Divorce is the act of terminating a marital union between parties and as a result, relieving them their legal duties and responsibilities. Divorce has many different implications that always depend on the type of marriage that bound the parties. For an initially monogamous family, the implication is that each former party is free and may marry another.
Where people practice polygamy, the divorced woman may have another husband, while in an originally polygynous family; the divorce gives the woman a leeway to marry another man. Only the laws of the land, which govern marriage, can determine the legality of divorce in any society. Imagine of a country like Malta or Philippines where authorities do not allow divorce; in such countries, divorce is illegal and thus punishable in the court of law.
In cases where divorce is legal, for example in most European countries, many laws exist to govern its execution. First, the party instigating the divorce needs to prove fault from his/her partner resulting in a break of their marriage ties. If the court accents to the proof put forward by the complainant, the jury, guided by the law, lays down a framework that governs sharing of property.
Regardless of the type of marriage, which bound the divorced parties, the victims experience diverse effects, which may be positive, negative, or a combination of these. This essay focuses on these effects as far as parents, children, and the society are concerned.
The act of a man and a woman separating has varied effects on their psychological health. First, the abandoned party ponders about his/her next move. If the sharing of property accompanies the divorce, the most affected party suffers emotionally because of uncertainties about their future.
On their part, children of the divorced parties may find it difficult choosing on whether to follow their father or mother, while other parents may abandon both their partner and their children during the divorce (Brinig & Douglas, 2000, p.127). This may make the children become social misfits if their colleagues mock them about their family’s situation.
In a divorce case where the only breadwinner, usually the man, abandons the other party together with their children, the abandoned party may have difficulties providing for the family. The fear of the harsh realities, which accompany divorce, sets in and this makes them susceptible to stress, which may advance to depression. Depression has many long-term negative effects to the sufferer’s emotional as well as physical health. These may include delusions, anger flare-ups, and other mental disorders.
Divorce may also have a positive effect on the party advocating for it. This is very true but does not apply to all cases. Brinig and Douglas (2000) observe that, “if the cause of the divorce is unfaithfulness in marriage, the complainant, who may have been undergoing stress all along, may find divorce being a source of relieve” (p.127). This is because he/she no longer worries about the effects of sharing a partner.
The social effects touch on relationship that the affected parties develop towards the larger community surrounding them as well as the reverse. In a case of a man who divorces his wife and the wider community knows about this, “he may have difficulties coping with others more so those who believe that the divorce is a wrongful act” (Rapoport, 2005, p.5).
Close friends may also avoid him on ethical grounds while some of his family members may change their attitudes towards him. Friends and relatives may distance themselves from him or avoid anything associated with him. As a result, he may withdraw from the wider society making his contribution to societal issues to become nil, an action that will cause degradation to the society.
A woman in the same condition also experiences more if not equal negative effect as her male counterpart since women are generally dependent on men. In communities where people consider a divorced woman as an outcast, her family may refuse admitting her back to the family, because doing so would tarnish the family name.
If by sheer luck, the family members admit her back, many people who may be her peers, equally avoid her for fear of the wider community associating them with her. The woman therefore, considered as a failure, feels alienated and as a result withdraws from the wider community. Her services to the community slowly fade and the society loses its key players without anyone noticing.
Children also experience social effects. The root causes and eventual effect of divorce may create an indelible impression in the minds of children. These children carry the memories to their adulthood resulting in violent behaviors. Phillips warns that the children may also grow up hating other men if their minds keep in memory the violent nature of their father that led to the divorce (1991, p.18).
The children may grow to become robbers, drug abusers, or even murderers. Imagine of a society full of individuals with this characters! The potential result is obvious. For school going children who hail from single parent families that result from divorce, social life at school may not be easy.
At times, during arguments with fellow students, oblivious of the negative social impact of divorce may make fun of their family situation. The affected child then finds it difficult coping with fellow students and this may badly affect his/her social life as well as academic performance.
Divorce may also affect parent to child relationship. The affected child may withdraw socially from his/her parents making them lose confidence in the parents. In a case where divorce marks the end of daily arguments or even fights between their parents, some children may find it to be a relief.
This is because the scary violent scenes they may have been seeing all along between their parents would have been a forgotten case; however, this rare situation is true only if the children are able to readjust easily and overcome other effects of the divorce.
In any divorce case that leads to separation of husband and wife, there is need for the sharing of property owned by the family. The way the parties share the property has significant bearing on the financial status of both husband and wife. According to Luscombe, a man who was the breadwinner until the time of divorce may experience a positive change in his financial status after the divorce (2010, p.12A).
This is because all the funds he used to spend on his wife before separation is now wholly available for only his use. On the other hand, the woman who may have been a complete dependant of her partner has trouble as far as her financial status is concerned. This is because she can no longer live the life she used to live.
She has no access to free financial assistance her husband used to give her. However, in countries where strict laws that govern divorce exist for example in the United States, Rapoport observes, “the moment of divorce becomes an opportunity for the less affluent party to make easy wealth” (2005, p. 6).
The law requires that the two parties share their wealth equally regardless of the proportions each party contributed. The less affluent party makes more finances than she/he could have made on her/his own while the more affluent party shares his/her wealth against his/her wishes. This explains why in most divorces involving rich families, the less affluent party files the case.
Some couples under normal circumstances decide to pool their finances in order to get the benefits such as lower tax rates (if one partner greatly surpasses the other in earnings), higher common purchasing power, and assured financial stability. During divorce, this financial status changes since physical separation means that, each party controls his/her own earnings.
The changes in financial status of parents always affect the children. Children who have been learning in high profile schools may be withdrawn and taken to low profile ones. This may affect their academic performance and further low self-esteem if they do not understand the reason behind their withdrawal.
Health matters are also a major issue of concern during divorce. The stress an individual undergoes during divorce greatly affects his/her health. Take for instance, a case where the male counterpart is the breadwinner; after divorce, it is obvious that he will not be supporting his wife. Consequently, the woman may be mentally disturbed as she devises means and ways of making ends meet.
If the efforts she makes prove futile, the stress levels advance. This may further result in negative behavioral effects like refusal to eat. Her health eventually deteriorates resulting in a weak body susceptible to illnesses. Children too, may be victims of negative health effects of divorce.
Amato (1993) argues that, it is common knowledge that children need a lot of energy since most of their time is playtime (p.59). When under stress because of the fears that will accompany their parents’ separation, they equally lose appetite even on their favorite foods. The result is that they will have energy-deficient bodies with high susceptibility to diseases.
Though not so significant, it is also worth to mention that stress causes deterioration of the condition of the mouth. The mouth of an individual affected by stress emits an odour that results from bacterial activity in the mouth. This comes about because of the long periods of stress during which the stressed individual keeps his/her mouth shut.
Stress can also have positive effects on an individual’s health. Take for example where a woman is depressed because her husband beats her up every day, quarrels her and denies her food.
It is obvious that such a woman is not happy under those circumstances and her health is in a bad state. A divorce would give her a better life, free from unjustified beatings, denial of food and frequent quarrels. As a result, her mental and physical health will undergo positive change that will make her a better person than she was before the divorce.
The same case applies to children who are able to overcome the negative effects of divorce by their parents and adjust to a stress free life that would assure them better mental and physical health. Although this may seem impossible, the presence of individuals to guide these children and give them psychological and moral support will make it an obvious possibility.
Unlike in the past where divorce was a taboo, modern society laws that govern it have made it a frequent occurrence. In the past, succeeding in getting a divorce would require that the complainant prove infidelity from his/her partner.
In the modern society however, this is not the case. The law allows an individual to ask for a divorce just at will, meaning that if someone woke up one morning with a plan to divorce his/her partner, they would be certain to succeed since it does not require any prove of infidelity (Phillips, 1991, p. 73).
This has made divorce so rampant that people, including small children, have considered it as part of their lives. Be it in the court, the media or different homesteads, the individuals do not consider it as a big deal but just an option when things between couples do not seem to be all right. This increased rate of divorce has resulted in widespread emotional instability, juvenile delinquency, and crime in society.
Divorce has resulted in poor child development and single parent families, which cause societal deterioration. Taking an example of the American society where divorce is so rampant, Spratling cautions that “young lovers do not take time to know each other but go ahead to marry, oblivious of the challenges ahead” (2009, p.19).
When a time comes that each other’s true character traits are emerging, the couple easily terminates the marriage through divorce.
This has caused widespread single parent families in which children develop flawed characters owing to the fact that only one parent molds their character and their childhood to their present age. This is especially so in single parent families involving only the mother. This in turn has caused widespread deterioration of the society in contemporary times.
Finally, withdrawal of stressed victims of divorce affects the overall economic state of the society. Consider an individual whom, through participation in matters that benefit the society contribute towards its growth. If this individual withdraws from societal affairs because of alienation, the society would miss his /her services, and this would result in gradual degradation of the society, however small his/her contribution is.
Divorce unlike in the past where one had to prove fidelity to get it, is a common occurrence in the modern society. The nature of the law in the modern society is such that it allows couples to divorce at any time of their wish without the need prove fidelity. This has led to many negative and few positive effects on the society; ever-increasing divorce rates and destructive activities associated with victims of divorce for example drug abuse; robbery and violence.
It is also vivid that the effects of divorce on the parents, children, and society from all dimensions of life are quite undesirable and unwelcome in a society with conscious minded people. Therefore, it is high time that individuals and concerned organizations made efforts aimed at preserving the sanctity of marriage because if they left the ever-increasing rates of divorce to chance, the society would undergo a major deterioration.
Amato, P. (1993). “Children’s adjustment to divorce: Theories, hypotheses, and
Empirical support.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55, 54-68.
Brinig, M., & Douglas, W. (2000). “These Boots Are Made for Walking: Why Most
Divorce Filers are Women.” American Law and Economics Review, 2(1): 126-129.
Luscombe, B. (2010). “Divorcing by the Numbers”. New York Times, pp. 12A.
Phillips, R. (1991). Untying the knot: a short history of divorce. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Print.
Rapoport, Y. (2005). Marriage, Money and Divorce in Medieval Islamic Society. USA Cambridge University Press.
Spratling, C. (2009). Blended families can overcome daunting odds. Burlington, Vermont: Burlington Free Press.