Consequences of Divorce
For the purposes of studying the effects of divorce on the family, the negative consequences have two main components that most divorces share. The first is that a divorce halts all positive effects a functioning marriage might have had on the lives of the adults and children in the family. The second factor is that a divorce is usually indicative of pre-existing marital conflict in the relationship and it carries negative effects for the whole family.
Research has long proven and documented the benefits of a healthy marriage. The positive effects stemming from marriage arise from the emotional, social, and physical intimacy that is afforded in a secure relationship. It has been shown that a loving spouse providing companionship actually helps protect the other spouse from physical and emotional harm. As a result, married people have fewer problems with depression and alcoholism, and they have lower overall mortality rates and greater personal happiness. In comparison to their single counterparts, men appear to benefit physically from marriage more than women do.
While a functional, loving marriage promotes health and confidence, a distressed marriage has the opposite effect. Unhappy marriages promote and increase physical and psychological conflict. Troubled marriages have been associated with an increase in the incidence of physical problems like cancer, heart disease and chronic pain. The turmoil surrounding a divorce can also promote psychological problems. Due to the increased stress of childrearing women seem to suffer more psychological harm than men do. However, it is the children that may suffer the most from a divorce.
Comparing the experience of divorce for children compared to that of adults shows that for adults, the divorce event is a temporary crisis that will get better with the passage of time. For children, a divorce can represent a traumatic situation from which there is no escape. The transition from a secure life with two parents to suddenly living with only one parent can lead to depression, confusion, and hopelessness. Even in families where the marriage is obviously in trouble, a divorce is often a shock and surprise for the children. A child’s response to divorce is dependent on the level of development the child has reached as well as the ability of the parent retaining custody to successfully adapt to the new situation.
The turmoil and stress in a family that causes divorce have been associated with increased childhood depression, poor social skills, health problems, academic difficulties as well as a variety of behavior problems. Divorce has consequences for both children and adults and the negative impact on a family’s financial status can be significant too. Most of the money spent annually on welfare in the United States is distributed to single-parent homes and most of the children that live below the poverty line in this country are in the care of unmarried or divorced parents. That divorce has such negative consequences for society as a whole only underscores the importance of helping to strengthen the institution of marriage in every way possible.