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Adolescence is a period of turmoil and change for youngsters. During this time in their lives, adolescents experience many difficult events and are showered with all kinds of stresses. Some of these stresses include identity crisis, relationships with family members and friends, and most of all the physical changes that take place. Adolescence is a very trying time and it can be heightened when divorce is an additional problem to be dealt with. Divorce only adds to the turmoil and hardships of adolescence. The effects of a divorce can leave an individual feeling lonely and at fault for the break up of their parents Divorce is a family crisis, which could require a long period for recovery. Along with the turmoil associated with the adolescent stage of life, divorce adds other stresses.
Adolescents are already confronted with numerous changes, including physical changes in the body and social adoptions, that the changes that occur as a result of a divorce could be overwhelming. They are also in the transition stage of separating themselves from their parents and developing into an adult. The adolescent is at the stage of development in which he must separate himself from his parents on order to establish as an adult"(Anderson, p.70). Be in socially accepted is one of the more important aspects of this developmental stage. The development of relationships with friends allows for them to form an identity. The adolescent only accepts his or her identity if, and only if, the society feels that it is correct. Otherwise, they may feel inadequate and isolated from everyone else because the do not fit in with everyone else's standards(Anderson,14) This developmental stage in one's life in conjunction with the effects of a divorce, make the changes much more difficult to overcome and accept. " How an adolescent copes with the problems of a divorce depends upon their emotional health and maturity level,"(Anderson, p.71).
Each individual may react in his or her own way. Some of these reactions can consist of hostility towards family, especially their parents, aggressiveness, and/or depression. They may make sudden choices that they might feel could be the answer to their problem. For instance, constant running away might occur which results in secluding oneself. The behavior of females at this crucial time seems to be more of a disturbance, while the males showed to be more severe. The most negative behavior was seen in the boys, where they would possess an opposition. Females seemed to be more whining and complaint. Males have a tendency to break out in tears at any given time for no apparent reason. McGuire, who studied adolescents and the effects of divorce, concluded that, " boys exhibit more dramatic changes in behavior, characterized by abrupt release of aggressive and destructive feelings,"(McGuire, 125).
Overall, males seem to have a more difficult time adjusting to the change of the family structure after the divorce. In order to make this easier on them the parents should help by maintaining some stability in their life. For instance, staying in the same house, the same neighborhood, and keeping them in the same school. Adolescents also develop mixed emotions and have mood swings, which makes the relationship with their family members difficult to maintain. Males have a difficult time dealing with fact that they are lacking a father figure. They sometimes feel as if they were betrayed and no longer loved by him. This rejection from their father adds to the difficult time for adolescents.
The are continuously wishing for a reunion of their parents. In some cases, harsh feelings and negativity are displayed towards the mother because of the father missing. Females, on the other hand, lean toward their friends as support figures. They try not to allow the divorce to bring them down. " They were happier and also more likely to view the divorce as an improvement to their family situation prior to the separation," (Grossman, p.10). One area, which can be affected greatly by a divorce, is the attitude and performance of an individual in school.
In recent studies, the effect of divorce on school performances has shown that it varies between the different sexes. Their overall attitudes are a feeling of anger and lack of care. Disrespect for teachers, refusal to do work, and not showing up are also seen as a result of a divorce in the lives of adolescents. Parental divorce has also lead to the adolescent performing badly at school. Their overall attitude at school was found to be negative and lacking interest in their studies. GPA's had gone down and schoolwork was no longer a priority for the individual. Again, it varies for each gender. As seen in the reaction to the divorce, the males have a harder time dealing with the divorce, which turns them to not doing well academically.
A study was conducted using females and males from divorced families. It showed that in the first 3 years of the divorce, their GPA drastically dropped. It seemed to have gone lower for the male's cases and not the females. Though, a gradual denomination was concluded for the females. There was an improvement for the females after the fourth year. But, it remained steady for the males with a slight improvement during the last two years.
There was no significant amount of increase in the change after five years following the decrease for the males. This dramatic experience for an adolescent is occasionally worsened with the addiction of drugs and alcohol. This is a way for them to draw attention to themselves. Some would smoke cigarettes or drink, and even worse, some began taking even more serious drugs. Some would even find themselves sneaking alcoholic drinks to class. One case study was done on a girl whose parents were divorced. Following the divorce she possessed an attitude of hatred toward both her parents. She had gone through the entire drug and alcohol scene.
"I started drinking in school, bringing my little container with me. I took liquor from my parents' restaurant. I had a jar of it every morning to get me through the day."(McGuire.p.62). She felt this was the only was for her to cope with her feelings and the events that were taking place. As a result, her grades began to slip and she was boarder line of failing out of school. Unfortunatly, my family had a similar experience as what I've been writing about. I come from a family of six children.
I have three older brothers, one younger brother and the youngest is my sister. I was only 11 years old, when my parents had gotten a divorce. I suppose I was just at the very beginning of my adolescent years, but my older brothers were already at their prime of adolescence. The oldest, John, was 18 and just coming to the end of his adolescence. The second oldest, Gary, was 15 or 16 and he was right in the middle of his adolescence. Mark, my last oldest brother, was 13 or 14, and was at the beginning of his adolescence.
Though, still young, I remember a lot about how my brothers reacted to the divorce because it was not an easy time in my family. Following the divorce my parent's sought counseling for all of us in order to make it an easier process. Unfortunately, this did not seem to help. John, the oldest, decided that he should be the man in the house and so took it upon himself to be the father figure. This did not go over too well with the rest of us. Instead, it caused a lot of fighting. John, feeling betrayed and unimportant by, not only his parent' now, but the rest of us also, went out and found new friends, which he felt made him feel important.
He went into his senior year being one of the top students in his class and turned it around by failing out of school. I guess he felt this would hurt my parents more than himself, but he figured differently after having to attend senior year all over again. Gary, the second oldest, started being a problem child. He would blame my mother for the divorce and began running away from home. He would leave for days at a time and not let anyone of us know where he was. He would sometimes drag my brother Mark with him being he felt he had control over him.
They took up drinking and drugs at the ages of 14 and 16. During this time they hung out with the same crowd, but over a month or so, it changed. They, also, began failing out of school and had not a care in the world for anything or anyone else but themselves. I guess, all of my brother's felt they were all alone without a father figure and went out to search for one. My mother through all of this had to take on three jobs and wasn't around much to see what was going on. I helped out as much as I could with the house chores and caring for my younger siblings, but this began to affect my grades as well. Occasionally, I would have to stay home from school to watch my younger brother or sister if they were too sick to go to school.
My mother could not afford to take off work. When she finally figured out what was happening with my brothers she did something about it. They all had to go and see a counselor weekly and each one of them had to attend the previous school year over again. It took time, but eventually my family came together as a unit and made things a lot easier on everyone. As one can conclude, the time for growing up and making an identity for oneself can be a very challenging process. It is also a time for many stressful days that seem to last a lifetime.
The added stress of divorce leads to even greater problem for the adolescent. The feeling of not belonging to a normal family may cause the adolescent to have more difficult time dealing with the changes that will occur. This added stress and feeling of not being important, makes some adolescents turn to drugs and alcohol, which they feel, will decrease the stress and increase their feelings of importance. This negative reaction allows the individual to cope with all the turmoil they are going through. As parents who are getting divorced, they must make it as easy as possible for their children and try to maintain as much stability in their lives as possible.BibliographyAnderson,Hal,W., Mom and Dad are Divorced, But I am not. Nelson-Hall, Chicago, 1981.Cherlin, Andrew, Divided Families.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge , Maine, 1991Grossman, Tracy Barr, Mothers and Children Facing Divorce. UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan,1986.McGuire, Paula, Putting it Together. Delacorte Press, New York, NY, 1987.http://www.divorce.comhttp://www.facescal.org /http://www.marriagebuilders.com (the author of His and Her needs).
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