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The Effects of Divorce on Children
Just how much do failing marriages and the divorce process affect the children who are involved? Having an understanding of how divorce impacts children is important for their wellbeing, but evidently, there are many parents who focus on the wrong issues.
There are many different theories of the effects of divorce on children, with one popular suggestion being that in the short term, children are certainly affected to some extent, but are able to recover from the problems quickly in a short space of time. For adults stuck in an unhappy marriage, the understanding is that children are simply better off if the adults are separated, as this will increase happiness for the parents and so increase happiness in the child's life. It used to be the other way around - 'Sticking together' for the sake of the children was what many believed in before divorce was liberalized in the 70's, which was the reason for many unhappy marriages.
But are children as resilient as we would like to believe? There are many difficulties in this area, and it may be that parents are underestimating the true impacts of divorce, and overestimating the resilience of their children, who likely deal with the many difficult consequences of divorce through life. Adults tend to assume the needs and wishes of their children through their own viewpoints, and though they are only assumptions, these continue to steer divorce policies and the overall climate of divorce without seeking to truly understand the child. Judith Wallerstein is an author of the impacts of divorce and has conducted a study on 131 children who have been affected by divorce (over a 25 year period), and her results agree with this important issue.
Can we determine at what point it becomes better to split up than stick together? This is important to know if you believe that divorce really does have an impact on children, as it would help to prevent prolonged damage and distress for you as well as the children. Counselors mark a difference between what they call 'low conflict' and 'high conflict' marriages, and they and other experts say that high conflict marriages should end quickly, whereas low conflict marriages can sometimes be repaired without the need for divorce.
Children might be vulnerable, but they are more independent than many parents realize. Writer Cathy Meyer is a long-standing expert on children, and her work suggests that children are probably unaffected by how well the parents get along, and are happy as long as there is togetherness and continuity. Parents objectify their children and assume that the child's happiness directly reflects the parents' happiness. She says that children are not dependent on the happiness of their parents - their happiness comes from friends, each parent, daily activities, routines and involvement on a daily basis. These are simple factors which parents should always keep in mind.
Joint or sole custody may be awarded based on the best interests of the child and other factors that include 1) the preference of the child, 2) the desire and ability of each parent to allow an open and loving relationship between the child and the other parent, 3) the child's health, safety and welfare, the nature and contact with both parents and 4) the history of alcohol and drug use. Marital misconduct may be considered.
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