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THE EFFECTS OF DIVORCE ON YOUNG CHILDREN Divorce is best described as a process of change which extends over time and across a number of areas of family functioning In divorce there are differences in both family processes and in the childrens accommodation to change There is a definite relationship between divorce and some psychological problems among children of divorced families The relationship between divorce and childrens adjustment sparked theories that focus solely on the developmental importance of a healthy family structure There are six basic areas of human functioning that researchers feel are effected by the divorce of a childs parents early in life They are 1 the increased use of mental health services 2 externalizing problems such as delinquency aggression and disobedience 3 internalizing problems including depression anxiety and low self-esteem 4intellectual and academic functioning 5 pro-social skills and 6 functioning during adult life Utilization of Mental Health Services There are at least two broad reasons that the research on the relation between parental divorce and the utilization of mental health services is significant First the use of such services is an important indicator by itself as clinicians have observed that children from divorced families are over-represented in outpatient mental health clinics Second many studies of divorce have focused on clinic-referred children but there are a number of problems in generalizing from such samples Clinic-referred children may be self-selected on variables that cannot be readily identified In addition to problematic child behavior factors such as parental guilt expectancy bias or the stress of single parenting may increase the likelihood of referral to a mental health professional Because of the problems in generalizing from clinic samples it is essential that non-clinic groups be studied Unfortunately most studies of non-clinic samples are also limited because the families were recruited in such a way that it is not possible to draw inferences about the population they represent Fortunately a handful of researchers have conducted
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