Effects Of A Divorce Family Essay Research

Effects Of A Divorce Family Essay, Research Paper

Statistics of the Stepfamily Foundation suggest that about one out of every two marriages ends in divorce and more American children will most likely be living in a stepfamily situation in the year 2000. Most parents agree that a divorce of a family has a negative effect on children and stepfamilies are harder on a child’s development than living in a nuclear family. Dr. Judith Wallerstein has studied 25 years of the effects of a divorce on 26 children. She concluded that in the her group study of children were generally less disciplined, had more health problems, displaced a more antisocial behavior, exhibited lower academic performance and suffered from physiological or sexual problems. Furthermore, the Center of Law and Social Policy (CLASP) also suggest that stepfamily children will be more likely indulge in deviant behavior and displayed the same traits as Dr. Wallerstein suggested in her study of divorced parent children.

Two brothers of a five-child stepfamily (three biological brothers and a stepbrother and stepsister) were interviewed to study how their lives were effected by living in a divorced family and then, introduced into a stepfamily situation with two stepsiblings and a stepmother. This interview was conducted on two brothers, one who is thirty-two (oldest) and the other who is thirty years old (middle brother) today. The oldest brother was eight and the middle brother was six years old at the time that their parents got a divorce with the father gaining custody over them. There was also a younger brother who was four years of age at the time of the parent’s separation. Their biological mother left the house and regularly saw her kids from their journey from childhood to maturity. She remarried approximately four times in her life along with other relationships as her kids matured in life. The mother was also from a divorced/stepfamily home with her mother and father getting divorced when their mom was around six years of age. Her parents also remarried and formed stepfamilies situations as she gained stepsiblings. The following interview of the two brothers’ feelings and outcomes of their lives in the family situations was compared to the studies by Dr. Wallerstein and CLASP. Their responses were analyzed to draw conclusions about similarities and differences between each other and the research data.

The Divorce Interview

Q: Did you ever feel guilty or think you caused the divorce of your mother and father? If so why?

Oldest Brother: No, not really.

Middle Brother: No

Q: In the weeks or months leading up to the divorce, did your mother or father explain to why they were deciding to get a divorce?

Oldest Brother: Yes. Both mom and dad explained that they were getting divorced. The most important thing that they wanted me to know was that none of what was happening was because of us (brothers). Mom seemed to be keeping things to herself, and after mom left, dad just didn’t want to talk about it at all.

Middle Brother: I don’t remember.

Q: Did you ever see or hear your parents them argue? How often and were the arguments mentally or physically abusive or violent?

Oldest Brother: No, I never ever heard dad and mom argue.

Middle Brother: I don’t remember, I was about 6 or 7 years old.

Q: Did you have the feeling that you would never see your mother or father again, because they were getting a divorce?

Oldest Brother: No, I was never scared that I wouldn’t see mom again. There were always assurances that “she’ll see me soon”.

Middle Brother: No, Mom always assured me that she would come to see us.

Q: After the divorce, what was it like around the house? Did it feel as if something was missing?

Oldest Brother: For a while, it was “strange” not having mom at home when I got home from school, but after a month or so I got used to it.

Middle Brother: I can’t remember exactly, but I always wished she could have been around more. I missed her.

Q: After your parents had the divorce, did you feel any devastating sadness, and where there any particular issues you struggled with because of the separated parent was not around everyday?

Oldest Brother: I was sad, but I would not describe it as “devastating”. One of the issues I think was hard for me to deal with was having the responsibility of looking out for my two younger brothers, who did nothing but fight with each other, and me.

Middle Brother: I don’t remember anything specific.

Q: Did discipline change during the time between the divorce and the remarriage?

Oldest Brother: Yes. I don’t recall ever getting a real whipping after mom left. I guess dad felt bad about having to put so much responsibility on me and was more lenient with me.

Middle Brother: I don’t remember any difference from before. I do remember dad being sort of strict, but I think he needed to be raising three boys on his own.

Q: Can you name some positive and negative aspects in you life that you think the divorce is a direct result?

Positive Aspect:

Oldest Brother: A positive aspect would be that now, as an adult living within a divorced family, I can identify with my step-children, and know how they must feel having a “stepfather” married to their mom instead of their “real father.”

Middle Brother: I think the way dad raised us and watching mom live her life made me a more responsible person.

Negative Aspect:

Oldest Brother: Having to deal with my mother’s guilt over the divorce, and having to see the two people I love most separately.

Middle Brother: The only thing I can think of is, while I was growing up, I did not feel like other kids I grew up with that had married parents.

Q: Do you feel as if you really know mother as much as you think you should know about her? Who do you feel like you know more about, your mother or father?

Oldest Brother: Actually, I know my mother a whole lot better than I know dad. I guess because mom is an emotional volcano, and erupts at the drop of a hat, and dad is just like block of granite when it comes to showing emotions. He won’t talk about mom much, and when he does, it’s almost always derogatory.

Middle Brother: I feel I know them both equally, but I am probably closer to dad.

Q: Did you ever feel apprehensive about getting married because you might go through a divorce yourself?

Oldest Brother: No, I always thought I would get married, and be the best husband in the world, and never give my wife a reason to want to get a divorce.

Middle Brother: It has crossed my mind. . I thought that it could be almost hereditary since my parents and grandparents were both divorced and remarried.

Q: Have you ever been involved in drug or alcohol abuse and why did you get involved in the activities?

Oldest Brother: No. I don’t think you could call it “abuse”. I have experimented with alcohol, and have been drunk at least 10 times in my life. I don’t think you could call that abuse. We’ll being used by my friends as the “designated driver” could be called abuse. I have also smoked “a” cigarette in my life, yuck! I have never touched marijuana, or cocaine, or any of that crap.

Middle Brother: NO!

Q: Did you ever have to take care of other siblings in the family because your father was not there to do so, and did it prevent you from getting involved in any after-school or extracurricular activities?

Oldest Brother: Yeah, I helped out by watching my brothers after school, on weekends dad worked overtime, and sometimes when he and my future step-mom went out. I don’t think I missed out on after school programs, if I had been interested something going on at school, dad would probably have made it possible for me to do it. I really did wanted to play the trombone, but felt bad about asking dad to buy me one as much as he worked to take care of all of us.

Middle Brother: Sometimes, mostly my older brother took care of the siblings.

Q: Do you feel as if you have any emotional, self-esteem, sexual, or antisocial behavior problems that you struggle with today?

Oldest Brother: Yes, I do not have a lot of self-confidence. I think some it comes from dad. He would start to teach me how to do something, then, If I was doing it not quite the way he could do it, or the way he wanted it done, he would take it away from me, and do it himself. I rarely finished any thing I started when dad and I set out do something, he was the one to finish it.

Middle Brother: The only thing I can think is a short attention span and I’m not sure that is a direct result from growing up in a divorced family.

The Stepfamily Interview

Q: How old were you when father remarried and how much time passed between the divorce and remarriage?

Oldest Brother: Fifteen years old and it was about two years when dad remarried.

Middle Brother: About nine or ten, I’m not sure and I think it was about four or five years before dad remarried.

Q: Did discipline change when your father got remarried?

Oldest Brother: No change.

Middle Brother: It was mainly a, “your kids my kids situation.”

Q: What were your initial feelings about the remarriage?

Oldest Brother: Jealously, I was used to being the “second-in-command.” My stepmother ruined that, but later I was relieved that I didn’t have to be “built-in baby sitter” as much as before.

Middle Brother: I really don’t remember, but I don’t think I had in anger or hatred towards anybody nor do I think I was overly happy. I do remember always wanting dad to be happy.

Q: How often did you see your biological mother after the remarriage?

Oldest Brother: As much as possible. She was in and out of relationships and marriages, for a while she was out of state, so I didn’t see her much for a year or so.

Middle Brother: On average every other weekend, but that was only because she moved out of state. When she lived close it was every weekend.

Q: Did you ever get tired of going to see your biological mother? Why?

Oldest Brother: Yes. Honestly, I was tired of her always being depressed and gloomy. It made me sad for her.

Middle Brother: No, because she was my mom no matter what.

Q: How close, emotionally, do you think you were to your stepmother when you were growing up?

Oldest Brother: Not close at all, and didn’t want to be either. I was used to doing what I wanted, going where I wanted, with no one but dad would be telling me what to do.

Middle Brother: Pretty close, she was my step mom and I respected as so.

Q: Did you show as much respect for your stepmother as you did your father or biological mother?

Oldest Brother: No. One night she got all emotional telling me my dad was wrong to be bringing us up the way he was, and that she was trying to help us be better people, yeah right! It pissed me off! What gave her the right to tell me my dad was wrong about anything! I felt she was just trying to make herself feel better about the way she treated us.

Middle Brother: Yes.

Q: What are your feelings towards your stepmother today? Do you respect her more than you did when you were younger?

Oldest Brother: I do respect her. One reason is because she’s my dad’s wife, and he loves her. She makes him happy, I think. The other is, I don’t live there anymore and don’t have to deal with her everyday.

Middle Brother: Yes, I’m older and wiser and I understand some of the things she did as I was growing up.

Q: How much was your stepmother involved in your life compared to the lives of her biological children?

Oldest Brother: Obviously there was a lot of favoritism. Her “little angels” could do nothing wrong. They got the best rooms in the house, the best clothes to wear, anything they wanted, they usually got. Dad always felt that he needed to “make things even” if that tells you anything.

Middle Brother: In most cases the same, but there was times when we were definitely her stepchildren and not her own.

Q: Studies say that children in stepfamilies receive less encouragement and less help with schoolwork, did you ever experience this?

Oldest Brother: I believe so. Dad never really showed a lot of enthusiasm about grades. If they were bad he’d just sign the report card and tell me to do better next time. I do remember one time when he “helped” me build a submarine. Coolest thing too, made it out of a coffee can and two tomato paste cans it really worked.

Middle Brother: No, I remember getting plenty of help from my dad, simply because I asked him more times, but he encouraged me to do things for myself too.

Q: What was the relationship like between you and your stepsiblings compared to your biological siblings? Do you think the house laws were governed equally between siblings?

Oldest Brother: No, I don’t think house laws were quite fair. For example, My sister got to drive a brand new car at 15, my step mom’s car and I drove my dad’s beat-up ’69 bug. Yes, very materialistic, but I 16 yrs. old then.

Middle Brother: I think dad tried to keep it equal, but I feel my step siblings got an easier time with discipline from my stepmother.

Q: How close are you to your stepsiblings today compared to when you were growing up?

Oldest Brother: I only see my stepsister at family gatherings and my stepbrother when I visit my dad. I only see him then because he still lives there.

Middle Brother: Again, as age and wisdom increase I feel we are closer.

Q: Do you feel you had or have any type behavioral or emotional problem that has resulted from being in a stepfamily?

Oldest Brother: Well, I find it very hard to trust people.

Middle Brother: Yes, as I explained earlier (short attention span), but still not sure if it is a direct result from the environment I grew up in.

Q: Overall, how would you rate you life growing in a divorced and stepfamily environment?

Oldest Brother: Overall, I think life in the step family environment has helped me some ways, like relating to my own step-kids, and forces me to communicate as much as possible with my wife.

Middle Brother: Today, I feel luckier than most people do because I have two moms and two dads who love me very much.

Q: If you could do anything different in you life growing up in a divorced / stepfamily environment, what would it be?

Oldest Brother: I can’t think of anything right off hand that I would have done differently. I made no decisions about the directions that our family took. I felt as if we were just there for the ride.

Middle Brother: Probably, try to get along better with my stepmother and siblings.

Q: Do you have any additional thoughts, opinions, and experiences that you had during your life that you would like to contribute?

Oldest Brother: An experience, I had, that kind of shattered my image of my mother, was one night I really needed to talk to her. I had just lost my girlfriend, and really depressed. I went to her apartment to see her but she already had company. I don’t ever remember Dad ever letting me down like that. I do want to say that after all that has happened to me and my other siblings I do love my parents, and my stepsiblings as much as I can love them. I think we turned out ok considering what could have happened to us.

Middle Brother: I believe divorced family includes everything that is put into it. I think overall that the history of my family is a success story. Everybody in my family gets along with each other with no regrets and would do anything for each other. That’s more than some families can say.

Conclusions draw by the research data compared to the interviews of these two brothers suggests less similarities and more positive differences when considering the sample size of the interview. The oldest brother dealt with role conflict by having to care for his younger brothers because his mother was not there as she had before the divorce. It made him more of a father figure and made him exhibit social control over his younger two brothers, which helped lower deviance and made him less as a peer to them and more as a enforcer. The middle brother felt like his social status changed, because other kids his age had married parents and he lived in a divorced family. However, he also felt closer to his father, which possible relates to his father being a middle child too. The oldest brother felt he was closer to his biological mother than his father, which possibly resulted from his dad not letting allowing him to complete certain tasks in his life. It made him consult his mothers’ advise and direction about life issues without the fear of the pressure getting to the point or complete things her way. The research data conducted by Dr. Wallestein and CLASP suggests children in divorced or stepfamilies would have a more destructive, negative, and devastating life, but the interview of the two brothers did not seem to be any more stressful or damaging to the lives than a nuclear. Now, the oldest brother did struggle with self-confidence and the middle brother thought he had a short attention span. But, the brothers’ struggles and issues were no different that what a nuclear family would struggle with multiple siblings, except the sibling rivalry between the stepsiblings and biological siblings. Overall the two brothers did not regard the way their lives turned out and actually thought they had a very loving family life compared to what other families have gone through with in dealing with being in a divorced and/or stepfamily situation.

Arnold, Chandler. “Children and Stepfamilies: A Snapshot.” CLASP November 1998.

(15 March 2000).

Miller, Claudia. “ Divorce Doesn’t Go Away.” Children’s Advocate newsmagazine .

January – February 1998. (15 March 2000).

No Author. “Divorce and Children.” Family Research Council. (15 March 2000)


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