In the United States today, out of over two million marriages, 877,000 of those marriages have ended in divorce or an annulment. That is almost half of the marriages that are terminated, and just in the United States. It’s hard for me to even imagine so many people going through divorce, but it’s real, and quite disturbing. It seems that divorce is something that is so common these days that people see it as just another choice, instead of a last resort. For people considering divorce, here is a question:
Have you thought about the impact it will have on your children?
Are you prepared to face the challenges of raising worried and sad children because of the choice you made to end your marriage?
Divorce is Hurting Our Children
A study by Marcia Lebowitz showed that most children are growing up with divorce in their lives. She shows that more than 12 million children under the age of 18 had parents that were divorced, and her research estimates that “more than 1 million children younger than 18 years of age will experience divorce this year.” This research shows that children are negatively affected because of divorce. Children show signs of anger, anxiety, sadness, and withdrawal.
In my own personal situation, I felt all of those things as a fourteen-year-old watching my parents struggle and end in divorce. As a young teenager with four brothers and loving parents, my traditional family was often caught boating on the lake most weekends or sledding together during the winter season. As a family, we had good relationships and I can say that I felt very secure in the family that I was in. It was my father who decided to end the marriage and go his own way after twenty years of being married, and that decision caused my world to come crashing down. It left me not knowing what marriage really meant. I was always taught that a marriage was a bond that you didn’t break. Once you chose someone and when things got tough, you fought through the challenges and made your marriage work. I felt those feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, and withdrawal as my parents split and eventually divorced. Even today as an adult, my self-esteem isn’t what it should be, and I worry about marriage in the future because of the example that my parents set for me.
Parents are Negatively Affected
Judith S. Wallerstein, who holds a Masters Degree in Social Work, A PhD in Psychology, and training in Child Psychoanalysis, wrote an article “Growing Up in the Divorced Family.” In her article, she makes a statement that I think every parent needs to hear:
“It is important to understand at the outset that the agenda of the divorced parent who seeks to rebuild his or her social, sexual, and economic life is out of sync with the needs of the child, especially the young child, for the kind of supportive parenting that requires time, constant attention, and sacrifice. Indeed, the loss of the ex-spouse’s presence so often gives rise to an intense dependence by the adult on the child, which is at odds with our expectation of the child’s dependence on the parent.
This reversal of roles can readily translate into the adult’s temporary or lasting inability to distinguish his or her own needs and wishes from those that are attributed to the child. Following the divorce, parents often find they need the child to fill their own emptiness, to ward off depression, to give purpose to their lives, to give them courage to go on.”
When parents go through a divorce, often times the children are put in the middle of the situation and have to deal with things that they shouldn’t even be worrying about at their age. As an example, I remember after my father left, my mother had a hard time going through her normal routine with the five of her children. Her children at the time were ages three, seven, eleven, fourteen, and seventeen, so she had a responsibility that couldn’t be put on the back burner. However, with the impact of her husband leaving, I found that my mother couldn’t handle the situation she was left with, and often times turned to me for support.
What she didn’t realize was that by coming to me for support, it put me in a situation that gave me a lot of stress and burden that wasn’t normal for a young teenager. I was taking care of my younger brothers, getting them ready for school in the morning, making them meals, helping them with homework, and doing tasks that a mother would normally do. Because my mother was trying to heal and deal with the circumstance, she put her responsibilities onto her children. I can vividly remember breaking down in my room because I felt like I had to fix everything but didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to take care of my brothers, comfort my mother, and deal with school all at once. It was too much to handle, and depression came quickly into my life.
Communities are Being Affected
In an article “Parental Divorce and Adult Well-being,” the author explains that divorce not only harms children and adults, but communities can be destroyed because of divorce. When there are high levels of divorce in a society, it leads to lower security in adults. This means that they do not perform well in the economy, a poor family structure is created, and psychological stress is put into their lives.
Since we know that over half of marriages in the United States end in divorce, this means that hundreds of thousands of adults in our country are psychologically and emotionally compromised. We all need to consider the type of impact that can have on all aspects of our society.
Divorce not only hurts our children, but adults are also negatively impacted; thus our communities are bound to fail if a divorce culture continues unabated. From research and personal experience, I’ve found that children show signs of sadness, anxiety, and depression, and adults are mentally unstable because of divorce. Sometimes divorce is necessary and it needs to happen for the safety and well being of children and adults, but this is a rare case.
Each couple needs to realize these negative effects before they make the decision to marry in the first place. Marriage needs to be considered as a bond that isn’t broken, not only for the couple’s sake, but for the children and families that their marriage will create. This article is not intended to scare people, but to make all adults aware of how their decisions can have a lasting and sometimes devastating impact.
Chante’ Mackintosh is a student at Brigham Young University – Idaho majoring in Child Development and Sociology. She hopes to become a Certified Child Life Specialist and work in a children’s hospital.