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Divorce and Adolescents

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By jlthomas15
Words 1289
Pages 6
JESSICA THOMAS
LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
PSYC 231

ABSTRACT
Children and Adolescents are believed to be resilient to most situations including divorce. Experts argue that when parents handle their divorce in an amicable way the effects on their children are minimal. Unfortunately this is not true, as a divorce not only affects the married couple but the entire family will now live a new life. In this paper I will attempt to refute the claim that an amicable divorce has a less traumatic effect on an adolescent’s development, behavior, social life/relationships, and academics.
Key Words: Adolescent, Relationships, Divorce, Resilience, Development, Behavior

INTRODUCTION
It is estimated that forty percent of all marriages in the United States ended in divorce in 2011 (CDC, 2011). Of the forty percent, more than half of those divorces involved children and/or adolescents (Amato, 2000). Adolescence is a confusing time filled with body changes, the challenge of no longer being a child, but not quite ready for adulthood, and the need to establish their own identity. When a teenager’s parents make the decision to divorce it complicates the teenagers life and interrupts the stability that they need during adolescence.
DEVELOPMENTAL EFFECTS
The adolescent years are a time when children become teenagers on their journey towards eventually becoming adults. A major developmental shift happens between the ages of twelve and eighteen as teenagers begin to develop their identity. These adolescents have the task of discovering their purpose and place in the world. They are attempting to limit their reliance on their parents although they are not completely ready for independence. Teenagers are attempting to establish their own life through friendships, social networking and activities while they are expected to maintain a stable family relationship. This is a challenging and confusing time for these teens attempting to become independent as they learn to navigate the future. Nowinski tells us that an adolescent’s identity is formed through significant adult relationships with parents and teachers (2010). Being an adolescent with divorced parents makes it difficult for the teenager to establish their own identity; they may feel forced to live a life of their parent’s choice, fearful of disappointing them. Divorce also can become a serious distraction for the parents who would otherwise be focused on their teen’s developmental changes. Finally, a divorce may affect a teenagers attempt to develop their own identity as they are now subject to more than one household, new friends, and possibly a new school.
BEHAVIOR EFFECTS
According to Clarke-Stewart & Brentano, young adolescents (age twelve to fourteen) may display negative behavior when confronted with their parent’s separation. This behavior is due to their age and the increasing amount of hormonal and development changes these teens are experiencing, they are very vulnerable to the changes that divorce can bring. When a teenager’s parents announce they are divorcing, the responses may be to overreact with anguish or anxiety. In their adolescent egocentrism they can see only their own needs and they feel that the world’s eyes are on them (Clarke-Stewart & Brentano, 2006). In many families young adolescents are beginning to accept more responsibility around the home, a divorce may create feelings of having to grow up quickly. In the aftermath of a parents divorce, adolescents experience lower levels of psychological adjustment and self-esteem and higher levels of depression and anxiety than their peers who live in a two parent household (Demo & Fine, 2009).
Older adolescents may not have as much difficulty adjusting to their parent’s divorce as their younger. Most fifteen to eighteen year olds have developed an identity and are involved in their own activities. However, if these teens are not clear in their identity or sense of self, the opposite outcome will possibly present itself. When parent’s divorce, especially if the divorce is unexpected, adolescents’ developing identity can be thrown into chaos and their self-confidence may be undermined (Clarke-Stewart & Brentano, 2006). In a longitudinal study performed by Iowa State University and funded by The National Institute of Mental Health it was determined that seventeen percent of boys and eight percent of girls from divorced families admitted to having committed at least six delinquent acts in one year (Clarke-Stewart, & Brentano, 2006). Demo & Fine also cite several studies that have consistently reported that on average adolescents with divorced parents experience more behavioral problems, engage in more delinquent activities, and experience higher levels of drug and alcohol use than adolescents from two parent households (2009).
SOCIAL EFFECTS
The effects of divorce on teenager’s social skills can present themselves in a variety of ways. Teens may be angry at the loss of additional income to the family believing this will affect their social status. Teens who are close to their families may feel a loss when one parent leaves the home; trying to fill the void by using drugs, alcohol or sexual encounters. If the teenager has to relocate and attend a new school, they may withdraw and fail to develop new relationships with peers at their new school.
ACADEMIC EFFECTS
Divorce can have a lasting effect on a child’s academic performance. Divorce affects secure attachments, which can have a negative impact on behavior in childhood (Sortino, 2013). Since children of divorce often believe they have been abandoned, their attitudes towards school and learning are often times negative.
Teenagers are attempting to develop into their own distinctive person and a parent’s divorce can be very disruptive to them and their future plans. Adolescents may be asked to take on extra responsibility giving them a false sense of maturity (Clarke-Stewart & Brentano, 2006). Clarke-Stewart & Brentano also warn us that these teens may be looking for a way to fill the void of love they believe they are missing, using drugs, alcohol and other distractions to numb their pain. All of this can lead to poor performance or skipping school altogether (2006). It is believed that older teens are less likely to experience the same challenges as the younger children do. Nonetheless, they may experience a variety of emotional and relational problems, making it difficult to focus on their school performance. Demo & Fine tell us that children of divorce perform poorly in a variety of academic areas including, standardized testing, grade point averages, and educational attainment. Children of divorced parents are also more likely to drop out of high school (2009, pg. 125). They also note that students who have experienced multiple divorces have significantly lower grades than students who have only experienced one divorce (2009, Pg. 126).
CONCLUSION
Through a variety of research on divorce this paper has shown the numerous negative effects it can have on adolescents through the various stages. Everything from a teenager’s development to their school performance can be affected. While many would argue that it is better for an adolescent’s wellbeing if the parents separate rather than live in an unhappy situation I believe the research shows it is important for parents to weigh all of the consequences of divorce before making a final decision.

APA References
Amato, P. R. (2000), The Consequences of Divorce for Adults and Children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62: 1269–1287. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/marriage_divorce_tables.htm Clarke-Stewart, A., & Brentano, C. (2006). Divorce : Causes and Consequences. New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2002/preventive-sessions-after-divorce-protect-children-into-teens.shtml Demo, D.H., Fine, M.A. (2009). Beyond the Average Divorce. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications
Nowinski, Joseph (2010). Divorced Child: Strengthening Your Family Through the First Three Years of Separation. Basingstoke, Hampshire, GBR: Palgrave Macmillan.
Sortino, D. (2013, May 05). THE IMPACT OF DIVORCE ON LEARNING. The Press Democrat.

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