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Divorce: Children Caught in the Crossfire

The United States of America, according to recent reports, has the world’s highest divorce rate, two times as high as the next highest country (Sweden) and even as much as fifty times higher than some countries. Since the 1970s, it has been widely accepted in this country that “half of all marriages end in divorce”. Once upon a time, divorce was frowned upon, a lamentable event worth taking great pains to avoid. Not any more. Today, society seems to welcome it, even encourage it. It has become the first option for the slightest marital offense, including the snoring of one’s spouse. Advertisements for divorce lawyers are plastered everywhere, begging to offer their services in breaking up families. Sadly, fewer and fewer people are considering the welfare of the children involved.

In 1995, it was estimated that nearly 20 million children were living with only one parent after a divorce. Were one to research the effects of divorce on these children, he or she will be overwhelmed by the amount of conflicting reports available out there. For example, the British Inside Divorce states that 80% of children of divorced parents consider themselves to be “quite happy” or “very happy”. Yet the same report admits to finding that the greatest impact of divorce on these same children is a profound sense of helplessness and a pressure to choose between their parents. Such conflicting, confusing reports abound in an attempt to both report facts while at the same time absolve parents of any possible feeling of guilt or responsibility.

However, the realities of such high divorce rates and their effects on children remain out in the open for those truly interested to see. While some divorce court filings proceed amicably, many others do not and resulting custody hearings degenerate to terrible accusations of child manipulation, physical, emotional, even sexual abuse, sabotage and brain-washing. According to the findings of Dr. William C. Holmes published in the March 13th, 2007 Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, “Children being raised by one parent are at a greater risk for many things as they grow up, including health risks such as poorly controlled diabetes and asthma. We now must add childhood sexual abuse to part of this risk picture….” A US study reported in the March 15th, 2007 HealthDay News that, “Adult men who grew up in single-parent households are twice as likely as other men to have been sexually abused during childhood….” The researchers said that this is “…because parental absences in single-parent homes provide more opportunity for sexual predators to abuse children.”

Why are these children so vulnerable? It is because they do not have the natural support system necessary for healthy, emotional growth and development. According to a University of New Hampshire study, even infants suffer adverse effects steaming from parental divorce. “Infants may not understand conflict, but may react to changes in parent’s energy level and mood. Infants may loose their appetite or have an upset stomach and spit up more. Children from three to five years of age frequently believe they have caused their parent’s divorce. They may…begin wetting the bed. They may deny that anything has changed, or they may become uncooperative, depressed, or angry.” The same study found that for elementary school-aged children, parental divorce is most difficult. These children often feel rejected by the parent who has left the marriage. They experience embarrassment, resentment, divided loyalty, intense anger and grief. Adolescents experience fear, loneliness, anger, depression, guilt and a sense of pre-mature adulthood leading to bad-decision making.

Such are the dire facts of what has become a societal norm, divorce. That does not mean to say that under no circumstance is divorce a likely alternative to an abusive marriage. However, parents ought not to delude themselves. Every divorce will have some negative impact on children. In many instances, these negative consequences are not worth the marital offense. The top reasons for divorce have been cited as marital infidelity, emotional or physical abuse, boredom, lack of sexual activity, financial difficulties, substance abuse, career taking precedence over the marriage and even hobbies like sports, video gaming, etc. Most of these reasons when placed alongside the potential harm children suffer because of failed marriages look as insignificant as they really are. Furthermore, a University of Utah study on the issue found that children of failed marriages “are more likely to end their own marriages” thus perpetuating a “divorce cycle”.

In society today, the institution of marriage is not considered as scared as it once was. Many Hollywood celebrities keep their homes and vehicles far longer than they keep their spouses. The rest of the public sees this and feel as though if divorce is good enough for the rich and famous, it is good enough for them. However, fewer and fewer people are considering the price their children are having to pay for their selfish, self-serving and often whimsical actions. They fail to put the mental and physical health and well-being of their children above their own wants and needs. As a result, society is crumbling at the very foundation. Families are splintered and fractured and children are more often than not the casualties of marital divorce and warfare.

Frederick de Leon has won numerous literary awards for his poetry and short stories. He is currently working on establishing a publishing company and releasing his seven part philosophical fantasy series.  View profile

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