Divorce 2 Essay, Research Paper
Divorce, Remarriage, and Relationships
What might be the effects on the relationship between children and their parents caused by divorce and remarriage in today’s society? The answer to this question is one which demands consideration by any one interested in our society and its present trends. Though divorce has not always been common in the United States, in the last two decades many American families have been faced with divorce. ” (About 40 percent of American children who grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s experienced the breakup of their parents marriages [Furstenberg and Cherlin, 1971,]) (Cherlin, 366). Divorced couples with children are faced with many obstacles in their relationships with their children that are often complicated by remarriage. Divorce and remarriage affects almost every aspect of the relationship between parents and children.
The initial act of divorce in a family puts an immediate strain on the relationship between parents and children. There are several different effects we can observe. Firstly, since the process of divorce is a stressful one for all involved, there are several immediate difficulties to overcome. “Distracted,
distressed parents may have difficulties providing the daily mixture of emotional support, and moderate, consistent discipline that psychologists called ‘authoritative parenting’. Instead, parents seem to be emotionally distant and preoccupied, prone to ignore misbehavior or to lash out with harsh discipline.” (Cherlin, 389) Of course, these facts lead to strained relationships. Usually in a divorce situation, the children end up with one primary custodial parent. The absent parent has a diminished daily influence on the child, which creates feelings of loss on both sides of the relationship. According to Adler Productions,”John Hopkins University sociologist Andy Cherlin has been quoted in the New York Times as saying, ‘divorce can be more devastating for children than the death of a parent.’ And why not? A child can grasp that mommy or daddy is gone forever, but for a parent to walk away and simply not be there while everyone knows he or she is still alive-that sounds like abandonment, a universal fear for children.” The parental conflict, which exists in most divorces, can be very psychologically detrimental to the children. Unfortunately, often divorced parents use their children as leverage, threatening loss of custody and/or visitation. Usually a family that has gone through the stresses of a divorce has a tendency to go through more periods of depression and psychological turmoil caused by strained relationships. Because
divorce affects not only the emotional qualities of the child’s life, but also the financial qualities, relationships are further strained. Children may blame one or the other parent for having to change life styles due to added financial strain caused by a divorce. As can be seen, there are several different areas which can cause difficult relationships between parents and children of divorced families. Over the long term, the lives of all parties involved in the divorce are affected in several ways. “From the glass-half-empty perspective, we can conclude that divorce may cause a substantial percentage increase in the number of individuals who may need the help of a mental health professional or who may not obtain as much education as they should or who may be unemployed more often than they should. As a society we should be troubled by this development. From the glass-half-full perspective, however, it seems that most individuals do not suffer serious long-term harm as a result of their parents’ divorce. We need to keep both perspectives in mind when considering the effects of divorce.” (Cherlin, 394).
Remarriage after a divorce adds an entirely new set of relationship obstacles and sometimes, advantages. Remarriage often can create what is known as the extended family. Some of the relationships, which come about in the extended family, are very positive experiences. Stepsiblings, for example, can have very close ties. According to Cherlin, there are two ways to
define the new relationships that result due to remarriage. We can look at each household, or we can overlook the boundaries of the household and look at remarriage chains. “Remarriage chains can serve as support and exchange networks, as ex-spouses and new spouses give and request favors.” (Cherlin, 407) In dealing with remarriage, a tremendous amount of work and give and take go into the relationships between parents and children. Children will have better relationships with their stepparent if their biological parent maintains a food relationship with the ex-spouse and his/her new spouse. As Cherlin points out, the younger a child is at the time of the remarriage, the more likely the child is to have a better relationship with the new stepparent. Remarriage is definitely an obstacle to overcome in keeping and maintaing healthy relationships between parents and children but it would appear that the more civil the original couple, the better chance the remarriage has of maintaining good family relationships.
Divorce and remarriage can definitely put a strain on the relationships in families. The American way of life seems to be more and more infiltrated by divorce and remarriage every decade. The standard way of looking at the family has changed. In order to have healthy, strong, and positive relationships, the “new” American family must learn to cope with problems and difficulties rarely faced by past generations.
Cherlin, Andrew. Public and Private Families. Boston:
Marital Status. 1997. Adler Productions www.divorce/articles/helping.html.