Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kids and Divorce, Part I

Kids and Divorce, Part I
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist, I have worked with
children of all ages for over twenty years. Usually parents drag their
kids into my office complaining of a litany of bad behaviors, ranging
from not cleaning up their rooms, to getting bad grades, hitting their
siblings, or worse, stealing, fighting or doing drugs. I work with
parents to change their children's behavior. It is very helpful for
the parents to know their children's experiences. This and the next
article address what the child thinks.
Researchers have filled volumes studying and analyzing the
effect(s) of divorce on children. Studies examining the children of
divorce have found that most suffer a sense of loss that can manifest
in many different ways, depending on the children's ages and unique
personalities, as well as on how parents handle the divorce themselves.
Recent research has shown that adult children of divorce have higher
divorce rates than adults with parents in stable marriages--and even
those who remain married report they are have less trust for their
spouses than people whose parents have remained married.
Most experts agree about two things relative to divorce. One is
that how well children cope with divorce is not necessarily related to
the divorce itself: but rather, to the type of life the family had prior
to it. Two, kids do not care so much about who has custody, unless there
are egregious parental behaviors that cause harm. Children want to have
access to both parents and have good experiences with each.
There are contradictory findings amongst researchers and clinicians
in other areas. Numerous studies have found that growing up in a broken
home increases a person's risk of developing depression or having problems
with anxiety later in life. However, at least one study found that divorce
may not be at the root of the children's later depression after all; instead,
the cause of both divorce and depression might be shared genes with at least
one depression-prone parent.
That does not mean divorce has no impact on children. Other research
found that divorce led to an increased risk of alcohol abuse in adults who
grew up in broken homes. Early studies found that certain problem
behaviors, such as skipping school, fighting and stealing could be traced
directly to divorce. In my outpatient practice, I tell parents that it is
normal for children to perform more poorly in school following a divorce.
In fact, many children experience a drop of up to one whole point off their
G.P.A. (Grade Point Average) during the first year, post-divorce. (Most kids
regain this spontaneously after a time...) In the literature, there are also
some counterintuitive findings. One is that fifty percent of post-divorce
kids reported that they had better relationships with their dads after the
For a link to the complete ebook on this subject, see the Resource Box,

-Dr. Griggs

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