it out to be a less than permanent bond between two people. Children who have witnessed divorce might not want to get married for fear of a failed marriage,similar to that of their parents.
“In some cases, a child may delay getting married or have trust issues. But we, as a society still value marriage, despite the increase in divorce,” Cerniglia says.