Effects of Marriage and Divorce on Children

Development during early childhood is very important. It shapes who a person is in their actions, values, and ideals for the rest of their life. Divorce can affect how a child develops cognitively. Due to the stress of conflict, potential lack of attention or loss of resources the child receives during divorce it can be detrimental to how a young child cognitively develops and can have impacts on their life in the moment, but also long-term consequences.

The self-image of children is very important. It effects the child’s whole being. A person’s self-image or sense of self is the different skills, knowledge, values and attitudes a person may have. Their self-image develops throughout their life and is being influenced by everything in it. It is mostly influenced by their basic needs at a young age. During development, trust in a child’s surroundings plays a huge role on their sense of self. How parents respond to the child’s needs and how the parents interact with each other plays a role on their self-concept. Children pay close attention to how the adults in their life interact. It is a part of development. The most important feeling in childhood development is the feeling of security. This most often comes from parents. Children who come from families where there is an atmosphere of love and trust usually grow up as a positive person because love and trust were engraved into this person’s childhood. When children witness divorce, there is a lot of conflict and mistrust and not as much love in this child’s life. Although both parents still love the child, they do not show love for each other and the child picks up on this engraving a negativity into their development. This study was done to see if there were connections between the conflict in the family, the divorce of the parents and the self-concept of the children in early school age. A study was conducted to test these ideas. It was done by psychologists in Macedonia. Studying 30 children’s drawings of a male and female and then a house with a tree, a psychologist drew results. The children in this study were between the ages of 6 and 11. The psychologist concluded that “Children of divorced parents have certain difficulties in the development of a psychological picture of themselves. They have increased feelings of insecurity and low self-confidence” (Angjelkoska 63). This is due to the fact that family is the place where the child feels the first love of their parents. Divorce can stress out a child causing them to become more angry, frustrated or sad. It also can cause feelings of abandonment, guilt and can cause them to feel scared. The children’s drawings were sometimes aggressive or so small that it showed that they themselves felt small. A lot of times a child will stay silent as a way of dealing with the pain of watching their parents split up.

An article done by the Department of Sociology at University of Alabama studied different perspectives and resources that effect children during and after a divorce. Family looks different depending on who you are looking at. They differ in their education, socioeconomic status, and relationships among family members. However, no matter how different they look, an intact family plays an important role on childhood development. During the recent decades in the United States almost 50% of marriages eventually end in divorce (Demir-Dagdas 469). Children of intact families have been proven to have better physical and psychological health and stronger social and cognitive competencies. There are not only short-term effects of divorce such as depression, anxiety, poor education and lack of social support, but there is also long term. Some long-term effects of divorce are that the children whose parents divorced are more likely to become adolescent parents, divorce as adults, and are more susceptible to eating disorders. “Divorce is a risk factor for children’s well-being during the formative period of growth along with other adverse life experiences such as poverty, marital problems, lack of father involvement, parental death, mental health problems, alcohol abuse, and domestic violence” (Demir-Dagdas 471). If a child has very little contact with both parents after divorce, they are more likely to lack educational access and experience more economic hardships. Due to this, their self-efficacy, self-esteem, and coping skills become much more negative after the divorce.

This article also takes a look into the child’s educational experiences. The authors of this article studied research conducted in the United States that show evidence that divorce could even affect the child’s college attendance and graduation. This would then cause a generational impact of the divorce. The cognitive development as we have learned is greatly impacted by parental divorce/separation. However, it could be a less extreme impact if additional transitions don’t occur. Additional transitions can be either moving into a new household with step-siblings, gaining a step-parent, or being moved from house to house with dual custody.

Along with the cognitive development being affected by divorce, school engagement and behavior can be affected. Stressors that could add to lack of school engagement could be the amount of resources a family has. In a study done by Sociologist’s at the University of Leuven in Belgium, they studied how different amounts of resources effects school engagement. This article is about how the amount of resources the family has related to divorce and school engagement. Growing up with divorced parents has substantial evidence for the theory that it causes lower levels of childhood well-being and lower academic achievement. Previous research focused on their grades and comprehension of material, but this article looks at the behavior of children in school whose parents have separated. These students generally have lower grades and are at higher risk for dropping out of school than children with nuclear families (Havermans 565). There are many different resources a family can give a child: Financial, Human, and Social.

Financial family resources are the means of the family, usually the income. This can influence the child’s school engagement in many different ways. Low-income families usually have not as great of housing. A high-quality house in a safe environment has been shown to improve learning activities of children. In low-income families they have less money to invest in materials that cause cognitive stimulation of children. They have fewer reading material than families who have more money to invest in that. Children with less financial resources are associated usually with more health problems. If a child is sick more often, they have less school engagement and miss things in school that can affect their participation in class. And lastly, fewer financial resources can be the subject of conflict at home (Havermans 572). Children take on the stress of their parents and will pick up on the conflict causing less participation in school due to the psychological toll. Due to the fact that financial resources make such a big deal in a child even with an intact family, if you add the divorcing stressor which causes less financial support, it can be detrimental to a student’s participation in class (Havermans 572).

Human family resources are the skills that are acquired from parents. When a child’s parents divorce this is harmed, and they aren’t given the full resources that they otherwise would have. If a child’s parents have a higher education, they are more likely to enforce the importance of school on their children. This stimulates the child’s need and liking for participating in school. Along with this if a child’s parents have higher education, they are able to help with the homework and answer questions the child may have (Havermans 566). When parents are either going through a divorce or are divorced their time becomes limited. If the child lives with them they still may not see them as much due to having to work more to keep their financial resources up. Children do not get nearly as much attention when parents are stressed and busy. Due to this, the importance of education and doing their school work is not stressed which can cause a lack of engagement in school (Havermans 566).

Social family resources refer to the relationships within the family. This is the resource that is most greatly impacted by divorce. Social family resources depend on the quantity of contact between the parents and child but also on the quality. There is a direct correlation between the strength of parent-child relationships/parents’ involvement with their children’s school work and the academic success and engagement the child has in school. A strained relationship between parents i.e. divorce, definitely coincides with lower parental involvement and a worse quality of parent-child contact. Parental conflict is not only stressful for the parents but also for the child (Havermans 573).

In an article written by professors in the Department of Primary Education in Athens Greece, a study was done that was purely based off the teacher’s view point of children’s school engagement in the classroom. They studied alternative family types such as a single-parent household and a nuclear family. This study included 314 preschool students, 170 boys and 144 girls. These students were under 118 teachers with a mean of eleven years of teaching experience (Babalis 20). The goal of this study was to learn about behavior in the students from a teacher’s perspective. They studied the behavior under three dimensions: school adjustment, interpersonal and intrapersonal behavior. The study concluded that 63.7% of the students in the study belonged to a nuclear family while 36.3% lives in a single-parent family (Babalis 23). If a student is from a single-parent family, there seemed to be significantly more behavioral problems. Intrapersonal behavior of preschool children was affected greatly by what type of family the child has. If a child is from a single parent household, they are significantly more likely to be shy, get sick, or angry when faced with difficult problem. Along with intrapersonal behavior, students from single parent households are more likely to have issues with school adjustments. They have difficulties following instruction, listening to the lessons, and have a stronger dislike to school compared to the students from a nuclear family (Babalis 23). Teachers noted that students from single parent households are much more likely to be aggressive and show immature/inappropriate behavior. Students appear to have tendencies towards depression and are more isolated. Schools should show understanding and sensitivity when dealing with students from a single parent household (Babalis 25). Maintaining an objective view of students is also important. Each student deserves love and support no matter what their family life is like. Teachers cannot give students special treatment based on what is going on in their life. They must provide equal learning opportunities to all students and aim to enhance the students social and personal development in and outside of school.

An additional study done on preterm infants in France was done to see how their neurodevelopment was affected by divorce. There were 3,308 infants in this study. The study was done to quantify the possible decrease in school performance at five years of age associated with parental separation or divorce. They also wanted to test if the age of the child when the separation happened impacted their behavior in a school setting. This study followed the infants doing standardized visits by trained physicians at 3,6,9,18,24 months and 3,4,5,6,7 years after the birth (Nusinovici). Children were evaluated at age 2 and 5 to assess their neurodevelopment. The results of this study said that preterm infants that had an optimal neurodevelopment at two years of age, parental separation was associated with a decrease in school performance at five years old independent of their socioeconomic background. This decrease was only in the category of infants whose parents separated between ages three and five. This was also found with full term infants not just preterm (Nusinovici). Parental separations in general were associated with a decrease in the child’s motivation, engagement, autonomy, and manual dexterity. As a teacher, it is important to help the student through this difficult time and give them the support and love that they may not be receiving at home. It is also good to make note that behavior issues are common with children whose parents are separating or divorced. A teacher whose student is having behavior issues and their parents are divorcing should not outwardly shame the student for misbehaving. Instead, give the support needed without giving any special treatment. Teacher’s must still remain objective when assessing and teaching their students.

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