Effects of Divorce on Children’s Adjustment

Divorce has of late been a subject of social research. Its effects on children have stirred a number of varied opinions. The magnitude of stress varies according to particular persons and families. Most studies have indicated that misunderstandings among adults are quite upsetting in the eyes of children. There is an increased risk for children following marriage dissolution. Despite intense research, a question that remains unanswered is on the connection between possibilities of parental divorce causing complications which may lead to child maladjustment. There is no clear cut difference between genetic and environmental channels of influence since they are both cultivated by biological parents. There is an undisputed role of genetic factors in shaping the manner in which children from separated or conflicting parents are adjusting. The study narrows this down to the relationship between family separations and children’s maladjustments.

Divorce has become a household subject in our communities. It occurs when a family union is legally dissolved. This dissolution has been on the rise in the past few years. A very significant result of marriage dissolution is the effects it has on family members. Parental divorce is not such a simple experience. It comes with far reaching effects common across regional and cultural divides. Fairly common and permanent consequences affect how children are going to relate with adults in such matters as trust and security. There is no better word to describe divorce experience than stressful. Those who have been affected by divorce completely agree that all family members are stressed by this process. The magnitude of stress varies from persons and families.

The manner in which children are affected is totally different from that of the parents. The divorce process is stressful and universal. Children in excess of one million are living with the harsh realities of divorce. It has been singled out as one of the most stressful experience in life (Fine and Harvey, 2006). Wallerstein discovered that a good number of children whose parents were divorced had stronger contempt towards a parent who fails to provide financial support even if they are legally exempted. Effects of divorce have been researched on for a long time (Wallerstein, Lewis and Blakeslee, 2000).

Frustrations and withdrawal are possible to children even before a formal divorce is actualized. The big question, therefore, is what exactly is related to children behavior in marital conflict. A good number of studies have indicated that misunderstandings among adults are quite unsettling to children. Constant exposure to such conditions is very much likely to result in stress. Therefore, witnessing family feuds as a source of stress provides a leeway in the understanding of children’s dilemmas.   

It is also important to note that the focus is not solely on the existence of family conflicts. The manner in which marital disputes are handled is of paramount importance in this study. It is clear that constant marital disagreements which are apparently resolved have negative effects on children. On the other hand, conflicts which are not related to children and are dealt with in a more constructive manner do not affect them. Differences which are characterized by verbal abuses are more dangerous and upsetting. They are perceived to be more threatening to children than if they are in any other form. Adverse effects of marital conflicts can be substantially reduced by assuring children that the conflict has been settled.

The findings concerning the way children respond to particular scenes of conflicts show that a clearer understanding of how conflict affect them requires identification and measurement of specific aspects of differences explored from the child’s point of view. Children of school going age are very reliable in the attainment of accurate data about their views on conflicts.

There is an increased risk for children coming from marriage dissolutions. However, the present studies suggest that the suffering is short term. In other words, the rise in a number of risks does not necessarily mean an increase in divorce outcome. Despite intense research, the question that remains unanswered is about the connection between possibilities of parental divorce causing risks that may lead to child maladjustments. A number of proposals have been put across to explain this phenomenon. One research insists on the etiological role played by threats that come alongside divorce. Among the many negative results is reduction in financial stability, depression, and degradation of parent-child relations.

An alternative explanation of children maladjustments after divorce focuses on indicators and not consequences. It argues that post-divorce maladjustment is exactly related to persistent stresses of family members before the divorce. Two studies established that children who came from families who would later divorce received little parental attention, especially from the fathers. In addition, it identified that the way a couple relate before divorce affects to a large extend to how they are going to relate to their children after it.

Because conflict in the family comes to divorce, it is not surprising to see adjustment measures before actual divorce. Children attempt to cope with the new challenges just like any other human beings. Two studies found there is no significant difference between adjustment problems in children whose parents have already divorced and those whose parents are unwisely handling their conflicts.

The chances that consequences of divorce on children’s adjustment problems are genetically influenced came from a number of findings. To start with, some findings suggest that the probability of a divorce may be genetically instigated. The role of genetics in this matter is not directly related to divorce. The argument is that genetics has all to do with a personality which is directly related divorce. The positive correlation between people’s traits and tendencies of divorce serves to back up this suggestion. Secondly, an individual character which is heavily dependent on the genetic structure may result in poor interpersonal relationship within the family. This will finally end up causing familial disintegration.

Another research on child development found out reasonable genetic influences on a number of maladjustment indicators. Such indices which are heavily dependent on genetics are emotional problems, self-esteem, and behavioral dysfunctions. An analysis of these findings results indicates that maladjustments among children in separated families are determined by personal vulnerabilities genetically transferred by the parents to them. There is no clear cut difference between genetic and environmental channels of influence since they are both nurtured by biological parents. Similarly, this can be ascertained by conducting a study in which the sample population consists of strictly adoption cases.

Researchers in marriage and family life have pointed a number of difficulties in their work. The field is plagued by hardships in the methodological complexity of divorce. Relevant and representative samples, discussions of findings and parameter choice are some of the problems. A study carried out by O'Connor and Caspi aimed at testing the possibility of genetic influence on children’s conduct after parents’ divorce. The study narrowed down to the relationship between family separations and children’s maladjustments in both adoptive and biological families. The reasoning behind this kind of study design is the simple fact about genetic similarities. Children and parents in biological families have similar genes and operate in the same environment while in adoptive families the parents share only the environment with their adopted children.    

Therefore, in families where parents are biological, the relationship between divorce and children’s change in conduct can be either conveyed environmentally, genetically or both. Influence of the environment may be dismissed if there is a close relationship between adoptive families and biological ones in terms of how children’s adjustment and divorce relate. However, if such associations are many, it will mean the genetically instigated process is influential in the determination of association between divorce and adjustments among children. The study found out that even though divorce’s relationship with personal attributes like excellent intellectual ability and social competence are influenced genetically, psychopathology in children is as a result of environmental factors (O’Connor and Caspi, 2000).


The questions answered by researchers specializing in divorce are no longer focusing on the effects of divorce on children’s maladjustment. The attention is shifting to a cluster of mechanisms through which issues of divorce may generate a risk. Earlier studies on divorce have shown that notable changes in maladjustment among children from divorced families are attributable to prolonged family feuds and parental misunderstandings (Dunn et al, 1998).

The findings discussed earlier attempt to add to the long list of hypotheses put across concerning how parental divorce relates to difficulties in children adjustments. There is an undeniable role of genetic factors in shaping the manner in which children from separated or conflicting parents are adjusting. Future research in this field will help in unraveling the chances of genetic influence in permanent consequences of divorce such as dropping out in school and possibility of separation in adulthood.

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