Parental Separation and Child Outcomes

ParentalSeparation and Child Outcomes


Thispaper is meant to provide a brief overview of the research literatureon impacts of divorce and single parenting on children and theinterventions that may be applied. It takes as a starting point theexistence of single parents raising their offspring and thechallenges they encounter on the one hand and the presence ofunfriendly relations in families that result in divorce. It examinesa range of issues addressed in the research literature like if familychanges primarily have short-term effects on children, or do theyalso have longer-term effects. The short-term effects of separationvary depending on the age of kids. Moreover, it outlines the impactfrequent changes of the family structure have on child outcomes, theimpact that is proportionate to income as a result of separation orpresence of a single parent and effects attributable to mentaldysfunction of single parents following a divorce.

Furthermore,it outlines why children growing with single parents are at high riskof experiencing emotional, social, and cognitive problems. Lastly,the paper will elaborate more on how divorce and single parentingimpacts children both directly and indirectly through their influenceon the guardian’s attitudes and socialization goals. Much emphasisis placed on how separation impacts on a child’s self-esteem andsocial development. The paper to provide an overview of the socialscience findings related to the effects of marital disruption onchildren. It also expounds more on aspects associated with familyinteractions that affect identity formation as they are linked tooccupational and educational goals. In addition, the paper outlinesthe interventions applied so that children can cope with thepredicament of either separation or being brought up by a singleparent.

Divorcedand single parent families have increased over the years, whichcontinue to impact on children in different ways. Demographic andsocial changes over the years have resulted in more diverse familiesthat have become complicated in their structure (Ellis, 2012). When amarriage ends in divorce, everyone in the relationship is impacted.This is also the case when a parent dies or separates from each otherresulting in single parent families. Children are the most affectedby these changes and are unable to process stressful events due totheir innocence and immaturity. Although many studies have beenconducted of the outcomes experienced by children in divorcedfamilies, few have investigated the long-term impact of growing in alone-parent family.

Childrenfrom single parent families have been portrayed on average, toperform minimally across an array of measures of well-being ascompared to kids from a nuclear family. It is the objective of thispaper to give an outlay of how divorced and single parent familiesimpact on children. It seeks to answer the question: Do familychanges such as parental separation primarily have short-term effectson children? What interventions are better suited to deal with theseimpacts?

ParentalSeparation and Child Outcomes

Manychildren are faced with family disruptions year in the year caused bya steady increase in divorce rates. Children experience separationdifferently and personally, and although not all single parenthoodare due to divorce, dissolution of marriages is the key contributorto the high number of children living with a single parent(Hetherington &amp Arasteh, 2014). Recent statistics indicate thathalf of the people who got married in the 1970s will end upseparating and that future divorce rates may be higher. Marriagedissolution can be as a result of many things, but financial strain,communication issues, and infidelity are the most common reasons.Infidelity mostly occurs when spouses do not receive the attentionthey feel necessary and hence start exploring for someone who willfill the void.

Thisact leads to the destruction of the marriage hence divorce. Financialissues are a big precursor of separation with the most commonfinancial problem in marriage being the choices being made withmoney. Last but not least, communication issues. It is only throughcommunication that marital problems can be discussed. When dialogueis not initiated to solving a marital crisis, things tend to getworse hence leading to separation. Despite parental divorce posingnotable difficulties for children that are worth noting, outcomesvary as per the child involved. Multiple factors exist that canmoderate shortcomings associated with divorce and enhance a child’sresilience. Most research on changes in the family structure isconcerned with adverse outcomes associated with divorce andremarriage.

Familiesled by single moms are found to be incomplete and precursors toadversarial relationships with parents, delinquency, sexualpromiscuity, substance use, dropping out of school, teenagepregnancy, poor academic performance, and decreased self-esteem. Theimpact does not only affect the offspring in early childhood but alsoat the beginning of adulthood (Ellis, 2012). The young adults havebeen shown to have higher rates of early childbearing, early marriageand dissolution, low occupational status, single parenting, mistrustin others, unhappiness and economic hardships. The parents cancontrol the major factors that affect a child’s livelihood while inthe process of divorce and after. They include the quality of theparent-child relationship, magnitude, and presence of violence in therelationship, and how well the child has been brought up.Furthermore, the well-being and ability of the parents involved infunctioning as required plays a significant role.

Themitigating and intervention factors that can help children to copeinclude therapy, parents managing their conflict in sobriety,relating well to their offspring, and parenting. Parental separationnot only impacts on the child negatively, some kids actually benefitfrom the separation. In circumstances of domestic violence andintense conflict, children experience a sense of relief. Adolescentsliving with single parents are high likely to acquire strengths likea feeling of responsibility because of the altered family routines. Alot of information on how divorce or separation affects children hasbeen documented. Despite showing the difference in how they react,most respond with sadness, pain, loyalty issues, and misconceptions.A parental split can be an emotionally traumatic experience thatplays down on children’s feelings of stability, safety, andsecurity. Those on the forefront in trying to help the children copeshould aspire to fulfill the three primary objectives.

First,they should explain divorce as a common occurrence experienced byother kids. Second, assist parents to minimize the conflict andhostilities exposed to children and lastly provide an avenue for thekids to pour out their feelings and communicate their concerns. Thereare diverse ways that boys and girls can handle break-ups, forinstance, some feel sad some get angry, while some experiencefeelings of rejection. Preschool age children of three to five years,tend to regress after the initial shock of the separation. Signs ofregression on children could be asking for a security blanket,returning to thumb sucking, requiring help while feeding them,hitting their siblings or bedwetting. The majority of children inthis age group are more anxious and insecure than a child beingraised by both the parents.

Effectsof Divorce and Single Parenting on a Child’s Self-Esteem

Whenparents decide to split, children usually suffer due to the break-upof a too familiar home life regardless of whether it was a perfecthome. It changes a child’s perception about life in general.Through research, it has been established that a child’sself-esteem develops due to factors in his or her environmentincluding parents. This is based on the fact that a child’s senseof self is strongly linked to how they view their parents. It is alsocommon knowledge that divorce severely disrupts a child`sdevelopmental environment. A child internalizes qualities that theythink their parents possess.

Ifthey believe there is something is not right with their parents, theyfear that they are also flawed. Whenever parents argue in front of achild calling each other names, the child’s self-esteem is damagedbecause he or she believes something is wrong with either the parent(Everett, 2014). From a different angle, considering a scenario wherea child loses one parent through death or being pushed out of thechild’s life is an example. The loss not only terminates thebenefit of having two parents but also harms his self-esteem sincethey lose an integral part of themselves. Children might concludethat the parent who left ever loved them because they wereindifferent in one way or another. The probability of a child turningthe whole fiasco onto him is high with one parent out of the picture.

Throughresearch, it is evident that being raised in a high-conflict familycauses children to have low self-esteem and feel unworthy. Moreover,children growing up in a single-parent home might struggle with someself-esteem issues. They might crave for affection and have reducedexpectations for their relationships later on in life. This appliesto single parents who are so busy with work such that they are unableto shower their children with more love.

Effectsof Divorce and Single Parenting on a Child’s Social Development

Childrenfrom divorced or separated families have been characterized to havepoor social skills. Most of them have coercive interaction styles,which ultimately lead to rejection by typical peers. Their socialrelations are damaged and characterized by fewer childhood friendsand a tendency to complain about the lack of peer support.Furthermore, their association with adults is minimal since they tendto suffer from hostility towards adults and inattention. Children ofdivorce have trouble acclimatizing to separate stages of their livesbecause of the detachment they have experienced with their parents.The children under normal circumstances would lose a degree ofcontact with one of their attachment figures once divorce occurs.

Accordingto McGhee (2010), the whole affair is stressful and confusing for thechildren irrespective of whether the divorce was agreed upon or not.These children are said to have no replica of a successfulrelationship that they can emulate in their lives. These kids areactively rejected by peers while others are ignored and dismissed.Those children who had many friends in school somehow becomewithdrawn and unhappy. It becomes hard for these kids to form asatisfying relationship with peers thereby missing opportunities tolearn social skills that would be necessary throughout their lives.

Moreover,flawed social engagement with peers means the child misses out aboutthe possibilities to build a sense of social self-confidence. Inaddition, children living in a single-parent household are developingautism whereby they develop less faith in their capabilities toachieve interpersonal goals. Besides, their school dropout rates arehigher and are less likely to attend college. Further, theirprobability to commit a crime is heightened because they want toattract people’s attention.

Interventionsto Curb Effects of Divorce and Single Parenting on Children

  1. Improving Parent-child relationship

Studieshave proven that single parenting and divorce lead to disruptions inparenting practices. How parents relate to their children is ofparamount importance for it dictates how children will be affected bydivorce. National surveys have proven beyond reasonable doubt thatthere is a significant deterioration in relationships betweenchildren and their parents over time (McGhee, 2010). The positiveside of the situation is depicted in the diverse ways parents canenhance the relationship with their children. Research has proventhat success of a mother’s parenting reflects on the effects ofdivorce and child adjustment. In comparison with fathers in intactfamilies, non-custodial fathers are less likely to interact withtheir children or enforce discipline.

Thereduced involvement, especially with boys, creates more chances forthe boy child to display conduct problems. It is true to say that adivorced father who remains involved in parenting significantlylowers the chances of his son having behavioral problems(Hetherington, 2014). Other quality parenting practices thatcan enhance the parent-child relationship include allowing silenceand giving children space to talk, having some alone time with eachchild, being content with the child’s irresolute feelings,reinforcing positive behavior, affirming their strengths, andlistening without judgments. These practices are great interventionsfor they help parents and child to propagate and understand the lovethey have for each other. The power of the relationship depends onthe frequency, and how well parents communicate with their offspringmore so responding with compassion after they pour out to them.

Itis a characteristic of a healthy family to make often a habit ofportraying gratefulness and consolation amongst themselves. Thesemannerisms create goodwill that fosters optimism and a sense ofbelonging. Families can also establish new ways of doing things andhaving fun as a means of strengthening how parents relate withoffspring.

Theseacts reassure children that regardless of the situation, they arestill loved unconditionally. This can be achieved by enhancing hopein children and encouraging them to be strong no matter what thefuture holds. In addition, it would be unwise for parents to rush intheir quests to find new spouses as it might weaken the bond withtheir children.

Despitethe desires to love again, bringing in someone can create a conflictof interest with the child more so when the new spouse has childrenof their own. Children may become withdrawn since they may interpretthe new spouse as a substitute of the bond they had with theirparent. Their parent’s new relationships can affect them furthersince they are still coping with their parent’s separation. Parentsshould allow some time for children to heal and acclimatize to thesituation of a missing parent before dating someone new.

  1. Therapy

Separationof parents is both confusing and sad for children. Parents can makethe process and its impacts less painful for their children throughtherapy. Research shows preventive interventions have a positiveinfluence on children who have experienced divorce. Therapy plays acrucial role to help children cope because many at times parents maybe consumed with their feelings during divorce and overlook theemotional state of their children (Figley, 2014). At this juncture,children are confused on which parent to remain with and might alsoworry that they might be the cause of their parent separation. Anytime parents become aggressive with each other a child may becomefearful and if they happen to hear them argue about custodyarrangements. They might feel unwanted by either parent or that theyare to blame for the separation.

Children’sprograms are a vital asset to researchers for they yield concreteinformation concerning their perception and interpretation ofsituations while still accruing multiple benefits to children.Certain programs like Children of Divorce Intervention Program(CODIP) help children cope with challenging family changes byenhancing self-esteem, educating them on the best communicationchannels that they can use with their parents, and clarifyingmisconceptions. Besides, they impart problem-solving skills inchildren and also help them develop other vital life skills necessaryin times of uncertainty and change (Hetherington et. al, 2014). Thisintervention has had an impact on children of different age groupsand varying ethnicities. The program impacts on a child’s socialand emotional adjustment and improves interaction with peers.


Inconclusion, the research focused on the impact of divorce and singleparenting on children. Some conclusions can be drawn from the briefliterature on parental separation and child outcomes. First, asizeable body of research in multiple areas surrounding divorce andparenting has already yielded considerable information. It is evidentthat children from divorced families are on average or even worse offcompared to their peers from intact families. However, differences inwell-being between the two groups of children are minimal since notall children are adversely affected. Differences in Delinquency,self-esteem, and cognitive performance often disappear whenconfounding and mediating variables are controlled.

Parentalseparation has been shown to adversely have an impact on a minorityof children mostly in the presence of other exacerbating factors.Multiple mechanisms are in play that impacts negatively on thechild’s wellbeing. They include inter-parental conflict, decreasedincome as a result of separation, the flawed mental health ofcustodial mothers and compromised parenting. These mechanisms areinterrelated in different ways. For instance, lowered income as aresult of one parent exiting marriage places the current guardian atrisk of material and economic deprivation. Correspondingly, this cantake a toll on the guardian’s mental health thus resulting tocompromised parenting behaviors.

Multiplethings factor in the rising divorce rate, but children are affectedthe most as they are forced to live in single parent homes. Thisaffects them psychologically and socially (Figley, 2014). Therefore,would be wise for individuals before they get married to sit back,and think because it takes discipline and commitment to make amarriage work.

Researchhas revealed the factors within parents’ control, which have thegreatest impact on children and the specific practices that will havea lasting positive effect on them (Everett, 2014). To protectchildren, effective parenting should encompass love andself-discipline, conflict management, and propagation of the bestmethods that enhance how parents relate to their children.Furthermore, parents capable of discerning their children’s hiddenemotions and employ problem-solving techniques have the upper hand indeveloping healthy relationships with their offspring.

Improvingthe parent-child relationships and application of therapy has hadfar-reaching effects on enhancing how children cope. Although it maybe true that both parents can contribute to raising upright childrenthan one, it does not mean that their parents are better offtogether. This is in reason to the negative consequences of beingraised in a conflict prone family, which can be averted when parentsseparate. Research on single parenting and divorce must go on beyondthe usual search for adverse outcomes and must continue to improve onthe methods used to investigate the impact on offspring.

Moreover,additional attention should be focused on reasonable progress indifferent family structures and on the processes that both positivelyand negatively affect adjustment to family changes. With moreinformation on these methods, it could help to dispel the inaccuratebeliefs that divorce and separation are always detrimental tochildren.


Ellis, C. B. (2012). The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive After Divorce. Chicago: iUniverse.

Everett, C. (2014). Divorce and the Next Generation: Effects on Young Adults` Patterns of Intimacy and Expectations for Marriage. Chicago: Routledge.

Figley, C. (2014). Divorce Therapy. Chicago: Routledge.

Hetherington, E. M., &amp Arasteh, J. D. (2014). Impact of Divorce, Single Parenting and Stepparenting on Children: A Case Study of Visual Agnosia. Newyork: Taylor &amp Francis.

McGhee, C. (2010). Parenting Apart: How Separated and Divorced Parents Can Raise Happy and Secure Kids. Sanfrancisco: Penguin Publishing Group.