The impact of divorce on children

2012-06-01 08:09

The divorce rate in South Africa has increased through the years with a slight decline due to our current economic conditions. In times of prosperity the inclination to dissolve a dysfunctional marriage increases, while during an economic downturn the hunger to stay together becomes stronger.

In the middle of all the turmoil of the divorce process are the children who were conceived into a marriage destined for demise. In a 1983 publication, “The Life Course of Children of Divorce: Marital Disruption and Parental Contact,” Frank F. Furstenberg determined that almost 50% of children in the United States are bystanders to their parents’ divorce. The research also indicated that almost half of those children would also witness a second divorce of a parent in their lifetime.

In the mind of every child, the relationship that their parents have is magical and they maintain the fantasy of that dream even in the most adverse conditions. Even after a divorce some children dream of their parents getting back together. The human mind yearns for happy endings. The Prince and Cinderella are their role models and a child’s perception of marriage. Children of divorce search endlessly for perfection living in an imperfect world.

The impact of divorce and data from a publication "Marriage: The Safest Place for Women and Children" by Patrick F. Fagan and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D is shocking and obviously highly debatable. The research found that children who were raised in a home without a father figure were 4.6 times more likely to commit suicide than children of a stable marriage. If we accept the statistics in South Africa that there are 9 million children with absent but living father’s then there may be a reason to be worried.

According to the author’s of the publication children of divorce were 6.6 times more likely to become teenage mothers, 24.3 times more likely to run away, 15.3 times more likely to have behavioural disorders, 6.3 times more likely to be in a state-operated institutions, 10.8 times more likely to commit rape, 6.6 times more likely to drop out of school, and 15.3 times more likely to end up in prison while a teenager. School age children suffer the most with the ability to understand what divorce is while lacking the proper emotional development to process the emotions involved.

Unfortunately children of divorce are often times given an empty toolbox to repair their own lives struggling with emotional scars of a world turned upside down. In the conflict that erupts during a divorce, it happens that a child rides an unimaginable wave of despair that leaves them feeling helpless over the events in their lives.

The most valuable assets in a divorce are the children, not the material assets. Unfortunately in many divorce cases it is the parents who are directly to blame for a child’s misery. In many instances mother's use children as collateral to optimize maintenance and child support and alienate the children from a loving relationship with their father. In some cases lawyers are also to blame adding fuel during the divorce process, loosing sight of what is in the best interests of the children. If the marriage relationship has broken down and there is no prospect of restoring it, ponder and think about the children every step of the way. Although the spousal role ends at divorce, the parental role lasts for a life time. Post divorce children need both parents in their lives, not just one.

Inspired by an article by Jerome Elam that appeared in the Washington Times read at: http://goo.gl/jnujx

Bertus Preller

Family Law Attorney

Abrahams and Gross Inc.

Twitter: @bertuspreller

Website: http://www.divorceattorney.co.za

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