For this blog post I read the findings of a longitudinal study on the affects of divorce on children. For this study, the behaviors and attitudes of approximately 30 children who, at the time of separation, were between 2½ and 6 years old, were studied over a 25-year period. The researchers decided to study this age group because it is at this age that children are very dependent on their parents, both emotionally and physically, and they are less able to comfort themselves or seek out comfort elsewhere. All of the children came from families in northern California, and had no previous records of psychological issues.
Before I tell you what the results were, I would like to point out an error in this study. Because the researchers chose children from the same geographical area, with similar backgrounds, the conclusions that they developed about how divorce affects children cannot be generalized to the entire population. Perhaps the parents of different cultures would act differently after the divorce, which would then affect the children differently.
The results of this study are very interesting. The researchers found that:
1) Immediately after the parents separated, many of the children feared being abandoned by both parents. They felt that if the parents could leave each other, they could just as easily leave the child. They feared waking up to a deserted home, coming home from school to a deserted home, and other things such as starvation.
a. Interestingly, these fears turned into reality for many of the children. In most families, the father was gone and the mother was forced to work full-time, leaving the children with strangers or older siblings. Many of the children reported feeling lonely.
2) As they reached adolescence, many children were vulnerable in dealing with their own sexuality and aggression. They were less resistant to drugs and alcohol and many of the women became sexually active in their early teen years.
3) Children who witnessed violence in their parents failing relationship tended to end up in abusive relationships later in life.
The affects of divorce on the children in this study are very apparent and certainly hindered them as they grew older. This study suggests a reform to the legal system and better support for children who are dealing with divorce parents.
kehne004: November 2011 Archives