Currently, there are several marriages that end up in divorce. Children who experience their parents going through divorce are left exposed to depression, behavioral problems, suicidal thoughts, and many other problems that affect their future relationships. This study examines the effects of divorced parents on their children. When parents decide to divorce or separate, their actions have direct impacts on their children psychologically, which affect their future relationships and conducts. The importance of this study was to help children affected by divorce in the United Arab Emirates to gain knowledge and understanding to assist them overcome whatever issue they might be going through as a consequence of their parents’ divorce. This research focused on survey questions that will assist in answering the research questions.
Effects of Divorced Parents on their Children
The current society is experiencing a great stigma caused by the effects of divorce cases that have been on the increase. Divorce can no longer be ignored due to the massive effects as it hurts the children victims (Fagan, 2000). Every year, millions of children suffer as a result of their parents’ separation. Most of the children born out of wedlock witness their parents’ divorce before they attain eighteen years of age, giving rise to a bigger concern for the children (Fagan, 2000). The past few years have seen increasing rates of divorce, especially in the United States, but the rates have begun to decline (Magazine, 2000). Questions that need to be answered are about the real causes of these increased rates of divorce. One of the concerns is that there is a possibility that divorce children are part of the parents divorcing currently as a result of their mindset and approach towards marriages, which was created when their parents divorced while they were still young. Another concern is that divorce could be a consequence of a rising population that does not support the marriage institution. Cohabitation is one of the phenomena that have been widely accepted across the world. Cohabitation might be one of the causes of separation between parents as it entails no commitments in the union. In the United States, for instance, there is a shocking revelation showing statistics on marriage and divorce as indicated below according to the Divorce Magazine (2008) per 100 people:
- Highest cases of divorce were reported in 1981 with a rate of 5.3.
- In 2005, there were lower rates or marriages reported, that is 7.5 down from 7.8 in 2004.
- The highest report divorce rate was reputed in Nevada, which is 6.4 in 2004.
- Columbia district had the lowest divorce rate in 2004 at 6.4 rate.
- 2005 recounted the premier rates of divorce in the history of the United States.
The information presents part of the statistics showing the disturbing rates of divorce being witnessed. In the United Arab Emirates, divorce has turned out to be one of the serious problems that affecting social lives. At all levels. Families are no longer holding together as children live away from their parents as a consequence of divorce. Many questions have been asked regarding the cases of divorce. For instance, how will children cope up with this confusing situation in their lives? Will the children be affected psychologically, emotionally or mentally after the separation of their parents? What will be the children’s commitments to personal relationships? What will be the children’s take on building their own successful relationships? Will the children also go through divorce as couples or not? There are many disturbing questions that arise as a result of divorce.
By carrying out a research through a survey, the researcher intended to come up with some statistical links through the victim’s firsthand experiences. Looking at the findings of the survey and analyzing them, the researcher’s work was enhanced in establishing evident connection.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose if this study was to identify the long-term effects of divorced parents to children, especially when they turn out to be young adults and get into their own personal relationships. The study was conducted with students in Khalifa University. Generally, assisting children who are victims of divorced parents in getting knowledge and education for them to overcome the negative consequences of divorce in the United Arab Emirates was the main objective of the study. The result of this study, which the researchers intended to attain, was to assist the children to overcome psychological issues, such as behavioral problems, depression, and suicidal thoughts they are currently experiencing as the goal of this research. To address this problem, it is imperative to accept that there is a problem. Many children that are victims of parental divorce seem to look strong and unaffected, and they always try to assume that everything is in order. Through this investigation, the children affected by divorce in the United Arab Emirates would be able to examine and solve issues that might be affecting them to allow themselves enjoy and live happily despite the fate of their parents.
Why we chose the Topic
As one of the author of this research, firstly, we selected the topic that was of great interest to me. My parents separated while I was one and half years. Initially, I did not experience the outcomes of divorce until the time when I was eighteen and started engaging in a committed relationship. Few years ago, after successful graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, I managed to buy my first home and started cohabitating with my three- year girlfriend. After some time, I started experiencing psychological problems, such as depression, unusual behaviors, and bad thought, according to the counselor who talked to. I experienced difficult moments during that period but things started to improve when I realized that I needed to take control of my life. This is the point where my interest on the topic comes in; personal growth and recovery. Through regular talks with my counselor, my life transformed from all the negative issues that had been revolving around me to a new direction and I developed the need to assist others going through the same predicaments. I managed to settle with my girlfriend through evaluation and research, and I appreciate the fact that she is the true love I have, which I had been searching for all years. I used to be cautious for fear of being hurt in a relationship. I have realized that there are never sureties in life since any person can make change his/her decision.
Statement of the Problem
In the 1980s and 1990s, divorce was a common concept among married people. High rates of divorce were reported and many of the children victims were affected till now, some of whom are at their prime age of getting into their own relationships. These children are experiencing several issues like depression, unusual behaviors, and suicidal thought among other factors at personal levels. The researcher is interested in studying and establishing the issues that young adults are facing in their lives to find out why they are affecting children from divorced parents. The researcher will come up with approaches of preventing the issues. The study was carried out through a survey on students at Khalifa University. The survey provided questions on the students about their take on the effects of divorced parents on the children from their own individual experiences.
There are three research questions that this research will endeavor to answer. They are as follows:
- Do the students feel that their parents’ separation has affected their life, behaviors, thoughts, and relationships?
- Do the students from divorced parents still believe in relationships?
- Do the young adults from divorced parents able to commit in an intimate relationship?
Definition of Terms
Divorce: This refers to an act of legally dissolving or putting an end to a marriage.
Issues: This refers to the outcome or a point of debate or argument. This can also mean a significant or an important subject of discussion.
Psychological: Something related to the mental onset or affecting the mind.
Behavioral problem: This refers to the interpersonal maladjustment in an individual’s character that is underage and a source of concern.
Currently several marriages are ending up in divorce. Divorce has turned out to be a common concept among people in marriages when they no longer want to be one and this aspect becomes complex when children are involved. Many family relationships have become complex as a result of high rates of divorce as well as consequent step family formation that step parents end up forming, which has negative impacts on the exchange of family support (Wijckmans, 2013). When parents decide to divorce, they are not the only parties affected. Divorce also affects their children in many different ways. Through the ongoing conflict that parents go through and power disparities, family functions are affected through blocked communication. This aspect has negative effects on the children (Vanassche, 2013).
Children who are affected by parents’ divorce are exposed to depression, being withdrawn, behavioral problems, acting out, and suicidal thoughts among many others effects. According to Velez (2011), it is evident that psychological stressors entail a significant and persistent risk for children’s mental health complications. When parents’ divorce, their actions impact on the children throughout their lives from childhood and, if not well addressed, may extend to their adulthood. Divorce among parents has negative effects on their children resulting in a number of problems, which affect their adulthood lives, for instance, suppressing and externalizing problems, interpersonal worries, poor health status, and drug and substance use (Sigal, 2012).
The rates of divorce have intensely increased on the global scale, especially in the developed nations (Afifi, 2013). The main reason for this could be the change in attitude that divorce has been socially accepted the same way other unusual concepts, such as gay marriages are being accepted in some parts of the world. This explains why there are high cases of divorce registered in the United States. Approximately 40 to 50 Americans experience divorce in their generation (Afifi, 2013). This increased rate of divorce also increase the number of children affected.
According to Brown, nearly one out of four divorces that occurred in 2010 was between persons aged fifty and above. Some of the factors associated with divorce include demographic features, economic properties, and marital life. The author noted that divorce among remarriages was even higher than those of first marriages (Brown, 2012). There are many other reasons many marriages end up in divorce. The United States historically is the leading industrialized nation with increasing rates of divorce (Mullins, 2012). In a research conducted by Van Dolen (2013) that entailed a telephone and internet help seeking line, the number of calls to the helpline rise higher when the rates of divorce also rise.
Children who are victims of divorced parents as compared to other children from stable families attain low levels of achievement, adjustment as well as wellbeing on average (Amato, 2014). In as much as divorce is seen as the main reason why most children have engaged in some negative activities or develop bad feelings about themselves, it is not the root cause of the problem. According to Amato (2012), studies have shown that most of the bad behaviors and problematic conducts children have that are being associated with divorce were present before the occurrence of divorce. Therefore, the several negative consequences among children from divorced parents are attributed to the distressed family relationships that took place before the actual divorce. This entails the constant conflicts and fights among parents, which affect children and not the real act of separation.
There are several other factors that are attributed to children who are victims of divorced parent’s emotions and behavior in which were greatly contributed by their parents. The greater affirmative attention as well as backing a child receives, determines the strength of connection between parents. Furthermore, a stronger relationship between parents determines the strength with which the family will have. In a situation where parents decide to separate through divorce, the elements that facilitated their separation are likely to affect their children in a negative manner, thus resulting to negative outcomes in their behavior, psychological disturbances and negative thoughts (Amato, 2014). This shows that divorce also affects not only parents abut also children. Therefore, when these children grow up, they are more likely to have similar conducts like their parents easily, for instance abusive behaviors, and negative thoughts since they learnt from experience.
The effects of divorce can be both mental and physical. These effects on children can also have serious health consequences on them. Divorce can entail grave outcomes on both the somatic and rational health on the youngsters who experience increased depression levels, stress, self-lower esteem and fear (Bracke, 2010).Children who are victims of divorced parents experience high emotional as well as behavioral challenges as compared with children from stable and intact families (Odenweller, 2014). Baxter (2011), affirms this position by stating that children from divorced families also find it difficult to adjust to normal lives because they are directly connected to their experiences in the pre-divorce period that was marred with endless conflicts.
Moreover, children affected by their parents’ divorce are likely to go through enormous stress in their lives as compared to other children from stable families. Children from divorced families as compared to those from intact families exhibit poor results in numerous spheres (Lucas, 2013). In as much as divorce could bring out a sigh of relief from constant conflicts among parents, it also establishes several disruptions (Baxter, 2011). Numerous forms of bad behavior’s, aggression, suicidal thoughts, poor performance and under controlled behaviors are associated with children from divorced families (van Dolen, 2013). Baxter goes ahead and states that the disruptions are as a result of transition in elements such as financial changes. This brings about actions like change of food, diet, home, school and reduced time with children as well as parental distress. These disturbances can directly and negatively affect the children.
A random sample of students attending University of Khalifa was requested to take part in this research through survey. The researcher applied the random sample on the Khalifa University students since the research aim was to get varied responses from several student participants. In a random sample, it implies that students, both males and females were randomly selected and asked to take part in the research through questionnaires. The students range was from the age of eighteen years and above.
- Do you feel that your parents’ divorce affected you psychologically?
- As children from divorced families, do you still believe in the idea of marriage and relationship?
- Have you been affected by your parents’ divorce on your ability to be committed in an intimate relationship?
The instrument that was used in this research is survey that was conducted on participants through questionnaires. The researcher designed survey gathering ideas from several sources and questions in about two-page length were formulated. In order to make sure that that the survey was thorough, all the covered areas in the study were reflected in a short and articulate for all the participants to easily understand and provide feedback.
The researcher collected data by through a survey conducted to Khalifa University students. The researcher asked the participants to fill in the questions in the survey and provide feedback. The survey was designed in such a manner that it was able to collect data in a methodical manner so as to ensure that all information is kept clear and concise. The questionnaire applied in the research was thoroughly dismembered by the supervisor to guarantee exactitude, precision and conception.
Data Analysis and Procedures
The researcher collected data that was received from the survey questionnaires and prepared it into a numerical inquiry design. Through using statistical analysis information provided, the investigator was able to go through each question provided and the feedback provided. Applying the information, the researcher was able to create statistical links between parental divorce at the time of student’s childhood to their present state in personal and relationship life.
In the random sample, approximately 1, 200 students were targeted in the survey. Out of this, 620 responded and only 120 were suitable to take part in the research since they were victims of divorce. All of the students who took part in the survey were enrolled at the University of Khalifa. In the item analysis, several questions were entailed in the research survey. All the questions are paired with the results that were found to support the hypothesis of the research that many students are affected psychologically as a result of their parents’ divorce and their future relationships.
The first item was to find out if the participant’s parents are married or divorced. This entailed the first question of the survey. This question determined the suitability of students to participate in the survey. If the response of the student was no, they would be automatically disqualified from the survey. A total of 120 students’ response was yes on the questions and were suitable for the survey. On the gender question, the outcomes comprised of 62 % and 38 % female and male students respectively.
Fig 1. Chart showing participants gender
The results indicated that 20.8 % of correspondents were between the ages of 0-3, 32. 8 % were between 11 and 15, 16% between 16-20 and 8.5% were above 20 years and above when their parents divorced. 11 of the correspondents indicated that their parents had been married between a periods of 0-3 years, 22. 5 % were between 4-10 years, 34.1 % were 11-15, 2.8 % participants indicated they were married between 16-25 years and 5.1 % said the parents had stayed together for over 25 years.
Fig 2. Graph showing response on research questions
30.4 % said both parents informed them together about the divorce, 14.4% said they could not recognize since they were too young and 4.3 % and 2.2 % of the students indicated they were informed by their siblings and grandparents respectively. On the reasons given to them as a cause of their parent’s separation, 44.9% indicated that they were informed the parents could not get along anymore, 19. 6% answered one of the parents was entailed in another affair, 116 6% replied that the parents were no more loving each other, 88,7% said it was due to other reasons, while 4.3 of the participants could not recall the reason given. Other reasons given by the participants included wrong partners for each other, child disability, financial issues, and mental complications, gay and living arrangements among others.
On the next item, the participants were asked if they had been in any marriage and at what age. According to the feedback provided, 71% indicated they are not married, 13.8% replied they were 22 that they were 22- 27 old when they married, 13.8 were 18-21 at the time they married, 2.9% were 28-35 years old at their when they married, 7% were 36-45 and other 7% stated they were married at the age of 45 years and above. On the question to find out if they participants would be happy when they get married, 73.2 of the answers indicated they were not married, 9.4% said they were very happy, 7.2 % indicated they were happy and other 4.3 % replied that they were average.
The next question inquired how long the participant’s parents had been divorced. The results to indicated that 23.2% of participants parents have been divorced for over 20 years, 21.0% of members replied that their parents have been divorced 5-10 years, 18.8% of students indicated that their parents have been separated for 11-15 years while 16.7% of respondents stated that their parents have been divorced 0-4 years; and 14.5% of students said that their parents have been divorced 16-20 years.
On participants’ feelings about their parents’ divorce currently in their lives, 64.5% of participants replied that they wholly accept their parents’ divorce, 26.1 % of participants responded that they accept it, 3.6% of participants replied that they cannot accept their parents’ divorce. Asked if they feel their parents’ divorce has affected their past adult personal/intimate relationships, 30.4% of participants responded that they it had slightly affected past relationships, 25.4% of respondents replied that it affected their past relationships abstemiously, 19.6% of students reacted it has not affected their past relationships at all while 18.8% of members replied that they felt it affected their past relationships enormously. On whether they feel your parents’ divorce is upsetting their existing intimate relationships, 37.0% of respondents responded it Is not affecting their existing relationship at all, 28.3% of participants replied that it is affecting their present relationship somewhat, 21.0% of respondents answered it is affecting their existing relationship temperately and 8.0% of participants stated it is affecting their current relationship enormously. On whether they feel their ability to pledge in an intimate relationship has been harmfully affected by your parents’ divorce, 42.8% of participants stated they have been affected by their parents’ divorce, 28.3% of contributors replied that they have been slightly affected, 16.7% have been discreetly affected and 5.8% of participants said they had been awfully affected. On the question of whether their parents’ divorce has impacted on participant’s decision to remain single, single in a committed relationship or to marry, 58.0% they have not been affected, 16.7% had been slightly affected, 13.8% had been moderately affected and 4.3% had been exceedingly affected. Regarding their trust others with ease, 49.3% stated they do trust others with ease while 43.5% do not. On whether they feel fully open up in personal relationships, 58.0% responded that, yes, while 34.1 % of respondents replied “No”.
Discussion and Conclusion
The basic topics in the literature review entailed the family situation especially during the pre-divorce period, individual relationships, behavioral changes and psychological issues among others. Most of these topics have been addressed by the survey conducted. It was discovered that many of the respondents indicated that their parents’ divorce had affected them psychologically and influenced their current and past relationship thereby confirming our hypothesis about the effects of divorce on the children. Several of the participants’ decisions they make about relationship is affected by their past experiences they witnessed in their parents’ marriages conflicts. Some of the participants have carries along that burden that will not allow them open freely in their relationship life with anyone especially members of the opposite sex. Psychologically, many of the students in the survey reported to have been affected by their parents’ divorce. Some it began as early as their parents were engaged in the family conflicts due to lack of harmony in the homes. Constant fighting and conflicts among parents affected the children since there was no harmony that affected the normal care and provision that a family has to offer children. This confirms the research about lack of communication between families that are entangled in conflicts, which affects children. These effects have affected the children in their emotions, way of thinking bringing about depression and stress psychologically. Many children suffer from the effects of divorce according to the results that are not attained after the divorce but due to the parental conflicts and situation before the report, an aspect that supports our initial literature. Through the study, it was established that children’ family state before divorce can affect children reaction to divorce. According to the survey, it was found out that parental divorce affects children in the past presents and in the future. Many children who witnessed their parental constant conflicts reported high levels of effects as compared to those whose parents separated while they were still young to notice. Furthermore, according to the research, a number of the students also indicated to suffer psychologically as a result of the changed new way of life as a result of their parent’s separation. This affirms the initial research information about the effects that children from divorce as a result of changed way of life for instance school, homes and also family composition. Commitment by parents to raise their children together tends to decrease as they separate, and other even decide to never return. This in most cases as seen in the survey leaves for one parent to provide for the children, meaning that some adjustments need to be made with regards to the sources of income thus affecting children through the transformation process. Through getting this information from the survey, the researcher has affirmed that in almost all the situations, parental in one way or another affects the children that are entailed in the union. However, the degree in which the children are affected varies.
In general, according to the researchers’ findings, the outcomes of the research to be very significant and informative. The results affirmed the several researches early thoughts concerning the effects of divorce on children being affected psychologically and in their future relationships with their parents’ divorce. Therefore, divorce affects children psychologically that end up affecting their relationship life in a negative way. However, this cases can be addressed and controlled especially through counselling services. Most significantly, it is crucial to note keep in mind that it is possible to have a lively, full and happy life even if you come from a divorced parent’s family.
One of the limitations in this research is that some of the students in the survey responses may not have been truthful or not fully answered. Moreover, some of the students to take part in the survey might have been influenced in their responses as a result of lack of interest in the survey or due to lack of time. Another limitation of the study is lack of validity and reliability acknowledged since it is designated for this study alone. Furthermore, there were no effective methods used in measuring the degree of difficulties that students are coping up as a result of divorce.
In case the researcher conducts this investigation in future, I would recommend some few changes to be considered. First, there should be a lower number of targeted populations than a large sample that might not the required information accurately. Secondly, I would recommend of the institution counseling department to be more alert on the students being affected by separation of parents, regardless of their age since they will be of a strong help to the students.
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- Are your parents divorced?
- Are you Male or Female?
- What is your CURRENT age?
- At what age were you when your parents divorced?
- How many years were your parents in marriage?
- How did learn about your parents’ divorce and did it affect you psychologically?
- What was the reason you were told if any, for your parents’ divorce?
- What was your early response to your parents’ divorce?
- Are you presently in a dedicated relationship?
- Are you now married?
- What has been your lengthiest relationship?
- In overall, do you “have faith in” in the notion of marriage?
- If you are married, what was your age was you married?
- If you are married would you consider yourself?
- Very Happy
- How long has it been since your parents’ divorce (in years)?
- How do you feel about your parents’ divorce currently?
- Do you feel your parents’ divorce has affected your past adult persona relationships?
- Do you feel your parents’ divorce is affecting your current persona relationship?
- Do you feel your aptitude to obligate in an intimate relationship has been negatively influenced by your parents’ divorce?
- Does your parents’ divorce influence your decision to: remain single, single in a committed relationship or to marry?
- In general, do you trust others with ease?
- Do you feel you are able to fully open yourself up in personal/intimate relationships?