Many authors believe the deficits in mothers’ parenting after a divorce is due to their increased depression, anxiety, and stress. Peterson, Emery, and Hetherington in their studies found that many women were more depressed, anxious, angry, and self-doubting after the divorce. However, for many women, these emotional difficulties had improved considerably by the second year after the divorce.
Parental and child adjustment are highly intercorrelated. Amato reviewed studies indicating that when mothers are more distressed, their children become more distressed and tend to have more problems in their relationship with their mothers. Whiteside and Becker found maternal depression was positively associated with behavior problems. When mothers are withdrawn and depressed, children show behavior problems, but when the mother is able to remain warm and emotionally supportive, the children cope better as well. Similar findings are likely for fathers, but data on father-parenting style is limited.
Amato goes on to say that likewise, when children are more distressed and present more behavioral problems, the mother is likely to experience more distress, doubt about the divorce and the family’s well-being, and even anger at the ex-husband for appearing to provoke some of the tension and conflict.
However, research is very clear about one thing. Denigrating the children’s father is one of the biggest mistakes a mother or relative can make. It causes loyalty conflicts, resentment, heightened fears of loss, and fears of rejection as well. Children love their fathers as much as their mothers, and seeing one parent verbally attack the other leads to pressures to choose sides. This is a no-win situation, and many children become angry at the parents for putting them in this situation. For other children, it is easy to see how one parent’s faults led them to be expelled from the family. Children, in seeing that they are like that parent, can quickly assume they could be expelled from the home as well. The comment, “You are just like your father!” is one of the worst things you can say when angry.
When custody questions are raised, some wonder if boys are better off with their fathers, and girls better off with their mothers. Research would support this to some extent, but often the better financial status of the father or step-father confounds this. Clearly, however, research has shown that a family’s higher socio-economic status can prevent or compensate for some of the disruptions that divorce presents. Copied from the web.
Some divorces are followed by remarriages. The research is unclear on whether this improves child adjustment. Some studies have shown that when placed with the opposite sex parent (e.g., boys with their mothers and girls with their fathers), children appear to benefit from a new step-parent of the same sex. Other studies refute this, indicating children of the opposite sex are most benefitted (e.g., girls benefit from a step-father, and boys from a step-mother). Likely, the child’s age, the quality of the parent and step-parent relationship, as well as other factors, combine and contribute. Step-families are discussed later in some detail, however.
Sometimes these remarriages are followed by repeated divorces. Research is unclear on whether this increases children’s adjustment problems. Some research indicates that the multiple moves, multiple losses, and multiple threats to the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent add up and lead to more problems, but not all research support this. In some families, the children may keep their distance from the new partner, and so losing that person does not upset them too much.