HOW DIVORCE AFFECTS PEOPLE
Divorce, or the legal dissolution of marriage, was a single-minded decision determined not by religion or law but by individuals at first. The conflict between Christianity’s control over marriage and divorce and Roman Empire’s rule over divorce remained and lasted for many centuries until today. On the one hand, the church continued to hold marriage as a religious sacrament and that divorce is forbidden. On the other, the shift of power to local authorities led to the control of marriage and divorce decisions. Such decisions, in addition, vary in cultural, religious, social, economic and legal contexts in each nation that integrates divorce in their laws ( and , ).
In the United States, divorce laws became more lenient and informal and less punitive and restrictive (). Divorce was divided into no-fault and fault-based divorce. Under the no-fault category, one spouse can dissolve the marriage minus the partner’s consent. Decrees of dissolution are granted based on ‘irreconcilable differences’, ‘incompatibility’ or ‘irremedial breakdown of marriage’ as no-fault reasons. Although not all states adapted the act, some states reform the law which now includes a required period of physical separation before obtaining a complete resolution. Fault-based grounds, further, are cruelty, adultery, desertion for a specified length of time, imprisonment and impotence that was undisclosed before marriage (.).
Divorce is relatively quicker and easier today. Though the procedures are still complex, the proceedings have become more honest and simpler and less contentious. Since a divorcer does not need to get the approval of the church, the law or even his or her partner, divorce has again become a personal decision. As a reflection of unhappy marriages, rate of dissolutions manifests a greater acceptance of divorce as a sanction of ending a dysfunctional relationship in exchange of a healthier one. In fact, by 2000, 8, 572, 000 (8.3%) males and 11, 309, 000 (10.2%) females are divorced. Massachusetts and Nevada have the lowest (2.4) and highest (9) divorce rate per 1, 000 population, respectively (). However, most people do not take divorce lightly. Dealing with the aftermath of divorce, especially when children are involved, is still a struggle ( and , ).
Children, Their Development and Divorce
About one million children each year go through a divorce experience before they are eighteen. Children disadvent from divorce as they witnessed their parents’ marriage at a complete loss. Though responses differ with age, children experience feelings of confusion and betrayal across the board (. ). The tendency for children is to feel guilty whenever they feel emotional distress. Some children even thought that they are partly causing the divorce. These conform to the theoretical abilities that children possess. Though children did not really understand divorce, the notion is: divorce is bad and unhealthy. The effect of divorce to children attracted attention of many researchers. One of them was Jean Piaget. Piaget’s theory of egocentrism explains the interpretation of such incident. Piaget claimed that children make judgments based on their own personal standpoints. As children believed that there are no judgments better than theirs, they are forced to make egocentric evaluations based on what they heard, saw and felt during the divorce experience ( and , 2003, ).
Piaget recognized that the cognitive development between children heavily depended on things surrounding him or her that purports a transductive and causal reasoning. This holds true for young and middle-childhood children as the ‘if this-then that’ thinking is developed. For adolescents the case is different. Adolescents deal with problems based on as much information they can gather and all the possible combinations they can obtain from that informations. Juveniles assume and hypothesize before they find out which of those assumptions are true. Piaget referred to the process as the hypothetico-deductive reasoning. Piaget believed that children develop their psychoanalysis ability in different stages. However, not all stages have stable psychological structures and that the acquisition of cognitive structures is relatively gradual during this period ( and , 2006, ).
Children of different ages at the time of divorce experience psychological maladjustments in processing the divorce experience as well as the transitioning experience. Infants are more likely to experience anxiety due to father figure’s absence. The sensorimotor of infants involves physical interaction with his or her father. Their father, as the physical object, exists but their absence will only lead to disorganized attachment with their mothers and siblings. The preoperational stage might lead to concerns of divided loyalty and fear of abandonment. Visitations, for example, are concrete physical situations which if will be processed based on children’s intuitive nature; the result would be a gradual lessening of affection and engagement. In concrete stage, children absorb as many abstract reasoning as possible though he did not know how to use or even process those in their minds. Children of divorce act to the situation in a rational and logical manner; however, there are no support mechanisms that can reduce familial constraints. The result would be low academic performance, poor self-esteem and social difficulties.
Another theorist, , explained the development in children of divorce through attachments. A child’s libidinal tie to the mother is the primary psychoanalytic explanation and attachment is only secondary or derived. The mother-infant relationship is crucial in the early stage of the infant’s life that could be carried over to adult life (, 1988). When divorce happen, the infant will experience severe separation anxiety more intense to the absence of the mother compared to the father’s. The level of anxious responses will greatly depend on the degree of attachment. He continued that infants and toddlers experienced ego development that could dictate a state of mourning once an attachment figure was eliminated. and categorized the phases of separation response for young children into numbness, yearning and protest, disorganization and despair and reorganization (1970).
Gender and Divorce
Divorce not only affects children, it has profound effects on gender as well. Sex and gender are too broad and crude to significantly identify divorce with. However, they have features differentially associated with relational dissolution. Sex is a biological category whereas gender is a social construct. These social meanings determine specific contexts that we attach to sex as male and female and masculinity and femininity. As such, gender influences perceptions, performance and expectations of men and women as well as their roles, opportunities, responsibilities and material circumstances ( and , 2006, ). The precise nature of difference between male and female minds is reflected in varying views of divorce – pre-, during and post. Based on limited and causal observations of family associations, such psychical differences also purport the evolution in roles after the divorce (, 2007, ).
For divorced women, changes happen when she takes the role of heading and raising a household if she has a child or children unlike her counterpart who can slip back towards a status and lifestyle of a never-married woman. Mother-headed families share common lifestyles and problems such as income, sense of isolation and loneliness, role overload and unequal material and social accesses (as cited in , ). Post-divorce adjustments for men, on the other hand, entail reformulations of identities as men, as husbands and as fathers. Their transition is often centered on positive power relations and distribution. The patriarchal structure that had fallen apart would be become instrumental as all the responsibilities are transitioned towards the women. His influences on children are minimized because he was too distant. This allows a lesser importance on the role of fathers ().
Divorce, evidently, is the turning point in life trajectories of both men and women. The process of individuation, or the separation of identity, is the primary concern, second is the general adjustment or the functioning in new roles. and other psychoanalysts concluded that women suffer more as a result of divorce since they are more attached with their feelings and vulnerable compared to men while both men and women struggle because of the lost intimacy and a possible loss of contact with children. However, men suffer more in terms of depression and other psychological disorders, physical illnesses, death and suicide rates compared to that of women since men exhibits a more overt behaviors (, 1991, ).
When these self-perceptions are carried-out externally through social interactions, men and women suffers pathological consequences. claimed that focusing on problems will only create more problems, strengths would not be compensated and transitioning will only be trivial. He contends that empowerment, resilience, healing and community are critical factors towards recovery. Therefore, instead of dwelling into the broken marriage, both newly-divorced men and women must consume their time thinking of ways on how to get life at a full swing again (2001).
This leads us to conclude that ending a relationship had immense psychological and familial effects for children and both women and men as all suffers the same but none could distinguished the degrees or amount of the difficulties experienced after the divorce. Children are affected in mental and emotional domains. They develop a yearning that sprung from attachments and familiar associations. Notably, men and women deal with divorce according to what is expected of them either in a masculine or feminine manner as well as what their roles ought them to as men and women as this was perceived as real.
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