Chronic parental discord is way more harmful to children when compared to amicable separation. (Source: Getty Images)
By Dr Vinod Kumar
There are certain facts we need to be aware of before embarking on the impact of divorce on children in general. Psychological research and studies have concluded that chronic parental discord is way more harmful to children when compared to amicable separation, albeit these studies have been conducted in the context of western culture. In principle, it holds true for the urban Indian population as well in my view.
To get a perspective on statistics, one out of two marriages in America end up in divorce and every third child in Britain is raised by a single parent. A majority of these children do well psychologically, when factors influencing the long-term psychological outcome were studied the following is noteworthy:
· Negative outcomes are seen where the children are badmouthed about the other parent, children need a sense of love and security from both parents whether they are together or separated.
· If the separation is amicable and handled maturely by the parents the negative impact is manageable.
· Children need clear and consistent living arrangement, boundaries and contact with both the parents.
In practice, we see that divorce usually isn't handled well and there is lot of negativity between the parents regarding the terms of divorce, interference from relatives, etc. As far as possible, children should be kept away from these negative issues.
Divorce and the build up to it is usually a difficult time for parents and they should consider seeking professional help if they are struggling emotionally. Unless the parents are in a healthy place mentally the chances are divorce proceedings and life after divorce isn't handled in a mature and sensible way.
Considering the above discussed factors are not taken care of, the consequences for children can be devastating. We see children with difficulties ranging from minor stress to full-blown depressive illnesses. Unmanaged, this leads to children gravitating towards a decline in their social and academic functioning and falling prey to addictions, etc. If there are emotional difficulties which are severe and persistent then therapy and medications are very helpful.
In the long term, negativities generated from badly handled divorce can have an enduring impact on the child's personality as an adult and their future relationships. The template for forming healthy adult relationships can easily get skewed if the child has to endure a badly managed divorce.
(The writer is Psychiatrist & Head, Mpower - The Centre, Bengaluru.)