Monday, June 28, 2010

The Detrimental Effects of Divorce On Children

Copyright by Merlene Bishop, M.A.

Twenty five years ago a psychologist named Judith Wallerstein did some psychological research studies on the long term effects of divorce on children. She surveyed and followed up with 131 children of divorce to determine the long term effects of divorce on children's well being. Her results were interesting and surprising, and divorcing parents need to understand what they were.

The results indicated that when there was continuing conflict among divorced parents, children's self esteem was damaged, and they had poor school performance. They were also vulnerable to substance abuse, were sexually active much earlier, were likely to have trust issues in close relationships and were more vulnerable to divorce themselves after marriage.

The pain for adults subsides more quickly after divorce, but it can continue for years in children if there is continuing conflict between parents. She learned that children can survive divorce in a positive way if the parents are open and honest with their children, and if they can learn to avoid exposing children to conflict. This can be avoided if parents can learn to talk to each other rationally and agree to talk about problems when the children are not around.

In today's world, cell phones and email are convenient tools for communicating without children hearing it. If you are in disagreement or conflict with your ex spouse, you always have the option to hang up if talking on the phone. Make it a point to email them later to discuss the problem, and always save your messages.

Make a log on a computer program such as Notepad, Open Office or Microsoft Word that contains everything you talked about, including the date and time of the conversation.This strategy can help remind you and your former spouse of exactly what you said and when. Divorced people can be emotional at times and a business-like approach can help reduce the propensity and frequency of conflict. Additionally, if parents can avoid blaming each other for small problems they are likely to have less conflict.

If either parent is remarried and the new spouse has issues with the child support payments or visitation schedules this can be a source of conflict also. When children are exposed to continung conflict after parental divorce, it can damage their self esteem and cause them to feel emotionally abandoned.

If you are unable to establish business-like communication with your former spouse, you need to find support for yourself and your children. Divorce support groups are a good resource for support for you.

It is also essential as a source for helping your child understand what is happening between parents and for helping you learn how to talk to them in a way that avoids deragatory comments.
The detrimental effects of divorce conflict on children can be mitigated if adults are willing to work on the problems, either separately or collaboratively. If your spouse is not cooperative in doing this, counseling can be helpful in learning techniques for effectively dealing with conflict. Your child's well being is at stake.

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