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Rising Divorce Rates Impact On Family Systems

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1696 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Family is very important aspect of our lives and play essential roles in our current society. Many scholars have come up with different definitions of family based on proven research findings. According to Anderson, Anderson & Glanze (1998), a family is a group of people related by heredity, such as parents, children, and siblings. The term is further explained to include people related by marriage or those living in the same household, who are emotionally attached, interact regularly, and shares concerns for the growth and development of the group and its individual members (Anderson et al., 1998). Potter & Perry (2001) also describe family as people related by marriage, birth, or adoption. Increasing divorce rates, teen pregnancies, and broken homes are negatively affecting the family system in our society. For that matter, this paper will review literature to support the argument that we are seeing the demise of the family through rising divorce rates, teen pregnancies and broken homes in our society. This will be done through analysis of the psychological, economical and academic impact of divorce in families.

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Divorce has become an intrinsic part of the family system. Emotional stability in families is very important to family members’ psychological health. A psychologically competent parent is a protective factor associated with positive outcomes in children and is one of the best predictors of children psychological functioning after divorce (as cited in Kelly, 2003). Increasing divorce rates has been shown to negatively impact the psychological health of both mothers and children. Financial problems that will be discussed later in this paper are shown to reduce mothers’ psychological welfare (as cited in Seltzer, 1994). In addition, mothers’ emotional adjustment has strong effects on childrearing and behaviour and that reduce the quality of parent- child interactions. Research studies have concluded that approximately 20% to 25% of children of divorced families have serious psychological, behavioural and social problems compared to 10 percent of children in never divorced families (as cited in Kelly, 2003).

Children coping mechanism with divorce vary from child to child. Unrelieved and multiple stressors will determine children’s attempts to cope with divorce and may result in increased psychological difficulties in the long term. Children’s attempts to cope with the major changes caused by divorce are complicated by the failure of parents not adequately informing their children about the divorces and future arrangements. Children are left to struggle by themselves with the meaning of the divorce for their lives, which causes a sense of isolation, anxiety, and cognitive and emotional confusion (as cited in Kelly, 2003). Children are sometimes separated from one parent for a long period of time which adds to their stress level. Children with strong attachments to caring parents, the abrupt and total absence of contact is painful and quite stressful especially when these children have no explanation to the cause of the divorce (Kelly, 2003).

It is important and beneficial in discussing both the short term and long term outcomes of divorce on children. Divorce can create lingering feelings of sadness, longing, worrying, and regret. Research has reported that as many as half of young adults recall distress and painful memories and experiences caused by their parents post and during divorce (Kelly, 2003). Painful reflection on a difficult past is not the same as an inability to relate and function competently in the present. Children suffering from divorce pain score higher on depression scale compared to their counterparts from married and stable families (Kelly 2003).

A second issue resulting from increased divorce rates is the economical impact on families live. It is known that money cannot buy happiness, but it is very difficult for children to be happy if they do not have enough to eat and a safe place to live (Seltzer, 1994). Children experience economic disadvantage when their parents’ divorce. According to Duncan & Rodgers (1991), children from divorce homes are more likely to be poor compared to children from happily married homes (as cited in Seltzer, 1994). In the same research study, children’s family income decreases by 37% when fathers move out of the home. Fathers do not contribute as much as they used to when they move aware and negatively affecting the children economic status (Seltzer, 1994). As divorce disrupts the parenting system and usually reduces the economic support available to children. According to Hoffman (1985) men improve their economic status following divorce, and women on the other hand experience a significant drop in income which lasts several years (as cited in Furstenberg, 1990). Women see a recovery in income status as a result of remarriage, which also lead to other issues with children and step parenting.

Another contributing issue to children low economic level is that, mothers bear greater childcare responsibilities; they have low paid work experiences and training and suffer persistent labour marked discrimination (Seltzer, 1994). Women have increased their involvement in the labour market to meet the economical needs of their children. With increased working hours, less time are being spent with the children and parenting roles are jeopardized leading to behavioural issues in children from single parent homes as a result of divorce (Furstenberg, 1990). The distortion in parenting is also resulting from children having to begin economical responsibilities as to obtaining employment and contributing household income earlier than their non divorce children family homes. Furstenberg (1990) concludes well that, “divorce typically reduces the family’s economic resources, it stresses the parent-child relationship, it alters and sometimes destroys the parenting system, and it reshapes kinship ties” (p. 398).

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There is a growing number of evidence suggesting that childhood divorce elevates the risk of academic failure and jeopardizes educational and occupational attainment (Furstenberg, 1990). In further, children living in a single parent household due to divorce have more problems in school, higher grade failure rate, higher dropout, and lower attendance rate. These children are less likely to complete college education leading to reduction of occupational attainment and being in the lower income bracket later in life (Furstenberg, 1990). Seltzer (1994), research yield that 29% of children from single parent households drop out of school compared to 13% of children from married homes. This rate is very high, a 16% difference in the dropout rate. Children from disrupted homes are prone to attend inferior schools and receive less economic support for advancement in education. According to Kelly (2003), children from divorce families have two to three fold increased risk of academic problems. They have lowered academic performance and achievement test scores compared to children in married families.

According to Goldscheider and Goldscheider, (1988) Children from broken homes are starts forming sexual relations earlier than children in nuclear families (as cited in Furstenberg, 1990). Children from broken homes are more likely to leave home earlier, cohabit and marry at a younger age, and commence having children sooner than children from married homes (as cited in Furstenberg, 1990). Teenage pregnancy is another long term impact of divorce or broken homes on children. Research findings indicate that unstable family life such as divorce in childhood leads to earlier timing of sexual activity, higher levels of premarital pregnancies (Furstenberg, 1990). Not only the teenage pregnancies are issues to the society but they bear other complications and challenging issues with childbearing. The infant mortality rate for babies born to teenage mothers is 60% higher than for babies born to older mothers. There are, too, the wider social and life course consequences for mother and child. Teenagers who give birth are more likely to bring up their child alone and in poverty and to forego or curtail their education, thereby jeopardising future employment prospects. Children of teenage mothers are at increased risk of becoming teenage mothers or single mothers themselves, and of poverty, low educational attainment, poor housing, poor health, and lower rates of economic activity as adults (Furstenberg, 1990; Seltzer, 1994).

Over three decades now, US research has confirmed that divorce presents substantial stressors and increased risk for children in their short and long term adjustment in a number of dimensions. It is important to pay attention this area of research and develop policies to help children cope and understand the challenges they may face as a result of divorce. Upon completing this research review, the writer agrees with Furstenberg (1990) conclusion that changes in family functions and divorce are areas of research that is underdeveloped. He noted that research data in this research field is very outdated and there is a need for further studies to develop solutions or strategies to deal with family issues such as rising divorce rates and teenage pregnancies. With reference to the research findings in the above paragraphs, it can be concluded that married families continue to be viewed as wholesome, nurturing environments for childrearing and childbearing (Kelly, 2003). Increasing divorce rates are blamed for a wide range of serious and enduring behavioural, emotional, and academic problems in children and adolescents in our society today (Kelly, 2003). In conclusion this paper has proven that yes indeed we are seeing the demise of the family with the rising divorce rates, which correlates with teen pregnancies and broken homes. Psychological, economical, and academic well being of children and families are areas greatly affected by divorce and broken homes.


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