Divorce affects family members in various ways, both positive and negative. While many children can foster healthy relationships after their parents’ divorce, some may experience challenges maintaining future relationships.
A scholarly article by University of Pennsylvania’s Sophia Chae; Divorce, Remarriage, and Children’s Outcomes in Rural Malawi; found that overall, children from divorced marriages have poorer outcomes than those who have suffered a parental death.
The research further notes that this continues into adulthood as children of divorced parents continue to have poorer outcomes, as measured by education, occupational status, happiness and adjustment.
In her research paper, Chae identifies that divorce generally has a deleterious effect on children’s outcome and that the consequences are long-lasting, extending into adulthood.
Quoting Proverbs 22 verse 6 which says train a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not turn from it, Mount Pleasant CCAP moderator, The Reverend Baxton Maulidi points out that children usually learn things from their parents as they grow, which is why divorce is not good in children’s upbringing.
“The Bible stresses that the child should be trained at a tender age how they should conduct themselves. Where parents are divorced, a child grows up knowing that the parents are separated; and if, for example, the father does not re-marry, the life he lives will not be exemplary to the child.
“He might go out drinking, bringing home different women. The same way, the mother might bring various men to the house. This will have a psychological effect on the child as he will start thinking that such is the way of life,” he observes, adding that such a child will not exactly mind living single when he or she grows up.
He advises that when a child is young, it is important to train them in the way they are expected to live when they grow up. Most important, the man of the collar suggests that parents should practice the kind of life they would like the children to live when they grow up.
He says this is so because a lot of times, children observe what is going on in the home and that is what they live with. If there is no love in the home, they also grow up loveless.
Concurring with Maulidi, s o c i o l o g i s t C h a r l e s Chilimampunga says children need guidance from both parents and that in the absence of either parents, it would help to have a male or female figure that stands in, depending on whether the absent parent is a mother or a father.
“Children learn from their parents, and if one of them is absent, it is difficult for them to. Unless an uncle is available as a father figure for a boy child, or an aunt for a girl child, they will not learn,” he says.
He observes that it is important for people to remain married for the sake of the children, but where they cannot stay together as a couple, the children still need to be supported, they need attention.
“There is need to support such children. So even in villages it is important that they have surrogate fathers or mothers to learn from,” he says adding that parental divorce can even affects children’s performance in school.
On the other hand, Blantyre-based Andrew Kavala believes the effects depend on how old the children are, when the parents divorce.
“Children will be disturbed if the parents divorce when they grow older; and if not handled well, they grow up bitter with life. However, if it happens earlier in their lives, like when they are two years or younger, they grow up thinking it is normal to have one parent,” he says.
He further adds that the first five years shape the life of any child.
“If a child sees his mother and father fighting, it has a lasting influence on the child’s growth and upbringing,” says Kavala. n