Effects of Divorce on Children

It is widely known fact the best environment for children to grow into physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually healthy adults requires a healthy family environment. This is where children know they are loved and know they can depend on their parents to be there to support them for as long as they require support. As children grow older the support they need will change, knowing they have family support will help an individual be confident and able to take healthy risks throughout the different stages of life.

Sadly there are far too many families going through separation and divorce.

The ripple effects of divorce are far reaching. Divorce is costly and private school fees can be one of the first expenses that are often cut back or left unpaid. Students’ school work is often greatly affected. Change in behavior such as lack of motivation, lack of concentration, depression, sense of helplessness and hopelessness can become challenging and difficult to cope with for the student, the teachers as well as their classmates.  As the divorce rate rises it has become necessary for schools to invest more and more into recruiting counsellors and psychologists.

Through providing a holistic education it could take 5–10 years for the divorce rate to begin to drop and for the benefits to be felt in schools and in society as a whole. Is it not the purpose and desire of every educator to see the world transformed through education, which empowers and equips the upcoming generations for life in the most holistic way possible?

Where could prevention begin? At what stage of one’s life could education about healthy relationships be most effective? Granted, there are circumstances when it is better for the parents to separate than to remain together, such as when safety of lives are threatened, but those circumstances are not as common as thought (please see research on previous blog).

Comparison of High and Low-Distress Marriages

Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (August 2007):621-638
Paul R. Amato and Bryndl Hohmann-Marriott: Pennsylvania State University.


Comparison of High and Low-Distress Marriages

That End in Divorce (summarized)


A study was conducted in United States in 2007 by Paul Amato and Bryndl Hohmann-Marriott to compare high and low distress marriages that end in divorce in order to understand why married couples get divorced.
They wanted to see if the popular belief that only couples who fight frequently, becoming increasingly disengaged from one another emotionally, causing marital happiness to decline are generally the couples that end up getting divorced.
In a series of publications Amato, Booth and Loomis presented evidence that many couples do not experience high level of discord and marital unhappiness prior to divorce. Contrary to the pattern described before, couples appear to end their marriage for reasons that only partly reflect the quality of their marriage.
Levinger’s commonly applied theory for divorce is based on three components; attraction, barriers and alternatives. First he suggests that attraction is based proportionately to the rewards received minus the costs involved (costs reflect the negative aspects of the relationship such as verbal and physical aggression). Although low level of rewards may lead to thoughts of divorce, spouses who wish to end their marriage must overcome a variety of barriers which include moral or religious values, concerns about social stigma, legal restrictions and financial dependence. At times the lack of alternatives can reinforce stability in the marriage. Of course some spouses may prefer living alone rather than be in an unrewarding marriage.

Another central construct in exchange theory is the comparison level for alternatives. Spouses who enter marriage with low level of expectation for personal fulfilment may be happier than a spouse who has a high level of expectations.

Johnson distinguishes between three forms of commitment; Personal commitment where partners enjoy each other’s company. Moral commitment is based on feelings of obligation, that one should remain in a relationship despite existence of problems and finally structural commitment which is based on constraints or lack of good alternatives to the current situation.

Recent surveys carried out in the US indicate that cultural changes in society have affected the attractions, barriers and commitment for marital stability. Survey of college students in the 1950’s and 60’s indicate that marriage was valued because it provided a home, a stable and economically secure life and the opportunity to raise children. In contrast, more recent surveys indicate that college students value marriage because they expect it to provide a deep source of love and emotional fulfillment – which is a more individualistic approach to marriage. According to this perspective many people now expect marriage to serve as a vehicle for personal growth and self-actualization. Marriages that do not meet these deeply personal needs may be viewed as failures, despite other benefits that these unions may provide. All things being equal, as people’s expectations of marriage increase, an increasing number of people will be unsatisfied with their marriage. Divorce becomes more of an issue of low level of commitment to the marriage rather than a case of getting out of a deeply unsatisfying and distressing relationship.
Surveys have shown that individuals in high-distress marriages experience improvements in subjective well-being, whereas individuals in low level distress marriages experience decline in subjective well-being. This hypotheses is based on the assumption that individuals in moderately happy marriages that end in divorce may not fully anticipate the difficulties and stresses that often accompany and follow marital dissolution.
A quantitative survey done in the 1980’s reveal decreases in the extent to which people have confidence in religious answers to important questions, place trust in religious authorities, and pray or read religious materials. This decline in religious influence is likely to have undermined people’s beliefs about the sacred nature of marriage and its importance as a religious commitment. Moreover the massive shift of married women into the workforce has meant they are less financially dependent on their spouses, hence making it easier for them to leave low to moderately unhappy marriages which would not have happened in 1950’s and 60’s.

In conclusion it is possible that many of these couples have been influenced by the belief that a good marriage should provide a high level of personal growth and self-actualization, criteria that many, perhaps most marriages cannot meet. Given the high rate of divorce and its implications on economic and social well-being of parents and children more research and exploration of possibilities on how to prevent the breakdown of the family unit are clearly warranted.

Exclusive report on the cost of Divorce on Government

EXCLUSIVE: DIVORCE and family breakdowns are costing the national economy more than $14 billion a year in government assistance payments and court costs, an exclusive News Corp analysis has found.

That figure has blown out by $2 billion in the last two years alone, with each Australian taxpayer now paying about $1100 a year to support families in crisis.

The financial sting is one of the reasons why Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has confirmed he will overhaul early intervention strategies in a bid to strengthen Australian families.

Mr Andrews told News Corp that as early as this month he will act to establish an expert panel on early intervention, which will be made up of a mix of practitioners and academics.

It will examine strategies to lower the divorce rate and better identify and assist vulnerable children and young people, including looking at whether more psychologists need to be deployed in kindergartens and preschools across the country.

“The reality is that most programs are programs that try to ameliorate the impact of marriage and family relationship breakdowns,” he said.

“There is not enough that goes to early intervention.”

A News Corp analysis of information from the federal Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Social Services, shows that this financial year alone the government will spend $12.5 billion on support payments to single parents, including family tax benefits and rent assistance.

Another $1.5 billion will be spent on the administration of the child support system, while the cost to taxpayers from family disputes in Australian courts is $202 million.

Almost 50,000 people get divorced each year in Australia, and while the divorce rate declined between 2002 and 2008, it is now on the rise again.

Over the last two years, the cost of divorce to the national economy has increased by more than $2 billion, or 17 per cent.

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