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A Bit About Divorce and the Effects of Divorce on a Family's Well Being

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A Bit about Divorce and the Effects of Divorce on a Family's Well Being

Boy meets girl. Girl and boy fall in love and get married. Girl and boy have children and life could not possibly get any better. Many years later: Boy and girl start to notice something different in their relationship, something wrong. They decide that their relationship is over, whether they're both happy with that decision or not and they divorce. Boy and girl's children see them divorce. Children process the divorce in different ways, and it stays with them for the rest of their lives. People who experience a divorce are affected by it, whether they want to be or not. More often than not, those effects are negative. Before any parents make a rash decision, and before any children put judgment on their parents for messing them up, let's take a look at the thing people call DIVORCE and how it affects those involved.

We all know what divorce is, but the official definition is very interesting and has a little more power. Merriam-Webster defines it as such: 1 : the action or an instance of legally dissolving a marriage; 2 : separation, severance; 3 a : to end marriage with (one's spouse) by divorce; b : to dissolve the marriage contract between; 4 : to terminate an existing relationship or union (www.Merriam-Webster.com). As you can see, the definition of divorce doesn't include the words, joyful, happy and wonderful, especially for children.

How common is divorce in America? Statistically a great amount of married couples in the United Sates are choosing divorce. In 2003 in America, approximately 45 percent of couples in their first marriages ended in divorce. The divorce rate for couples in second marriages was 58 percent (smartmarraiges.com). Then there are those couples who have thought about divorce, but for different reasons decided to stay married. A Gallup Poll in the United States found that 40 percent of married individuals had considered leaving their partners, and 20 percent said they were dissatisfied with their marriage about half the time (Olson and Defrain 1994, p. 6). According to the U.S. Census, the total numbers of U.S. divorces reported finalized annually were 957,200 in 2000 and 944,317 in 1998. If Americans keep this rate up, we will proudly be reporting years from now, an annual divorce rate of higher numbers than we would like to think of (www.census.gov/pop/maritalstatus).

It is no secret that divorce is not the most pleasant event in a family. Parents should take note that psychologists around the nation agree: Divorce can be a heartbreaking event to an entire family. Michele Weiner Davis, who is a therapist and Author said:

The decision to divorce or remain together to work things out is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It is crucial for those considering divorce to anticipate what lies ahead in order to make informed decisions. Too often the fallout from divorce is far more devastating than many people realize when contemplating the move. (Davis 1992, p.25)

These consequences of divorce can also include feelings that some couples don't anticipate once the divorce is over and done with, and those feelings are ones of regret. In a study done by William J. Doherty, 66 percent of the divorced couples he surveyed answered "yes" to the question, "Do you wish you and your ex-spouse had tried harder to work through your differences?" 66 percent is a stunning number when you are talking about regret of a life altering decision (1999, p.6). Clearly, divorce should not be a "spur of the moment" decision. The decision to divorce should be methodically thought through and allowed plenty of time.

Some people may be exempt from the hard driven message of staying married that is enforced in this paper, because of the certain type of situation they may find themselves in. We need to be mindful of those people who have elected to finish their marriage. There are some situations where divorce should be considered a good option. These special situations make up several different categories: Abuse-mental or physical, psychosis or extreme mental illness, chronic addiction and substance abuse (Medved 1989, pp.103-130). Divorce in these situations is most often in the best interest of those involved, but that doesn't mean that it will not affect them. In these special cases the effects of divorce can still be very severe. People, who divorce, especially for the reasons noted, are often in need of help and support from all their social groups and most importantly, their family and friends. This is definitely the case where children are involved. Going through a divorce is hard, and adjusting to it can take a long time. Diane Medved also notes that because you may not know to what extreme the divorce can affect you, couples, especially ones with children, should get counseling or therapy before, during, and after the separation for themselves and their children. They should take advantage of organizations (religious leaders and community support groups) that can help lessen the shock of divorce both before and after it happens.

In speaking of the effects of divorce, let's focus now on the children. Each year, over 1 million American children go through the divorce of their parents; also, half of the children born this year to parents who are married will see their parents divorce before they turn 18 (U.S. Census, 1992). Despite a general finding across many studies about negative effects on children due to divorce, there are important qualifications of these findings. Overall, the children are more alike than different. Dr. Paul Amato reminds us that average differences do not mean that all children in divorced families are worse off than all children in intact families. However, there are effects on many children from divorced families who have significant problems (1997, p.37).

A Factor that plays a huge part in a child's adjustment and management with divorce is the amount of parental conflict in their parent's marriage. Children, who come from homes where parental conflict is high, are not worse off nor not better off on the average. Compare them to children who come from homes where parental conflict is low and their parents divorce. The children from low conflict homes have a much harder time coping and dealing with the breakup. Studies show that children who come from divorced homes are at a disadvantage from the beginning because they are always compared children whose parents are married. (Hansen 1999, p. 1)

In some cases, divorce can cause serious mental and emotional distress in children. In fact, a study done by Paul Amato and Bruce Keith shows that children of divorced parents, compared with those living with married parents, scored lower

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