Children and Adolescents are believed to be resilient to most situations including divorce. Experts argue that when parents handle their divorce in an amicable way the effects on their children are minimal. Unfortunately this is not true, as a divorce not only affects the married couple but the entire family will now live a new life. In this paper I will attempt to refute the claim that an amicable divorce has a less traumatic effect on an adolescent’s development, behavior, social life/relationships, and academics.
Key Words: Adolescent, Relationships, Divorce, Resilience, Development, Behavior
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Nowinski tells us that an adolescent’s identity is formed through significant adult relationships with parents and teachers (2010). Being an adolescent with divorced parents makes it difficult for the teenager to establish their own identity; they may feel forced to live a life of their parent’s choice, fearful of disappointing them. Divorce also can become a serious distraction for the parents who would otherwise be focused on their teen’s developmental changes. Finally, a divorce may affect a teenagers attempt to develop their own identity as they are now subject to more than one household, new friends, and possibly a new school.
According to Clarke-Stewart & Brentano, young adolescents (age twelve to fourteen) may display negative behavior when confronted with their parent’s separation. This behavior is due to their age and the increasing amount of hormonal and development changes these teens are experiencing, they are very vulnerable to the changes that divorce can bring. When a teenager’s parents announce they are divorcing, the responses may be to overreact with anguish or anxiety. In their adolescent egocentrism they can see only their own needs and they feel that the world’s eyes are on them (Clarke-Stewart & Brentano, 2006). In many families young adolescents are beginning to accept more responsibility around the home, a divorce may create feelings of having to grow up quickly. In the aftermath of a parents divorce, adolescents experience lower levels of psychological adjustment and self-esteem and higher levels of depression and anxiety than their peers who live in a two parent household (Demo & Fine, 2009).
Older adolescents may not have as much difficulty adjusting to their parent’s divorce as their younger. Most fifteen to eighteen year olds have developed an identity and are involved in their own activities. However, if these teens are not clear in their identity or sense of self, the opposite outcome will possibly present itself. When parent’s divorce, especially if the divorce is unexpected, adolescents’ developing identity can be thrown into chaos and their self-confidence may be undermined (Clarke-Stewart & Brentano, 2006). In a longitudinal study performed by Iowa State University and funded by The National Institute of Mental Health it was determined that seventeen percent of boys and eight percent of girls from divorced families admitted to having committed at least six delinquent acts in one year (Clarke-Stewart, & Brentano, 2006). Demo & Fine also cite several studies that have consistently reported that on average adolescents with divorced parents experience more behavioral problems, engage in more delinquent activities, and experience higher levels of drug and alcohol use than adolescents from two parent households (2009).
The effects of divorce on teenager’s social skills can present themselves in a variety of ways. Teens may be angry at the loss of additional...