Projects

  1. All (0)

Writers

  1. All (470)
Home portfolios Sociology

Sociology

Creator:

Area of Expertise:

  • Education

Description

How Divorce Affects Children and their Learning in the Classroom

Abstract

Divorce is a really distressful event for children as it creates an emotional chasm that could negatively impact their normal behavioral development as well as the academic outcome. Given the disadvantaged status of children from divorced families it is imperative that parents, teachers and educational policy makers focus on this problem and help them better manage themselves as they go through their personal crisis. A collaborative effort where parents, teachers and educational administrators coordinate to minimize the negative impact of familial divorce and help children achieve resilience and good academic outcome is called for.

Introduction

Divorce is one of the biggest social problems faced by the American society. Statistics suggest that almost 50% of all marriages end up in a divorce. Children from divorced families have several problems that affect their normal development and their academic achievement. Children from divorced single parent households are affected by very many factors including ‘parental loss’, ‘economic loss’, ‘increased stress’, ‘poor parental adjustment’, ‘parental conflict’ etc. [Robert Hughes, (2009)]The compounded effects of these factors tend to drastically affect the behavioral development of children that also interferes with their learning in the classroom and their academic outcome. If proper interventions are not provided, maladaptive behaviors will be strongly rooted resulting in serious personality issues in adult life. A brief discussion of how divorce affects children and how it could negatively impact their classroom behavior and academic achievement will highlight the serious implications of divorce for children.

Impact of Divorce on Children

Divorce does have a shattering effect on children. As mentioned earlier, these various issues include poor self image, internalizing or externalizing behavior, anger and other maladaptations, reduced concentration and focus on studies in the classroom due to increased rumination about the family situation, general hopelessness and frustration and a feeling of responsibility for the parental divorce, etc. All these stressors hinder the normal cognitive and behavioral development among children in divorced families and if left unattended can lead to severe psychosocial developmental problems. Several studies from the past have acknowledged that children from divorced families have a greater risk for developing these negative traits than children coming from intact families. A brief discussion of the factors related to parental divorce would help us understand how divorce affects children and consequently how it impacts their classroom behavior and their academic outcome.

Parental Loss

Since parents are the ideal role models for a child, there are some distinct disadvantages for children growing up in a single parent household compared to those who grow up in intact family setups. There is little doubt that the absence of one of the parents creates an emotional void that affects their normal development. In the traditional nuclear family, fathers help out children with their home work and supervise their academic performance which gives the child both support, encouragement and discipline in academic pursuits. However, in the case of children from divorced households such a kind of a support from the non residential parent is frequently lacking and in most cases it is restricted to few general visits per month. [Robert Hughes, 2009]

Economic Hardship

Another important impact of divorce on children is the economic hardship that divorce invariably casts on them. Invariably, divorce leads to economic hardships for the children as the family economic resources are limited. Though money is not the only factor it certainly is crucial for the normal development of children. Besides financial restrictions, divorce may force the family to relocate and change schools all of which cause additional disruptions to the child. Studies have shown that in some cases it is very hard for single parent households to come out of the economic constraints caused by a divorce. [Amato, 2000]

Stress due to Divorce

Irrespective of weather the divorce was mutual or troubled, children definitely experience a lot of stress due to separation from one of their parents and the loss of the family setup. Substantial literature evidence points to the fact that stress due to parental divorce affects academic performance, creates self esteem issues and poor adjustment and behavioral problems. [Christina Egan, 2004] Also, relocation due to divorce and the changes have been attributed to cause more stress for children. One study by Crowder, K., & Teachman (2004) highlighted that frequent relocations increased the risk for dropping out from school and for becoming pregnant during the teenage period. In general, children of divorced families tend to exhibit more anger, disobedience, early sexual activity and have an increased risk for associating with antisocial elements. [McIntosh. j et.al (2009)]

Parental conflict

Parental conflict either before or after divorce is a single important factor that could negatively impact the normal development and academic performance of children. The developmental outcome for children from divorced families is largely affected by the presence or absence of ‘parental conflict’. [McIntosh, J., 2003] Children need emotional security after divorce and if there is protracted parental conflict it would only serve to affect their resilience. If there is poor conflict resolution between the parents it increases the vulnerability of children who are already struggling to overcome emotions involved in parental divorce. [McIntosh. j et.al (2009)]

Divorce and its Impact on Classroom Learning

Adams and Ryan (2005)

As mentioned above parental divorce is highly distressful for the child and usually it takes 2 years or more for the transition into the new family setting. [Kim Leon, 2005] During this period, academic performance of the child is bound to be negatively impacted. Emotional imbalance, parental conflicts, economic hardships all contribute to this downward trend. Lack of concentration in the classroom and a general lack of academic focus are normal reactions for children from divorcing families. An exhaustive study by Adams and Ryan (2005) focused on parental influence on school success and observed how children from divorced or single parent households performed compared with children from intact two parent families. For the study the authors compared data from the ‘National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth’ database consisting of a total of (n = 1,321) children between 6 and 11 from intact two parent families and (n = 197) children from divorced or single parent households. Using a complex list of variables the researchers compared the academic performance between the two groups of children as obtained from the teachers’ ratings. Children were evaluated for the following variables such as focus in the classroom, hyperactivity, ‘inattention’, anxiety, depression and their ‘prosocial behaviours’. Similarly the researchers also included family measures such as ‘family dysfunction’, ‘parental depression’, ‘social support’ & ‘socioeconomic indicators’. The results from the study indicated that children from 2 parent households had more academic skills, higher socio economic indicators, less depression, less hyperactivity and more family support compared to the children from divorced and single parent families. This study also highlighted that children from divorced families were less focused in the classroom, highly inattentive and in general experienced ineffective parenting skills. The study concluded that divorced or single parent families needed more support and training in healthy parent child relationships. [Adams & Ryan, (2005)] These the researchers feel are vital to improve the classroom focus and academic outcome for children from divorced families.

Christopher et.al (2007)

Christopher et.al (2007) focused more specifically on how divorce or marital conflict affects the schooling trajectories. Using a longitudinal dataset from the Baltimore study, the researchers also analyzed if the pre divorce conflict or the post divorce situation cause a direct impact on the academic performance of the child. This they verified by the child’s concurrent academic performance during these stages. Grade retention was the chosen outcome for the study while parental separation was the predicting factor. It was found that almost 115 of the total of 245 cases failed their grades during the study period. When correlated with the time of their parental divorce the researchers found a direct relation suggesting that parental divorce affects academic performance almost immediately. The study also found that grade retention persisted for up to 3 years after divorce suggesting a long period of poor academic performance. This study clearly indicated that children going through a parental divorce have poor classroom focus and are at high risk for grade retention. [Christopher et.al (2007)]

Positive Interventions

Given the disadvantaged status of children from divorced families it is imperative that parents, teachers and educational policy makers focus on this problem and help them better manage themselves as they go through their personal crisis. This would involve a collaborative effort where parents, teachers and educational administrators coordinate to minimize the negative impact of familial divorce and help children achieve resilience and good academic outcome. Establishing a two way communication system wherein both the parents as well as the teachers communicate actively and regularly exchange information pertaining to the Childs home life or school activities is an important step in that process. It is also important that as much as possible both the parents are involved in the academic planning and other school activities. [Kim Leon, 2005]

Conclusion

Divorce is a really distressful event for children as it creates an emotional chasm that could negatively impact their normal behavioral development as well as the academic outcome. Maladaptive behaviors such as internalizing or excessive anger and outrage, antisocial personality and disruptive classroom behaviors are common reactions to parental divorce. Teachers should watch out for students’ loss of focus in the classroom resulting in poor test performance and grade retention and try to understand the family based reasons that might underlie these sudden poor performances. With the increasing number of divorce cases it vital that educational policy makers have a proactive approach to the problem. Establishing a two way communication (parents and teachers) and actively involving the non resident parent also in the educational activities of the child is a step in the right direction. By this coordinated approach schools can better serve children struggling form divorce in their families and help to bridge the gap between them and the children from intact 2 parent families.

Bibliography

1) Robert Hughes, (2009), ‘The Effects of Divorce on Children’, retrieved Mar 9th 2010, from, http://parenting247.org/article.cfm?ContentID=646

2) Paul R Amato, (Nov 2000), ‘The Consequences of Divorce for Adults and Children’, Vol 62, Issue 4, Journal of Marriage and Family

3) Crowder, K., & Teachman, J. (2004). Do residential conditions explain the relationship between living arrangements and adolescent behavior? Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 721-738.

4) Christina E. Eagan (2004), ‘Attachment and Divorce : Family Consequences’, retrieved March 9th 2011, from, http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/eagan.html

5) Mclntosh J, Susie Burke, Nicole Dour & Heather Gridley, (2009), ‘Parenting After Separation’, The Australian Psychological Society, retrieved March 9th 2011, from, http://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/Parenting_separation_PP.pdf

6) McIntosh, J. (2003). Enduring conflict in parental separation: Pathways of impact on child development. Journal of Family Studies, 9, 63–80

7) Gerald R. Adams and Bruce A. Ryan, (2005), ‘Contemporary Issues in Parenting: The Family School Relationships Model: Parental Influences on School Success’, Nova Publishing. Retrieved Mar 9th 2011, from, http://www.uoguelph.ca/~gadams/Theses/Adams-Family-School-Relationship-Model.pdf

8) Kim Leon (Nov 2005), ‘Helping Children Adjust to Divorce : A guide for teachers’, retrieved Mar 9th 2011, from, http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=GH6611

9) Christopher Weiss, Deirdre Bloome & Kathleen Foley(Sep 2007), ‘The Impact of Parental Marital Disruption on Children’s Performance in School’, PAA , retrieved Mar 9th 2011, from, http://paa2008.princeton.edu/download.aspx?submissionId=80142