Ecological Systems Theory: The Impact of Parental Divorce on Children
Systematic approach is often quite effective in understanding various issues. Among such, psychological issues are often considered as a complex of variables that contribute to the final result. For instance, the divorce of two people is a complicated process that has a considerable impact on the society statistics, families and children in particular. With regard to the multi-facet comprehension of the world around, the impact of the divorce on children cannot be considered as an isolated event. The current paper is aimed at analyzing this problem as the unfavorable change on one level of the primary system that is referred to parenting. However, since the systems are closely interconnected, the change in one leads to changes on some levels of the other system.
Divorce is an acute problem in the US. It is also closely interconnected with the problem of living in a single-parent family. The scholars report that the divorce rates are increasing. Between 40-50% of couples that are married can become divorced. Hence, approximately one million of children become the victims of parents’ divorce yearly (Shaffer & Kipp, 2014). The scholars point to the fact that there are a number of the long-term and short-term impacts on children. Fagan and Churchill (2012) emphasize that it can be a temporary negative influence on the quality of life or become the permanent state of mind and overall living conditions diminishing the future competence of family, school, religion, marketplace and government. In such cases, there can appear troubles related to the sense of masculinity or femininity, further relations with the representatives of the opposite sex, lower social status, and increased number of the negative events in life (Fagan & Churchill, 2014). Primarily, the loss of the emotional connection with a parent, stressful atmosphere, depression and economic hardship can become the results of the divorce that have crucial impact on child’s mind. Anyway, children form the most vulnerable category are influenced by the divorce.
Divorce usually leads to disruption of the parent-child relations and violence of the well-balanced system of the children’s environment. According to Bronfenbrenner’s theory, the development of a child’s worldview, values and behavior is dependent on the system of relationships with the family, community and global environment (Berk, 2000). The microsystem is the layer that is the closest to the child’s inner world. What is important, it has a direct contact with a child practically all the time and has the most rapid and strong impact on the cognitive and emotional processes (Berk, 2000). The examples of the components of the microsystem include family, school peers, teacher, neighborhood, or some other childcare environments. The interaction of a child with this layer is bi-directional. For instance, the parents have a very strong impact on the child’s beliefs and behavior. At the same time, the behavior of a child also has a considerable impact on the actions of the parent. When a child deals with friends and peers, the same mutual influence can also be observed quite easily. It is important to understand that such interaction is common for all levels. The exosystem consists of the community and social system that influences the microsystem (Berk, 2000). For instance, the working hours of a parent are influenced by some organization and indirectly impact the life of a child. The macrosystem is a framework of cultural values, customs, and laws that exist in the society, which influences the exosystem. Finally, chronosystem that comprises the dimension of time is essential for all layers of the child’s environments (Berk, 2000).
While the emotional, cognitive and biological systems are the parts of a child’s him/her self, microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem are the complex parts of the environment that interact with the inner world of a child by inputting information and causing a define style of behavior. The behavior is formed due to interaction between the outer information and personal inner system. It is important to realize that this interaction ensures strong interconnection between the child’s behavior and information he/she gets from the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem. Moreover, the behavior that can be caused by the information obtained from the microsystem will have some definite influence on the other systems. In such a way, the parental divorce as a change in the microsystem will lead to a number of issues related to other systems. For instance, the impacts on the society and a person can include diminished religious practices, decreased incomes and learning capacity, increased crimes rate leading to the governmental expenses, decreased overall well-being, etc. (Fahan & Churchill, 2014).
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The ecosystem theory allows one to understand how the divorce creates a number of undesirable consequences on all levels of the system. It offers a holistic approach to the child’s development and shows the position of the family in a multi-level frame (Krishnan, 2010). Firstly, considering the family as the immediate surroundings of a child, one can understand that all actions and reactions of parents would be analyzed in the child’s mind. It puts emphasis on the individual and environmental factors that are crucial in shaping the child’s personality and cause some definite reactions (Krishnan, 2010). In addition, the complex interaction of the layers reflects how the actions of parents shape the well-being of a child and his/her psychological health.
The bi-directional relations between the systems can influence the problem. Thus, the cronosystem can lead to forgetting some unpleasant events. At the same time, the contribution of the laws (macrosystem) and community (exosystem) can make the divorce less harmful for the child’s microsystem. For instance, making it common to meet with the second parent ensures the remaining emotional connection with the second parent. At the same time, paying the alimonies is the law that should exclude the economic hardship and necessity to change the place of living and friends. Hence, the macrosystem can become useful in avoiding different additional complications and stresses for a child that can aggravate the situation. Finally, ensuring regular communication with the micro-layer representatives appears to be the main task of the treatment complex. Here, making the child less vulnerable to the notion of divorce through communication on the micro-level due to the social norms and values represented in the community can be helpful in decreasing the possible negative consequences of parental divorce.
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The explanation of the impacts of the divorce from the perspective of the above-mentioned theory is quite clear. However, there are some weaknesses in this theory. The main one is its failure to explain how exactly the inner systems function and how different they can be among people. At the same time, the division according to the layers lets one divide the spheres of life according to systems. Still, it does not show any difference in the emotional connection with parents or other representatives of the microsystem. A child can interact with a teacher each day and view him as the part of the immediate surroundings. However, the divorce of this person can hardly lead to the above-mentioned stress. Therefore, the genetical and emotional connections between the family members strengthen the impact on the child’s behavior and should be emphasized as a separate and peculiar part of the microsystem.
To sum it up, the model offered by Bronfenbrenner is quite effective in influencing the perception of the role of parental divorce on children and the representation of the bi-directional relations between different levels, including the primary immediate surroundings and more distant social framework. The parental divorce is an unfavorable change on one level of the primary system. Due to the fact that the systems are closely interconnected, this change leads to some changes on the social and governmental levels. Such complex understanding can be useful in providing effective recommendations to decrease the negative consequences of the problem on all levels.