Psychological Self-Help

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Important research has also documented that the consequences of
divorce are much longer lasting for children than we originally thought
(A myth: "Oh, they'll get over it in a couple of years"). The long-term
effects include feeling the world and relationships are unsafe and
unreliable, fear of intimacy, poorly controlled anger, depression and
grief, and sexual problems. There are often heretofore unseen
"sleeper" effects, affecting girls more than boys, perhaps, when they
get into early adulthood. Even 10 years or more after the divorce,
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) estimated that 41% of the children of
divorce in their study were still doing poorly --underachieving, tense,
insecure, self-critical, and/or angry. Thus, children of divorce may be
so anxious about love relationships that they will find it hard to create
a lasting family. Although no major problems may have occurred at
the time of the parents' divorce, over ten years later, 66% of young
women, 19 to 23-years-old, became afraid of intimacy with a male,
afraid of betrayal, and/or afraid of losing love. As adults, women
suffered more negative effects from their parents' divorce than men
did. For instance, the divorce rate for children of divorce is 60% higher
for women than for women from intact families! For men it's 35%
higher. This is serious. It seems that divorces often lead to children
with low self-esteem and a high need for love; that combination
frequently results in unwise sex, ill-selected partners, and poor
marriages. 
Young men with divorced parents also feared their girlfriends
wouldn't stay with them if they really got to know them. Moreover,
40% of males, 19 to 23-years-old, ten years after a divorce, had set
no life goals, were drifting in school, and generally lacked self-
direction. This lack of enthusiasm for life is understandable in light of
their family history: 30 to 50% of their parents were still bitter 10
years later, only 14% considered both their parents happily remarried,
60% felt rejected by one parent, and 80% had to deal with a step-
parent. Science is just recognizing that certain problems in adult
children of divorce take years to show up. 
Another "sleeper" effect of divorce occurs in the 15% of children
who become the "caretaker" of a parent during and after the divorce.
Some parents, overwhelmed by depression, bitterness, or mental
illness, turn to their own child for support. The child tries to hold the
parent together and becomes what Wallerstein and Blakeslee call an
"overburdened child." Some eventually become angry because they
are treated unfairly and neglected; some "never had a childhood;"
some feel guilty and a failure. In any case, the burden of excessive
caretaking often increases the child's problems. 
One child out of every three has gone through a divorce. An
astonishing study has found evidence that going though a divorce as a
child may shorten your life by approximately four years (Friedman, et
al., 1994). Another indication of the devastation following the break up
of a family is the fact that 60% of all children getting psychological
treatment are from a divorced family, and 80% of children in a mental
hospital are (of course, psychological-emotional problems, which are
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