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Divorce has been quite common in recent years, reaching a high in industrialized countries such as America in the 1980s (Czapiewski, 2014). Czapiewski further claims that 3.6 of every 6.8 marriages in every 1,000 persons in 2011 ended in divorce. His data confirm that the divorce rate has remained stable since its peak. Similarly, Reiter et al. (2013) observe that divorce is common today, with around 50% of marriages ending in divorce. According to Czapiewski (2014), children are involved in 40% of the 50% of divorces that occur today. As a result of this, many children are subjected to blended families and single parenting (Reiter et al., 2013). Thus, many children are exposed to the parental separation that is characterized with adverse consequences because of divorce. Based on Reiter et al. and Czapiewski’ arguments, a person can conclude that childhood trauma as a result of divorce is very rampant and common in the current society and needs immediate and efficient interventions.
Effects of Childhood Trauma from Divorce
Some research claims that the consequences of divorce on minors are not entirely negative when the affected individuals replace conflict families with harmonious ones (Reiter et al., 2013). However, the detrimental effects of divorce bypass its positive contributions to the affected children. Trauma caused by separation results in complications of development in the concerned children. According to Czapiewski, children who suffer from loss of attachment with parents often experience difficulties in regulating their feelings in addition to developing attention problems. Such children also present low self-esteem because of the negative attitude they develop about themselves. Furthermore, children suffering from divorce trauma become insecure and have difficult times relating with other people (Czapiewski, 2014). All these effects are attributed to the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression that develop in children exposed to trauma.
In tandem with the argument presented above, trauma caused by divorce also contributes to mental disorders. Many research shows that there is great correlating between domestic violence and occurrence of mental illness. According to the findings, the stress associated with loss of parental-touch augments the occurrence of psychiatric problems (Moffitt, 2012). As it was noted above, childhood victimization is related to anxiety disorders, substance-use disorders as well as mood disorders, and behavior disorders which are some of the symptoms of psychiatric problems.
Excessive stress due to divorce can result in biological alterations responsible for ill health and occurrence of diseases such as heart disease, immune diseases, and dementia. In support of this claim, Moffitt (2012) argues that the innate immune system of the affected children develops responses involving blood cells and blood vessels, facilitating the occurrence of diseases such diabetes and dementia. Moreover, he argues that exposure to stress in early life impairs with the proper functioning of an individual’s immune system. Thus, childhood trauma from divorce causes abnormal functioning of the immune system.
The impacts of childhood trauma often extend into adulthood. According to some research, the response of a child’s brain to trauma continues being a delay throughout the development process. Adults who experienced trauma when they were children present not only a reduced response to stress but also depressed cortisol responses (Dierling, 2015). It is due to this that a significant percentage of adults who experienced trauma from divorce suffer from mental problems (Reiter et al., 2013).
Behaviors Demonstrated by Affected Children
Divorce trauma results in behavioral problems in children (Czapiewski, 2014). The majority of the children exposed to parental divorce presents insecure attachment patterns. They tend to avoid parents who contribute insignificantly in their life. The majority of these children behave this way because of the difficulties they experience in relating with their parents. Some children also express the loss of family sense since they avoid sharing special occasions such as joys and sorrows with their parents. Equally, they avoid friends and members of the community because of their poor understanding of the sense of community (Czapiewski, 2014).
As a way of coping with the situation, many children engage in deviant behaviors like consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, and other hard drugs. According to Czapiewski, increase in such behaviors among the affected children is attributed to the loss of their emotional well-being. Equally, children are grieving the loss of a parental touch often present anxiety, anger in addition to internalizing and externalizing disorders. Apart from being aggressive, they attempt to commit suicide as one way of dealing with their low self-esteem (Czapiewski, 2014). In fact, it is argued that the suicide attempts by children exposed to parental divorce rose from 2 to 5 fold recently (Dierling, 2015). Some kids also perform poorly at school because of trauma caused by parental divorce.
Interventions for Trauma
Interventions for trauma are very many, and they are believed to contribute significantly to the management of the problem. However, the study will expound on “Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” which is based on science and “Skills Training in Affect and Interpersonal Regulation/Narrative storytelling,” which is not based on science. These interventions have proved successful in managing children suffering from trauma.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also referred to as TF-CBT is a blend of cognitive behavioral therapy with receptive interventions. TF-CBT is considered the right intervention for children aged between 3 and 18 years who have been exposed to non-caregiver trauma such as parental divorce. The intervention is influenced by learning as well as cognitive theories (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2012). Apart from addressing distorted beliefs, TF-CBT provides an accommodating environment to the affected children. The main components of this intervention include establishing as well as maintaining an active therapeutic relationship with the children. TF-CBT objects to regulate the negative emotions in addition to behavioral responses to their source of stress. It also aims at shifting maladaptive beliefs besides providing support to parents. TC-CBT is associated with about 12 sessions that cover between 50 and 90 minutes. In addition to using individual counseling approach, TF-CBT includes caregiver sessions (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2012). The intervention is claimed to be very effective; it reduces symptoms of depression as well as PTSD and problems with managing their behaviors.
“Skills Training in Affect and Interpersonal Regulation/Narrative Story-Telling” also referred to as STAIR/NST is associated with reducing symptoms of trauma such PTSD in addition to boosting certain social and emotional feelings that are triggered by a traumatic experience. STAIR/NST is considered to be the best intervention for young girls aged between 12 and 21, who suffer from trauma (Dierling, 2015). The components of this intervention include skill training and building of emotional competency besides incorporation of narrative story-telling to determine the effect of trauma. STAIR-NST intervention results in a decrease of dissociation, PTSD signs as well as depression. Participants of this intervention also show improvement in not only emotion regulation but also in social skills (Dierling, 2015).
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2012). Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Children Affected by Sexual Abuse or Trauma. Children’s Bureau.
Czapiewski, S. (2014). Loss of the Parent-Child Relationship after Divorce: Does Custodial Arrangement Matter? Master of Social Work Clinical Research Papers.
Dierling, E. (2015). Effects of Childhood Trauma on Students: The Role of School Counselors. Retrieved on August 19, 2017 from https://www.winona.edu/counseloreducation/Media/Childhood%20Trauma.pdf
Moffitt, T. (2012). Childhood Exposure to Violence and Lifelong Health: Clinical Intervention Science and Stress Biology Research Join Forces. Dev Psychopathol.
Reiter, S. et al. (2013). Impact of divorce and loss of parental contact on health complaints among adolescents. Journal of Public Health.
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