10 October, 2017
Growing up I would watch fairy tales such as Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A handsome prince would rescue a young girl and they would live happily ever after. As I grew into my teen years I watched love stories wherein the relationship the man would bring the women flowers, propose in a romantic gesture, the couple would marry have children and live happily ever after. Whoa, what a rude awaking I’ve had now an adult. I wish someone would have pulled me aside at a young age and explained to me, that life is simply not that easy, and sometimes no matter how hard you try in a marriage/relationship it doesn’t always end up like the movies. This brings me to the reason why I chose the topic of divorce.
There are many people who believe that divorce rates are on the rise. Contrary to what people may believe divorce rates are declining. Divorce rates increased in the 70’s and 80’s, but in the last 20 years, they have dropped. Although many of us believe that statistically speaking our marriage only has a 50 percent success rate, in which that information is simply not true (Kreider and Ellis 2011). According to the U.S. Census, 5.3 per thousand Americans eighteen and over were divorced in 1979, roughly double the 1950 rate. But since that time, the rate has been declining: to 4.7 per thousand in 1990, 4.1 per thousand in 2000, and 3.6 per thousand in 2005. Sadly “the lack of divorce does not mean that a marriage was happy or even functional” (Sternheimer 2008).
Although divorce rates have gone down, there is still the question as to why people divorce? There are many speculations as to why a marriage ends. One of the main reasons for divorce is financial instability. In some instances a spouse may spend money foolishly, further putting the couple into consumer debt. Others speculate that infidelity, and alcohol/drug abuse contribute to a failed marriage (Amato and Rogers 1997). Divorce laws are also making it easier to pull the trigger. California became the first state to offer the no-fault divorce in 1970, and other states followed suit. This meant that couples did not need to prove any reason to a judge for dissolution of their marriage; if one spouse wanted out, they got out.
These laws may satisfy the adults wanting out of the marriage, but unfortunately, in most cases, divorce has detrimental effects on the child or children involved. Even though other children play a key role in the influence on a child in middle childhood, a family is the most powerful context in which coping socialization occurs (Kliewer, Sandler, & Wolchik, 1994; Power, 2004). As a child, we rely on coaching, modeling, and the parent-child relationship to mold us into healthy successful adults. During a divorce, children suffer an immense loss of their parents. It becomes straining on the child to try to keep a close relationship with both parents without taking sides. Parents have to adjust to their new lives as either single parents or a parent struggling to stay active in their child’s lives. Roles are sometimes reversed and the child has to take on more responsibility, especially if one parent becomes absent in their lives. Children are often used as weapons to hurt the other parent in a divorce further damaging their child’s mental stability.
There are some rare cases where a divorce can be handled in a mature healthy way, however, for the not so healthy split, there are resources that can help with the transitions. When adults divorce the family structure is unclear. Children are passed back and forth between parents, family members, friends and sometimes court-appointed mediators. It is crucial to the children involved to be able to have an outlet for support. There are many family counselors that are available for families. These programs can help with coordinating pick up and drop offs in such a way that the children will not be subjected to disputes among parents. Children and parents also have options to get counseling, so that they can learn how to cope with the new structure of their family.
In my own experience, while researching divorce, I found there are many resources available if one of the parties is subject to emotional, sexual or physical abuse, the court may suggest domestic violence counseling as well as individual counseling for the victims. Providing emotional support and education on how to manage with the emotional trauma that’s left behind as well as building up their self-esteem. As restoring trust may be a lengthy recovery. “Spousal psychological abuse represents a painful betrayal of trust, leading to serious negative psychological outcomes for the abused partner.” (Dutton & Painter, 1993; Sackett & Saunders 1999). As for the perpetrator, some resources available might involve anger management to help to recognize triggers and manage their anger. Meeting with a licensed therapist is also an option for the offender as they can help identify events or previous situations that have contributed or lead up to their violent behavior. In some cases if children are involved or witness an act of domestic violence social workers will become involved and offer counseling helping them to rebuild their self perceptions and eventually gaining back their trust for adults as this can be very detrimental to a child. “ Research shows that even when children are not direct targets of violence in the home, they can be harmed by witnessing its occurrence.”( Child Welfare Information Gateway 2016). These young children are living with the stress and anxiety of seeing their parents hurt each other along with dealing with the heartache of a broken home. Overall I found there are plenty of resources out there available for child and families to help with mental health while struggling through this difficult traumas.
If only all the parents who chose to get married and have children sought out counseling before they decided to get married, I believe that children would grow up to be adults that respected the union of marriage. In the times of the internet, it is so easy to reconnect with an old flame and commit adultery. With the pressures of keeping up with the Jones’s many families spend above their means and fall into financial hardship, putting stress on a marriage. With more women educated and working there is the power struggle between couples as to who wears the pants, further causing more strain to the family? It is very easy to blame the person who is closest to you. Most of the time it is the spouse who endures all the abuse from the failures of the other. As human beings, we need to take a deep breath and take care of ourselves mentally and physically so that we can overcome the many challenges of life that are thrown our way and enjoy our lives.
Amato, P. R., & Rogers, S. J. (1997). A longitudinal study of marital problems and subsequent divorce. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 59, 612–624.
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Child witnesses to domestic violence. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau
Dutton, D.G., & Painter, S. (1993) The battered women syndrome: Effects of severity and intermittency of abuse. American journal of Orthopsychiatry, 63, 614-621.
Kliewer, W., Sandler, I. N., & Wolchik, S. (1994) Family socialization of threat appraisal and coping: Coaching, modeling and family context. In F. Nestmann & K. Hunelmann (Eds.), Social networks and social support in childhood and adolescence (pp. 271–292). New York: de Gruyter.
Sacket, L.A., &7 Saunders, D.G. (1999). The impact of different forms of psychological abuse on battered women, Violence, and Victims, 14(1), 105-117.