Divorce can be a difficult issue for children to deal with. Often times, children who go through the divorce of their parents can suffer adverse effects. Because of the difficulty associated with this traumatic event, many theorists have begun to study what helps children come out of these situations with a positive outcome and what causes children to languish under negative outcomes in other instances. As it turns out, the research is varied, and there is not a unified opinion on the matter. The different opinions offered by authors have helped in some ways to sort out the complexity of the problem, leading to the conclusion and belief that more must be done to better understand how children can be properly supported when their parents are divorcing.
In their writing on the children of divorce, Gately and Schwabel (1991) discuss a new model for understanding why kids have the outcomes they have. The authors begin from the place of trying to understand why some kids end up with better outcomes than other kids. They recognize that among the many millions of kids who have seen their parents divorce over the years, the outcomes can range from very successful to complete disaster with many other outcomes in-between. The authors conducted direct study and examination on the positive outcomes they saw, noting that these good results brought about different sets of factors than the negative outcomes. Their primary point, which they supported with empirical research, was that the outcomes of children in these situations are based upon the challenges they face in the wake of divorce and also the tools they have around them to help deal with these challenges. The authors refer to the moderating effects of a positive system around them, suggesting that when children are given appropriate support, they can overcome more challenges.
The study had a number of strengths that could lead one to suspect that it is both useful and valid. For one, the authors used an empirical method that is designed to better understand the both qualitative and quantitative nature of the issue. On one hand, categorizing challenges has a necessarily quantitative element to it. On the other hand, rating the quality of a person’s support network is a qualitative idea. The authors brought a solid understanding of the challenges they would face, and this allowed them to construct a study that has some legs. In addition, the sample size used by the authors is large enough and relevant. Given that the authors were trying to look at what factors tied together the success stories, they were necessarily focusing on the good. However, they were able to cover a range of young people, including boys, girls, and kids of different backgrounds. The authors studied a mix of rich and poor kids, and of course this was critical because one of the variables in the study was the extent to which a child’s support helped to moderate the effects of the challenges. This necessarily leads to a situation where a child from a more affluent background will fare better because of the existence of more support. The applicability of the work is perhaps the biggest strength of it on its face. One thing that researchers always try to remember when dealing with studies of this nature is that they are trying to fix real problems for real children. These are not issues that are sorted out in the abstract. Rather, real conclusions can have positive effects in young lives. In this case, the study is especially applicable because it provides a picture of what things work within schools, families, and communities. If one were to try to design a system where children could end up with a good result after divorce, this article and its implications would be a good place for that person to start.
Ultimately the authors of this study did a good job of coming up with a new way of thinking about the children of divorce. The challenge model, as they have framed it, has a solid understanding of precisely what happens to children in their daily lives. It is a practical model focused on figuring out and explaining what has led to positives in children’s lives, and it is constructed in such a way that its validity is reliable in this instance.
Brodzinsky, Hitt, and Smith (1993) wrote at length about the way children come out of divorce and what factors might have an influence on how they manage these challenges. The authors take a unique approach—the consider the reality that divorce impacts both traditional families and families where there are adopted children. The authors assumed in the beginning of their work that these categories of children might have different outcomes because of attachment differences and the like, but this does not necessarily get reflected in their work. The authors conducted their own experiment on children coming from intact homes and nonintact homes. They also studied the differences between adoptees and those who were birth children. The authors predictably found in their study that the children from non intact homes showed poorer adjustment during the divorce and separation process. However, the results were largely the same between adopted children and children who were born to their parents. One of the interesting side findings was that stressful events associated with the life change accounted for most of the struggles in children who did not adjust well to the process.
The authors’ methodology does leave a bit to be desired, and could impact the usability of this study. First, they did a good job of going through previous studies to offer implications and set the background for their work. This helped to frame the work they were doing on the topic, and it explained why they felt there was a hole that their work could fill in. However, the issue with their study is that it did not include enough people. The sample size was quite small in nature, with only just more than 100 children involved. Likewise, the age range was quite different. Some kids were six and some were as old as twelve. This can impact the results because there are so many differences between children in that age range. Aside from that, with the age range spanning so many years, it means the sample size gets even smaller. There are only a handful of children in each age group when it is spread that thin. This could lead to some issues with the test, and it means the test needs to be replicated again and again to confirm the results. The authors do an excellent job, it seems, of keeping their work free of bias. There was no political implication or racial bias implicated. In that regard, the results are trustworthy and useful. However there are some issues with the work that could render it less useful than it might have been if the study had been conducted on a wider scale.
In short, it is difficult to complain about the methodology too much, and the premise behind the study is solid. Seeing whether an adopted status is a major indicator of struggle in the wake of divorce is an excellent idea, and the study was done in a way that should provide reliable results. However, the small sample size makes it difficult to draw big, broad implications from this study. In the end, the sample would have needed to be much larger in order for one to look on this study with too much confidence in its ability to reveal larger societal trends.
Schick (2002) set out to study the differences in various indicators between children from divorced homes and those from homes with no divorce. The author uses an experimental method, studying the results of a large number of different young people of varying ages. Importantly, the author came to the conclusion that with a handful of important social indicators, children from divorced homes performed worse than those from intact homes. In particular, the study revealed that in terms of social anxiety and unstable performance in school and social settings, those young people who had been through a divorce performed worse. Perhaps more interesting is the finding that in other areas, including self-esteem and different areas of competence, children of divorced homes and those of non-divorced homes fared about the same.
The study improves upon the methods mentioned in the previous study because it was twice as large. More than 200 children were included. This is an improvement and helps to add to the validity of this study. Still, it would be better if there were more children involved and if the sample size grew bigger, but this is always a concern with any study. As it stands, the sample size is large enough to provide valid results that can be trusted in many ways. The study rests on the idea that one can properly define and identify what is a “clinically significant” change in behavior. This is an amorphous term that may or may not be consistently defined within the field, and that causes some problems for the author. Likewise, because the author of the study does not focus too much on providing an overview or foundation from previous research, it can at times be difficult to understand what the author was suggesting in this regard. Likewise, with qualitative findings playing such an important part in the results, there is always the chance that human error or biases could come into play. The results and their validity depend heavily on the idea that the person in charge of interpreting the data is going to be consistent and apply consistent protocols in the analysis. Not enough is known about the process used by the author to assess whether this is true. One can assume that this is a mostly reliable test, but it could have been improved in certain ways.
The study is solid in many ways, especially in how it uses enough children to get a result that can applied widely. However, it is subject to some issues, especially revolving around the utilization of language that is difficult to nail down. This can cause the study to be less effective and applicable than it could have otherwise been. Still, it addresses an interesting question, and if digested in the right way, it can provide insights into what areas children might struggle in when they are coming out of a divorce of this nature. This is important because it is not enough to simply note that children struggle. It is critical to understand not only why they struggle, but in what areas they struggle specifically.
Lahey et al (1998) conducted an interesting study in which they took a look at the associations between antisocial personality disorder (AD) in parents, conduct disorder (CD) in children, and divorce. They used an empirical method to explore findings by looking at the cases of many different families. They authors found that there is a significant relationship between parents with AD and children who end up with CD. There is also a significant relationship between AD in parents and divorce of those parents. What they found, then, was that children end up with CD mostly because their parents have AD, but not necessarily because of the divorce itself.
The study is most interesting because the author takes on some respected thought in the field. Importantly, the authors are challenging the proposition that there is a correlation between parents divorcing and children ending up with a conduct disorder. The authors use regression analysis to isolate these factors, and find in their analysis that the connection is really between AD and CD, and that AD causes divorce. This means there is correlation between divorce of parents and CD in children, but there is no sign of causation. The authors use the proper methodology to come to this conclusion, taking enough test cases in order to be confident in their results. Overall, the applicability of this study is in question, and this weakens it. It is good to know about these things, but it does not provide much insight on how to help young people who find themselves in these challenging situations.
Ultimately the study is a different kind because of its highly rigorous nature. The math checks out, and the authors use the right kind of analysis to come to their conclusions. The sample size is good enough, too. The only downside of this story is that it leaves readers with a big feeling of “what do we do now?” because the work does not provide many practical applications.
Disney, Weinstein, and Oltmanns (2012) wrote at length about the connection between adult mental illness and the rates of divorce. Importantly, the authors looked a wide range of different mental illnesses, and they considered an experimental method with a range of subjects. They found that people with paranoid and histrionic personality disorder were more likely to get divorced, while those with avoidant disorder were less likely to get divorced.
The findings of the authors are important and applicable. They provide some insight into the types of people who will often end up divorced, and the types of behaviors that are difficult to maintain in a relationship. The methodology used is solid. The authors consider the backlog of studies that have been done on this topic. That is critical for helping the authors understand what the implications of their work happens to be. They do not make many assumptions, which is an important part of the work. In addition, the only real bias is a regional bias. They use subjects from the same place, which could lead to variance in the results. This is a small quibble with the potential of the results, but it is significant in nature. The authors and their work should be valid and reliable, and the findings help the world better understand how mental illness impacts those people around the person who is struggling with the disorder.
Looking at the methodology chosen by the study’s authors, one can see a solid foundation for the results. They take the proper precautions, make the right assumptions, and analyze the data appropriately. They even have self-awareness about the nature of their study and about the applicability of the findings. While the study does have some biases, it is strong and provides good insights that could help mental health practitioners deal with the problems of their clients and children in the future.
- Brodzinsky, D., Hitt, J. C., & Smith, D. (1993). Impact of parental separation and divorce on adopted and nonadopted children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 63(3), 451.
- Disney, K. L., Weinstein, Y., & Oltmanns, T. F. (2012). Personality disorder symptoms are differentially related to divorce frequency. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(6), 959.
- Gately, D. W., & Schwebel, A. I. (1991). The Challenge Model of children’s adjustment to parental divorce: Explaining favorable postdivorce outcomes in children. Journal of Family Psychology, 5(1), 60.
- Lahey, B. B., Hartdagen, S. E., Frick, P. J., McBurnett, K., Connor, R., & Hynd, G. W. (1988). Conduct disorder: Parsing the confounded relation to parental divorce and antisocial personality. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97(3), 334.
- Schick, A. (2002). Behavioral and emotional differences between children of divorce and children from intact families: Clinical significance and mediating processes. Swiss Journal of Psychology/Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Psychologie/Revue Suisse de Psychologie, 61(1), 5.