This paper discusses the manner in which divorce affects children at different ages. Divorce, according to Roberts (2012), is representative of often disturbing and essential shift in the world of children; a perspective that can in one way or another represent loss or disappearance of family. Whenever such news regarding divorce dawns on children, it makes them feel anxious, angry sad making them find difficulties in adjusting to the changes that come thereafter. Although parents can choose to divorce at any time they find appropriate, children at different ages respond to such occurrences in different ways. It impacts on how children understand and cope with the new family structure (Roberts, 2012). Besides, the way parents respond to divorce at the time when it is happening between them has a direct effect on the way children adjust. It should, also, be clear that the way children react depends on a number of factors including the support their parents give them, the tension they experience in the new family structure, and how often such parents pay visits to them.
Considering the effects of divorce on children between 0-18 months, a number of issues arise out of this scenario. At infancy stage, babies have the capacity to feel or sense the tension between their parents in the home only that they are too young to understand these kinds of conflicts. Whenever such tension prolongs, it causes babies to become insecure and ill-tempered resulting into emotional outbursts on a frequent basis mainly in the presence of new people (Root, 2010). Besides, in some cases, such children have exhibited symptoms of developmental delays. Furthermore, children at this age need their mother most of the time. It is because a mother is the only primary caretaker who provides the security and the safety that infants need. Therefore, such children will feel abandoned whenever such a significant person stays away from them for too long. The long term effect of this sense of abandonment is that children may fail to develop trust in the fundamental quality of relationships, and eventually, they may continue with such a problem throughout their life (Root, 2010). Parents should, therefore, understand that children at such an age need routine and consistency in terms of being comforted by understanding. For such children, tensions in the home are destructive because they cause infants to develop loss of appetite, irregular eating habits and uneasy stomach.
When children attain toddler years i.e. beginning from 18 months to three years, their main bond lies with their parents. This implies that, at this age, children find it hard to understand, accept and cope with the disruptions on their life at home or family structure. Besides, most children in the toddler years are usually self-centered; therefore, in the event that their parents break up, they tend to feel guilty as if they are the ones who caused the problem. Divorce at this stage impacts on children negatively as observed from their emotional reaction; they cry all the time, resist toilet training, demand for more attention, regress, have troubled sleep at night, and become filled with fear of abandonment (Velejo, 2012). Stress that arises out of divorce at this age sends toddlers to regression making them imagine that their mother has vanished whenever she is not around them. Owing to their intellectual inability to comprehend this kind of experience, children will find themselves becoming more distrustful of the fundamental quality of relationships. For fathers to demonstrate that they love their children, it is at this stage that they require focusing on their general adjustment even if they do stay apart due to divorce.
Preschoolers or rather children between the age of 3 and 6 years are undergoing intellectual development, and cannot comprehend the whole idea of divorce. Therefore, they never want to see their parents go separate ways irrespective of the extent of the tension in the home. In the event that divorce occurs, these preschoolers, just like toddlers, will take blame on themselves thinking that they are the ones who caused the problem (Chikoto, 2012). Divorce then will affect them in a way that they become overwhelmed by nightmares, develop hostile ideas, trap their anger within them, and develop indeterminate feelings regarding the future. The general confusion that results thereafter makes children want to use all means possible to obtain attention from their parents. They may exhibit regression through rocking, becoming interested in the gains made during toilet training, and may begin thumb-sucking. Children may, also, exhibit unusual characters such as uncontrollable behavior and tantrums as way of trying to reunite their parents.
Children from the age of 6 to 11 years still do not have sufficient capacity to comprehend divorce as a concept; in fact, during such a disruption they view it as if their parents are the ones separating from them (Roberts, 2012). In some instances, they may begin worrying about losing either of their parents, but still hope that they can rescue the situation. These reactions are common with children between 6 and 8 years. Most children from age 8 to 11 years will react to divorce by blaming one of their parents and siding with good ones. They will also exhibit their annoyance differently: most girls do become depressed, withdrawn and anxious while boys may become furious against the world, which may lead them to fighting colleagues at school. Besides, all these children irrespective of their gender will experience headaches as a result of stress, stomach discomforts, or may fail to go school pretending to be sick. In general, the children become psychologically disturbed following the anger they experience (Root, 2010). They become afraid of the future especially after realizing that they will only stay with one of the parents.
Children between the age of 11 and 13 years do not have ego strong enough to manage and take control of the realities of life without the assistance of their parents (Velejo, 2012). Therefore, any disruption on the family structure as a result of divorce becomes a psychological issue of a great magnitude. Divorce at this age makes children to feel empty sending them to panic due to fear of lack of support. Owing to the disrupted parental structure, children may begin engaging in behaviors that are risky. Some of them may decide to indulge in adolescent activities before the right time. This is because children feel the absence of their parents and, therefore, they choose to engage in most of the activities on their own. Most children at this stage will try hard to pretend that everything in their life is normal due to fear of accepting defeat.
Divorce, also, has a lot of negative impacts on the adolescents. Children at this stage will rewind all the issues that they underwent in the earlier stages. These issues include separation, abandonment, and trust and they do it at a level that is more profound. At this age, children have a more advanced intellectual capacity and can reason with their parents. They expect their parents to continue staying together, take care of them and give them guidance and direction in life (Chikoto, 2012). Divorce causes them to feel empty, bitter, and distrustful of the relationships to the extent that they feel they will undergo the same thing when they become adults. Divorce affects them in such a way that they feel hatred and anger; engage in unpredictable behavior; they take sides with one of their parents; they feel lonely and get overwhelmed with financial worries.
In general, divorce destroys society, through consumption of social capital. It weakens the future competence of children in the relevant institutions such as government, marketplace, school, family religion and family. Divorce, to a greater extent, represents a cultural revolution. This is because of the way times have changed; whereby most cultures in the past society rejected divorce yet today’s society celebrates it through cultural embrace, behavior and law (Roberts, 2012). It deteriorates the family unit leading to a weakened relationship between parents and their children. It results into negative techniques of conflict management, which leads to the destruction of children’s social competence. Following this destruction, young adults will experience troubled sense of femininity or masculinity, which may, also, cause them to lose virginity at early stages (Roberts, 2012). Children whose parents divorce usually experience problems with dating later in life, they hope to get married and divorce just like their parents did, and their wish to sire children diminishes.
Children from divorced families do receive inadequate practical, financial and emotional assistance from their parents (Velejo, 2012). Divorce affects the trust children should have in their parents. Young girls or women form divorced families do experience a lot of problems in regards to making decision when their time for marriage comes. On the other hand, besides having troubled marriage decisions, boys may, also, lack interpersonal skills especially in the absence of a father’s modeling. Such boys, also, develop hostility in their life; they become extremely protective of the women whom they feel attraction for (Velejo, 2012). Children from divorced homes tend to develop a weakened capacity to manage conflict, which in turn diminishes their capacity to stable marriages when their time comes.
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