The Impact of Divorce on Women

Introduction

This research was undertaken to evaluate women’s experiences with stress during the divorce process. As Polomeno (2007) has noted, “Divorce is considered as one of life’s most potent stressors,” (p. 18). Indeed divorce has been shown to immensely contribute to traumatic experiences for both of the spouses, and especially the women. This is because they have to put up with such stressors as employment concerns (in a bid to enhance their income), financial instability, as well as child custody. For a majority of the women who are faced with a divorce situation, the ensuing interaction with either the social support services or the legal system proves to be a daunting task (van Schalwyk 2005).

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First time marriages are faced with a divorce rate of 45 percent in the United States, and this is an indication that the women so affected shall have to endure with the potential stressors that accompanies this painful experience. There are also negative psychological and mental conditions that are often linked with divorce, and which have been linked to such illnesses as ulcers, migraines and a host of other chronic conditions (Sakraida 2005). Furthermore, empirical evidence provides that some forms of cancer and heart diseases are either triggered or worsened by stressful conditions that emanates from the painful experience of a divorce process.

In light of this, the purpose of his study is to assess the level to which stressors of divorce impacts on the health and wellness of divorced women. This is aimed at shedding light on the issue of therapeutic treatment and support to the divorced women. It is therefore the intention of this research study to explore the experiences of divorced women, with a view to assessing the level to which their problems are in line with what is available in literature.

According to Sakraida (2005) demographic factors have also been shown to impact on the way in which women experience divorce. The author has documented that women who undergoes through a divorce in their middle-age often undergoes a more humiliating experience that does younger women.

It is therefore the intention of this research study to explore this issue, and establish from the respondents of the study’s research questionnaire whether their responses are in line with the observations by Sakraida (2005). Available literature also indicates that those women who are divorced and have children were faced with a higher rate of income inequality that their counterparts who are without children. They are often faced with increased difficulties when it comes to repaying their debts, because their financial obligations are more. This research study therefore intends to examine the level of difficulty that divorced women normally encounters when it comes to the issue of accessing credit from financial institutions, or paying former debts.

On the other hand, Duffy and others (2002), through a research study that had divorced women as the respondents found out that for these women, employment was somewhat of a positive experience to them, and it acted as a form of buffer to a number of stressful transitions that usually accompanies the dissolution of a marriage. From this perspective, this researcher wishes to find out from the respondents of the study whether there is an association between on the one hand, the work identity of the divorced women interviewed and on the other hand, their self-esteem levels.

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There is a need therefore to formulate a questionnaire that shall be utilized in the collection of the necessary research information for purposes of obtaining the research findings. Towards this end, a quantitative research design is viewed as the most ideal methodology that would assist in the interpretation of the research questionnaires. Moreover, the quantitative research design would enable the researcher to compare the findings of this research study with other related studies, through the use of a descriptive questionnaire. In this case, the target population shall be those women who have undergone through a divorce experience, and are either receiving professional counselling to overcome the problem, or are attending medical centres to seek for help on the same,. In addition, the respondents for the study’s questionnaire shall also come from the referrals by medical counsellors that this research wishes to contact.

Methodology

According to Panneerservam (2004), research methodology is “A system of models, procedures and techniques used to find the results of a research problem” (p. 2.). From the provided definition, there is quite a number of statistical methods that are often applied within a particular research. In this case, hypothesis testing and sampling techniques were some of the methods that this research study sought to employ.

Design

According to Creswell (2008), a research design is a framework for collecting and utilizing sets of data that aims to produce logical and appropriate findings with great accuracy, and that aims to adequately and reasonably rest a research hypothesis. As mentioned in the introduction, a quantitative study was conducted. This permits the research to meet its objectives by comparing, analysing, evaluating, and measuring the stressors on divorced women.

This study utilized a descriptive research approach to accurately describe the variables that were under examination, and determine the degree through which the variables could be related (Malhotra 1993).

As Kumar (2000) notes, exploratory research is undertaken when a researcher is seeking insights into the broad nature of the problem, the possible substitutes, and the appropriate variables that need to be evaluated. Casual research is undertaken when the objectives of the research are to understand the causal–effect variables and their effects on a phenomenon. Causal research also involves determining the nature of the association between causative agents and the effects of a phenomenon. This study is basically a descriptive study since it is aimed at assessing women’s experiences with stress during the divorce process.

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Procedures

Data Requirements

The data collected for this study was limited to the experiences that women go through during their various process stages of a divorce.

Research instruments

Questionnaire

Creswell (2008) opines that the best method to minimise the measurement error is to “use a good [research] instrument” (p. 394). Therefore, one of the research instrument used in this study is an open ended questionnaire. The use of open ended questions will enable individuals to express their views freely without having any limitations (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison 2002) based on their “cultural and social experiences” (Creswell 2008, p. 399).

Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2002 p. 255) furthermore states that “closed and open ended questions can catch the authenticity, richness, depth of response, honesty and candour which is […] the hallmarks of quantitative data”. In order therefore to assess the experiences that women goes through during a divorce process, the most appropriate method of data collection is by using an open-ended questionnaire and key informant interview.

The questionnaire was to be administered personally. According to Creswell (2008), personal administration has the obvious advantage of making the respondent understand the questions and concepts involved. Personal administration also gives a respondent the opportunity to ask for clarifications. Personal administration also yields the lowest refusal rate among respondents. It also allows for detailed, longer, and more complicated interviews to be undertaken (Lee & Johnson 1999).

Key Informant Interview

This researcher realised early in the initial processes of this research study that the use of a semi-structured questionnaire alone would not yield the most desirable results fro this research study. It was therefore deemed appropriate that a key informant interview should also be included as a form of data collection. According to Cohen, Manion, and Morrison (2002), individuals have different significations to the same question given in the questionnaire.

It is therefore important to offer an interview to dig deeper into the subject. In addition, an interview is the most appropriate method used to obtain respondents beliefs and attitudes, according to Cohen, Manion and Morrison. According to Knight (2002), face to face inquiry presents a possibility to change the direction of the interview by probing to accommodate new comments and insights made by the participants (p. 50).

Sampling

According to Creswell (2008), sampling is one element of the statistical practice that concern itself with the selection of unique observations that are anticipated to surrender some knowledge about a population in question, specifically for the purposes of forming some statistical inference. Before primary research is conducted, a researcher must be clear about the category of respondents that is seeks to interview. In most instances, it is virtually impossible for a researcher to interview the whole population to get their views and opinions about a research question as this would be unfeasible and costly. In that respect, a representative sample of the population was taken to assist in conducting the research.

The population for this study included U. S. women who were going through a divorce process. These were sourced from referrals, counselling centres, and medical centres. Towards this end, the researcher saw it necessary to initiate a probability sampling method, seeing that the respondents were chosen based on some form of random selection. According to Creswell (2008), probability sampling ensures that the different units in the research population have the same probabilities of being selected. Following a successful calculation of the required sampling size, systematic sampling technique was employed for the purposes of collecting data for the study.

This sampling ensures that each individual in the population has an equal and known possibility of been selected to participate in the research (Creswell 2008). However, any researcher using systematic random sampling must first ensure that chosen sampling interval in a population does not conceal any pattern as this would threaten the randomness of a sample.

There is homogeneity for the women who are undergoing through a divorce process in the U.S in terms of race, age, cultural orientation and religion, amongst other issues (Rotterman 2007). For this reason therefore, it become possible to utilise a systematic sampling for the study of the study’s respondents who may be uniformly distribution over the population. For this reason, the researcher ensured that every 10th woman who was undergoing through a divorce process entering a counselling. Medical or referral centre of choice was selected to take part in this particular research study.

Questionnaire design

The questionnaire developed for this research was a self completed research tool. Most of the questions included in the study questionnaire were closed-ended thereby implying that the questionnaire was highly structured. Only several open-ended questions were used in the whole questionnaire. According to Leung (2007), factual data is best collected using questionnaires and thus appropriate questionnaire design is crucial in making sure research questions elicits valid responses.

The questionnaire developed for this research mainly recorded the experiences of women during a divorce process. Specifically, the study sought to investigate whether such women are often faced with financial insecurity, issues of child custody, the relationship that they have with the legal system and social services, the perception that the society has of them, and their methods of coping with the consequences of divorce, amongst others.

Measures

Process

Prior to the actual administering of the research questionnaire to the study respondents, it was deemed necessary by the researcher that the questionnaire be pre-tested., in this case, a smaller sample size of respondents who proposed similar characteristics to the actual respondents were identified, and they were issued with the questionnaire to fill-out. Pre-testing of a questionnaire is very important, as it forms the basis for editing, the correction of grammatical errors, seeking the relevancy and understand-ability of individual questions, and also to assess the time taken to complete a questionnaire (Panneerselvam 2004).

Attrition in a research study often ends up reducing the accuracy of research findings, and it is therefore important that researchers are able to reduce it (Panneerselvam 2004). In this case, the researcher attempted to offer incentives to the research participants at two levels. First, it was explained to the participants by the researcher that by taking part in the study through the filling-out of the researcher questionnaire, this was both a research as well as a therapeutic experience.

Secondly, the participation in this research study was also free. Moreover, the researcher also made extensive efforts to retain all the participants to the study. This was made possible by way of ensuring that the participant’s flexibility in terms of time was respected. In addition, the researcher also ensured that all; the participants had access to the incentives offered without any form of biasness.

Data collection

The reliability of any research study will greatly be influenced by the level of quality of data collected by such a study. As such, it is possible to express data quality with respect to reality representative features. This is made possible thanks to the application of a method of data collection that best fits the study in question. This study was concentrated within the area of Mills District in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In this case, two counselling centres and two medical centres were identified, for purposes of providing the necessary respondents to the research study. In addition, participants were also sourced from referrals by identified divorce counsellors. A sample of 120 respondents was selected to respond to the questionnaires. A more comprehensive study would have shed more light on the experiences of stress that women go through during the divorce process.

The questionnaire was physically distributed by the researcher and the two assistants to the target population. They were then given a period of three days to complete it, after which they were to mail it to the researcher. In this case, the respondents were also issued with postage stamps. This was fund to be a more effective method of data collection, as opposed to having the researcher and the assistants going round collecting the filled-out questionnaires. First, the geographical distribution of the respondents proved to be quite uneven, as the geographical statistics indicated. Secondly, it was found to be cost effective in the long-run to adopt this method, both from the perspective of saving on time and finances.

The study respondents filled-out the self-administered questionnaire without the assistance of the interviewer. A self-administered interview has the advantage of eliminating a possible bias by the interviewer. On the other hand, there is also the risk that the respondents could also presume a number of irrelevant responses to several study questions, and which they (respondents) tend to possess limited knowledge about.

Data editing

Of the 120 returned questionnaires, 2 were discarded since they had been partially completed. For the remaining 118 questionnaires, data cleaning and editing was undertaken to ensure that the data received was of very high quality. This is a general prerequisite for any research undertaking.

Data analysis

  • Hypothesis one
    • Divorced women are faced with more financial problems than when they were married
  • Hypothesis two:
    • The rate of anxiety, depression and substance abuse amongst divorced women is higher than that of married women.
  • Hypothesis three:
    • The legal system of divorce that women go through usually generates or exacerbates emotional and psychological stresses.

H0 1: the financial problems facing divorced women are not significantly different from those of the married women

HA 1: there is a significant difference in terms of the level of financial problems faced by divorced women on the one hand, and the married women on the other hand.

H0 2: the difference in the rate of anxiety, depression and substance abuse amongst divorced women is not significant with that of married women.

HA 2: The differences in the rate of anxiety, depression and substance abuse amongst divorced women and their married counterparts varies significantly.

H0 3: The legal system of divorce usually exacerbates the emotional and psychological stresses of women.

HA 3: Legal system of divorce does not cause significant emotional and psychological stresses to women undergoing through a divorce process.

Assumption and limitations of the study

One of the assumptions that this research study explored is that the experience of stress during the divorce process is greater for women than men. The argument for such an assumption is that women often have to encounter a taxing legal system in their quest to gain custody of their children against their former spouses. In addition, women generally tend to earn less than men and this may be an added source of stress during divorce, because they have to supplement heir income to cater for their own welfare and that of their children. Moreover, this research study also made the assumption that the data collected from the study’s respondent was accurate, and as such, it was a representation of the views of the larger population of women undergoing through the process of divorce.

On the whole, the process of divorce is a painful one and the stress factors that often accompanies it results into either the development of new health problems amongst women, or an exacerbation of pre-existing health conditions (Turner 2006). Another assumption that this research study came up with is that reaching an ‘amicable’ solution through divorce may help to reduce the painful experiences of the process to the women who fall victim to it.

The phenomenon under investigation by this study is very extensive and therefore limitations were experienced in designing the questionnaire questions to limit themselves to the experiences of women during the divorce process. Time was also limiting factor to the conduction of this particular research study, and this researcher is of the opinion that an exhaustive research assessment could not be achieved within the stipulated time of study.

Then there is the issue of research assessment cost, and the budgetary allocation to this project was another limitation. Besides, the limited budget also means that the questionnaires that were administered were also be lesser. More questionnaire respondents mean that chances of arriving at more conclusive research finding are also high.

Results and discussion

Introduction

This research study realised an attrition rate of 11 percent. This means that out of the 120 respondents that had been anticipated at the start of the study, only 97 of them actually took part in it. The demographic information of the respondents was such that they had an average age of 32 years. Most of the respondents were employed (whether part-time or full-time) but there was also a group of home-makers. The mean average years of marriage for the study’s respondents were 13.4 years. In addition, the marriage duration for these respondents was between six months and 34 years.

On the other hand, the mean average number of children for each one of the respondents was recorded as 1.8 children. In terms of range, it was between 0 and 6 children. Nevertheless, there were 12 women out of the 90 respondents who were childless. In terms of work, 28 women responded that they were employed full-time, while 40 of them were employed part-time. The rest were unemployed. In terms of their level of education, this ranged from high school diploma, all the way to those respondents who had a master’s degree.

With regard to divorce stressors, a majority of the respondents (84 percent) concurred that financial stress was the main handicap that they had to overcome, followed by the need to increase their earnings (73 percent) in order to take care of their children. 60 percent of the respondents affirmed that they were dependants of the medical insurance cover of their estranged husbands. In addition, more than half of the respondents (53 percent) said that they had either since moved their children to less-expensive schools after the start of the divorce process, or they were already contemplating doing so.

Further, close to two thirds of the divorced women interviewed (65 percent) confirmed that they had the custody of their children, and of these, almost a similar number (63 percent) confessed that they had problems with their estranged husbands taking care of the children in their custody. Slightly above half of the women who responded to the research survey (56 percent) cited irregularities within the legal system as a source of frustration during the divorce process, more than even physical and psychological issues (47 percent). It was the view of this group of respondents that the justice system did not apply equally to both men and women; in as far as matters of divorce are concerned.

On the other hand, divorce counsellors who were interviewed by this researcher revelled that most of the women patients who were either undergoing through a divorce process, or had already witnessed a complete dissolution of their marriage, presented with ailments that were a manifestation of long-term depression. In addition, there are a few counsellors who confirmed that prior to divorce, patients who had underlying mild medical conditions had seen these get worse as the divorce process progressed.

Additionally, it was also the feeling of the counsellors that a premarital agreement reached by both couples prior to marriage could very well alleviate a majority of the problems that often accompanies this process. The counsellors further cited mediation, coupled with timely counselling sessions for the divorced women as vital in containing and reducing the agony and misery that divorce brings with it.

Review of literature from chapter 1

The issue of divorce has become quite prevalent in the United States for the last couple of years. According to a recent report on divorce that was released by Polomeno (2007), the researcher revealed that nearly 45 percent of all first time marriages in the United States are now ending up in a divorce. On the face of it , one may take it that this should be reason enough for us to get worried yet, the level of trauma that the two parties goes through, and more so for the women, should be the real cause of worry here. This is because women are often afflicted with a lot of stressors in the form of employment concerns, financial instability and the right for child custody, amongst others.

In addition, the interaction that the women have with the legal system in their quest to settle the divorce process, along with the social support services relationships are a clear testimony that the divorce process itself is especially a painful experience for the women. There is now enough evidence that links the emotional wellbeing of divorced women to the stressors that women are often faced with during the divorce process. Consequently, women who are either divorced already, or are undergoing through a divorce process have been reported to experience higher rates of anxiety, depression and substance abuse, in comparison with women who are in marriages (Schmidt et al 2004).

The level of happiness for such women has also been seen to be lower than that of the married women. Little wonder then that Polomeno should rightly observe that “Divorce is considered as one of life’s most potent stressors,” (Polomeno, 2007, p. 18).

There is a wide range of health complications that have been linked with divorce-induced stress, such as ulcers, migraines, and a wised host of mental health conditions. Combined or singly, these negative psychological and mental conditions often ends up taking the toll on the victims, with the result that they may even end up either triggering or exacerbating pre-existing health conditions, such as heart diseases (Rotterman 2007).

Perhaps what even complicates matters in the case of a divorce is the fact that often times, it involves a re-alignment of the live of an individual, with a majority of these having either to re-marry, or adjust their lives accordingly, in line with the developments. For example, a mother, now finding herself single again and with children to take care of, may be forced to start searching for employment to sustain the livelihoods of her children. Such a situation becomes even more painful in case such a woman was previously a homemaker and as such, has not been in the job market.

The activity of searching for a job, let alone even finding a suitable employer, is already a daunting task. Add to that the level of financial stability that such a woman may be in, such as the inability to repay debt, and you have the level of stress that they encounter going even higher.

There is evidence by a number of researchers that a divorce could be a source of happiness to a number of individual, who may have been putting up with an abusive relationship (for example, (Howard, O’Neill & Travers, 2006; Karasu, 2007). Nevertheless, a majority of the literature indicates that the idea of a divorcee of trying to establish a romantic and healthy relationship, or even going out on a date with another individual, is already a source of burden to the baggage that say, a divorced woman could be bearing at the moment (Dykstra & Fokkema, 2007; Karasu, 2007; Gardner & Oswald, 2006; Baum, 2004).

Furthermore, divorced women also have to contend with the rising social-cultural forces that often perceives divorce as a failure to sustain the marriage institution, with the result that the ensuing relationships of such a woman with the family, friends and even social groups could now turn quite strained (Blow & Daniel, 2002; Cohen & Savaya, 2003; Kung, Hung & Chan, 2004; van Schalkwyk, 2005; Turner, 2006). In spite of all the aforementioned forms of stresses that usually accompany a divorce the most stressful of these would perhaps be that coming from the legal system, and the associated experiences that the women have to go through.

Often times, a divorce process through the legal system is rarely a pleasant experience, not least because the issues of property distribution, equitable treatment perceptions and a possible conflict with regard to the custody of the children have been shown to immensely contribute towards a majority of the short-term stressors that the woman has to endured (Barrett, 2002; Blow & Daniel, 2002; Engle & Holiman, 2002; Martin, Reynolds & Keith, 2002; Kielty, 2005; Ocana, Chamberlain & Carlson, 2005; Karasu, 2007; Rettig, 2007; Wilson, 2008). There is also evidence to suggest that such stressors could as well turn into long-term painful experiences that poses a danger to the health of the divorced woman.

Demographic factors such as race, age and ethnicity have been shown to have a bearing on the issue of divorce (Dykstra & Fokkema 2007). For example, according to some 2002 statistics by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), black women in the United States were shown to experience divorce rate of about 47 percent, following 10 years of their first marriage.

On the other hand, Hispanic women had a divorce rate of 34 percent, white women come third with a 32 percentage rate, while women of Asian origin were more likely to outlast 10 years of marriage, and they had a divorce rate of 20 percent. In addition, the age at which women first enters into marriage impacts greatly on the observed rate of divorce. For example, divorce rates have been shown to be higher for women who first get married before their 18th birthday. Statistics shows that these have a 48 percent chance of filing a divorce within 10 years of marriage.

On the other hand, women who often gets marriage pats 25 years have been shown to record a lower rate of divorce after 10 years of marriage, at 24 percent (Bramlett & Mosher, 2002, p. 17). Moreover, demographic factors have also been associated with the way that women usually experience divorce, as Sakraida (2005) has noted. The author contends that in case of a middle-aged woman, the divorce experience is usually accompanied by greater levels of intensity and struggle, than the case with younger women. In addition, such older women have been shown to go through prolonged and elevated levels of depression, loneliness and anxiety, in comparison with their divorced younger counterparts.

Wilson (2008) has especially singled out older women as the prime candidates for tax laws-related stress, at a time when they are undergoing a divorce process late in life. There is also a variation with respect to psychosocial profiles experiences by women from various races. For example, according to a study that was carried out by McKenry and McKelvey’s (2003), it was revealed that White mothers were more likely to report progresses in their happiness, economic-wellbeing and self-esteem, informal support and depression level after a period of five years following a divorce. On the other hand, the report also indicates that mothers from the Black community were likely to exhibit a lesser satisfaction of the aforementioned issues within a similar period.

What these findings appear to suggest is that the psychosocial wellbeing and stress levels that women from diverse background experience shall often be similar. Furthermore, there is a compelling evidence to suggest that divorced women with children usually make up one of the most disadvantaged groups of the population, from an economic perspective. (Seto, Cornelius, Goldschmidt, Morimoto & Day, 2005).

Similar sentiments have also been echoed by Yamokoski and Keister (2006), who opines that income inequalities are somewhat gender-related, bearing in mind that single mothers appears to be more disadvantaged financially, relative to single fathers. According to Yamokoski and Keister (2006), Mothers who have been divorced “fare the worst in estimates of median net worth,” with the result that their cumulative accumulation of wealth receiving a bottom ranking.

Additionally, the income gap of working mothers from the United States, when compared with that of their counterparts form Western Europe, is less (Cohen & Savaya 2003). Consequently, when the working mothers eventually get a divorce, this is bound to impact heavily on their financial status.

Researchers are of the view that there is a need for the United States government to face this problem head-on, whether through tax policy, programming or more equitable laws of divorce that will recognize the place of divorced women, as they try to take care of their children and themselves with their meagre earnings single-handedly. Such laws should therefore recognize that such women on average are armed with fewer resources when compared with their male counterparts or even women who are still married.

The pension and retirement plans have proved to be yet another source of financial stress for divorced women (Kessing 2004). This is especially the case with those women who gets divorced while they are either unemployed or older. In the former case, unemployed women shall most often be the beneficiaries of the pension and retirement plans of their husbands. In the vent that an ugly court divorce results, chances are that such a development may jeopardize the possibility that these women would in future be beneficiaries to these plans. Consequently, they are forced to seek for an alternative source of pension or retirement plans, like establishing for a new one all together. In case of unemployed women, the level of stress is even worse, and they are therefore left at the mercy of the Social Security services.

Practice implications

Often times, the divorce process has been described to be amongst the most traumatic experiences in the life of a married individual. There are a number of studies that have indicated that divorce, more than even losing the life of a loved one, is life’s top-most stressful event. Separation and the eventual divorce of a married couple have been linked with “deep grief-based emotions over the loss of the desired-for relationship” (Karasu 2007).

In this case, emotions may take the form of lethargy, sadness, anxiety, and depression, to name but just a few. Moreover, emotional trauma could be made even worse should a divorcing couple opt to approach the legal aspect of their marriage from an adversarial point of view. Such an approach has been perceived to be an extra source of stress beyond just the usual grieving episode.

At a time when a spouse is facing the grieving period, temptations are usually high for such a spouse to turn adversarial, and this may only worsen an otherwise grave situation. Mental health therapy sessions have been shown to greatly help spouses who are undergoing through a divorce process, as they normally help such individuals to encounter a multitude of expectable emotions (Wilson 2008).

From a financial point of view, divorce usually results in the establishment of not one, but two households. What this implies therefore is that the ensuing household costs shall also have to increase. In the case of women, this may be a source of added stress, especially where the woman was previously a homemaker, and the husband was the sole bread winner. History indicates that in most of the divorce cases, women ends up winning the custody of the child, with the man being ordered by the court to pay fro child support. On the other hand, such a child may not live in a similar situation as they did prior to the divorce of their parents.

Women shall usually suffer financially due to divorce on the basis of their reducing potential for earnings (King & Raspin 2004). This is in addition to the historical perspective that it is often the responsibility of women to take care of children. When you combine this with the fact that after winning custody over a child, that this acts to lessen their chances of pursuing a dream career that may be well-paying, it is not a wonder therefore that post-divorce trauma amongst women are not uncommon.

Furthermore, the collection of child support from the father of the child may prove to be a daunting task, at times event calling the intervention of the courts (Martin et al 2006). There are also some fathers who are of the opinion that they only bear no obligation to the mother of their children, but only to the children. Moreover, there could also be men who are quite willing to assist their children financially, but are not in a position to do so.

This therefore leaves the mother with no option but to enlist for a welfare system. In the United States at the moment, it is a felony for one to renegade on child-support payment. In addition, a majority of the states within the United States have employed “equitable” property division standard, in a bid to contain a multitude of complexities that often accompanies a divorce process and the attendant separation of the marriage period of a couple that was characterized by financial sharing.

The actual process of divorce is in itself a source of financial stress, bearing in mind that attorney fees have to be settled (Martin et al 2006). This is especially complicated should say, a female spouse opt for an adversarial process, as opposed to a non-adversarial one. The signing of a prenuptial agreement prior to getting married has been seen to immensely contribute towards a reduction in conflict over the division of the couples’ finances, in the event that a divorce takes place. Nevertheless, this is also not a safe way to amicably settling a divorce, given that a litigation could also occur, regarding the actual agreement of property sharing.

Social implications

As a social phenomenon, divorce has been seen to impact on a large percentage of American families each year. According to available estimates, close to 75 percent of families and individuals on the look-out for family and marriage therapists services are usually coping with issues pertaining to family dissolution and relationships (Hughes 2007).

Divorce potential within the United States is on the rise. Across the various cultures, individual who have historically entered into marriages have had high expectations that such marriages would ideally be for life. The culture of the Americans has been quite supportive towards marriage, with the result that almost 90 percent of the entire adult population in the United States being projected to getting married at the very least once, in their entire course of life (Cohen, Underwood & Gottlieb 2000).

Nevertheless, divorce overtook death during the 20th century as one of the key common causes of an end of marriage. A rise in the lifespan of the American population, alterations in women’s biopsychosocial roles, alterations in social values, as well as alterations with the United States’ legal system are some of the factors that have been identified as leading to the observed shift towards a rise in divorce levels (Cohen et al 2000).

It is a commonly held assumption that following a divorce, the woman shall have to put up with social stigmatisation, not least because of the ensuing inequality following the division of property amongst the couple. Suddenly, a woman who occupied a high social status by virtue of the resources of the husband may now find herself in a lower social status, once the financial resources are gone. In addition, divorce impact on the social circle that such a woman may have been affiliated with (Cohen et al 2000). Furthermore, the divorce process it is in itself costly to undertake and complete, and often times it leaves the woman with a large financial debt, and this again may serve to further reduce her social position.

That there is a rising trend in as far as the issue of divorce is concerned cannot be in doubt. Further, divorce tends to impact on all the various parties that could be involved in a process, albeit to varying levels. As such, the couple in question shall be affected, their children, their respective families, social circle, as well as the work place. Owing to the rise in the incidences of divorce in the United States, a number of family system theorists are now convinced that divorce and the eventual remarriage of a couple may now qualify to be taken as part and parcel of ‘ the normative family life cycle’ (Bradley, Schwartz & Kaslow 2005).

Regardless of the position that an individual could assume in as far as the issue of divorce is concerned, what may not be in doubt is the fact that the process is a stressful undertaking, never mind how amicable or rational the couple may want it to appear.

The social re-adjustment scale towards life’s stressful events as postulated by Holmes and Rae (1967) has accorded the divorce process the very highest scores. This is more of an objective scale that assesses, albeit crudely, the consequences of life’s stressful events. Nevertheless, the cognitive framework that Lazarus and Folkman (1984) postulated, seeking to address stresses and ways of coping with it, and which is now regarded as a classic, provides that the actual consequences of such a stress as a divorce hinges upon the subjective perception of individual involved. These perceptions entails the appraisal of divorce as an event of threat, loss or better still, a challenge. Moreover, it also takes into account the stakes involved in such an appraisal, along with the available resources for coping with such a perception.

The importance of social support and social relationships to physical and psychological health has time and again been underscored by various research studies. In particular, it is often very critical that an individual is able to rely on all the support they can get from others (Rao 2003). Nevertheless, divorce usually results in a severing of contacts with various individuals, with the result the likelihood of a divorce victim gained social support from such groups reduces. Further, there are quite a number of authors who have cited social support and social relationships as forms of mediations from consequences of divorce on an individual’s wellbeing.

As per the findings of several studies, divorce usually results in condensed social support. Consequently, research has indicated that divorce women have a higher chance of experiencing a reduced psychological well-being, when compared to their married counterparts. From the perspective of the physical health of a divorced woman, this is mostly dependent on the quality of support that they are able to get from their respective social groups. From the same breath, it has been indicated that correspondingly more married women enjoys better physical health when compared with their divorced counterparts (Rao 2003).

There is also the indication that due to severed emotional support towards divorced women, coupled with their reduced participation in various social activities, this could be a pointer to some of the negative impacts that divorce has been seen to hand on to the personal health of women. Additionally, it has also been illustrated that social relationships composition and numbers shall also have an impact on the wellbeing of a woman faced with a divorce.

Another issue that may be worth of exploring for married couples would be taking part in premarital mediation. This is a process that in which a third party or a mediator engages the couple in an open discussion regarding the various types of marital issues that they could be faced with (Coombs 2004). Some of these include the styles of spending and savings, in addition to the issues of whether or not the woman ought to be working when the children have become of age.

These are some of the little issues in a marriage that all too often, a couple will overlook. With time however, they accumulate, and may eventually become too much to bear for either of the couple, resulting in disagreements and eventually, an imminent divorce. In the case of a premarital mediation however, a newly wedded couple shall have the rare opportunity of discussing the likelihood of such occurrences, in addition to laying out a conclusive plan of how to overcome these, in the event that a divorce may be inevitable.

With the help of a mediator, it may be possible for a couple to draft a premarital agreement that takes into account amongst other things, the division of property should a dissolution of the marriage be unavoidable. This kind of an agreement serves several purposes. First, it is somewhat less expensive, in terms of engaging legal services (Coombs 2004). Secondly, it is an amicable decision that the couple reaches an agreement and finally, it acts as an eye opener to the couple; that divorce could occur, and that there is a need therefore to become prepared.

Of particular importance here is the fact that with a premarital agreement, the ensuing divorce stressors may be reduced greatly. Such includes the financial and legal aspects of the divorce. However, the emotional and psychological elements of the divorce could still weigh down on the woman. Even then, the overall level of stress shall have been markedly reduced.

Future directions

This research has already established that the process of divorce is often mired by a multitude of stressors that shall usually affect women. In addition, the study has also revealed that often times, the women are at a disadvantage following a divorce from an economic point of view (King & Raspin 2004). This is because a lot more men have been shown to earn more than the women. In the event of a divorce, it is the woman who in most cases gets custody of the children, with the estranged husband getting visitation rights and child support services. However, there are men who have been known to renegade on their responsibilities, forcing the women to take care of the children all by themselves.

Consequently, the psychological and physical health of divorced women has been shown to be poorer, relative to that of their married counterparts (Lee & Gramotnev 2007). Having created such a grim picture in mind, the future directions of this research study would be to evaluate how divorced women are bale to cope and relation in other types of relationships, later in life. These could be in the form of new circles of friends that they associate with, workplace relationships and more importantly, how they handle the dating game all over again. In light of this, it would be the intention of such a study to establish the ease with which, or lack of, women are able to bounce back into life following a divorce.

Furthermore, it would also be the intention of such a research study to establish the new relationship that their children would have with say, a new husband. Would such a relationship impact negatively on their children? How might women seek to reduce the legal issues of divorce, which have been indicated as a potential source of more pain to the divorce process than any other factor? Finding conclusive answers to these questions, amongst others, would without doubt from a solid base for the establishment of future directions for this research study.

In the event that the divorcing couple are contemplating an ongoing relationship, for example, parenting in the future, although separately, it would be quite helpful for women in this case to engage in dispute resolution methods that are non-adversarial. These include amongst others collaborative divorce and mediation (Coombs 2004). These methods when used have a very low likelihood of exacerbating the emotional trauma that divorced women could be going through, thanks to the divorce process. In future, this study would recommend that women who are undergoing through the divorce process take into consideration pursuing of this strategy, where applicable, in a bid to alleviate the ensuing suffering.

Integrative summary

The issue of marital dissolution is daily becoming entrenched within the American culture, with the result that almost half of all first time marriages (45 percent) are now headed for an imminent marital dissolution. This goes against the traditional American culture that not only encourages, but has also been seen to uphold marriage. Suddenly, it is not death that is leading to the dissolution of marriage, as was the case prior to the 20th century, but divorce. Of great concern even is the fact that the divorce process itself is usually a very traumatic experience for both the spouses, and more so for the women (Polomeno 2007). Women are usually faced with a host of stressors that bears a correlation with employment concerns, financial instability, as well as the custody of the children.

There is evidence to support the claim that these stressors that women usually experience during the process of divorce impacts negatively on their wellbeing (van Schalwyk 2005).

Consequently, such women have often times been seen to be afflicted by high rates of depression, substance abuse and anxiety, when compared with their counterparts who are already in marriage. A lot of the times, divorced women have also been less happy than when they were married. There has been a reported case of divorced women who have developed heart diseases and several forms of cancer as a result of the painful experience that is divorce. Consequently both their physical as well as emotional well being has suffered.

As Duffy, Thomas and Trayner (2002) have noted, that divorce is a major and “long-term life event” that involves efforts to cope and resolve challenges in the immediate wake of the divorce while generating life-long changes that represent an integration of the married and divorced personas and lifestyles. From such a perspective then, it was the intention of this study to explore the impact divorce-related stressors has on the well-being of divorced women. This was with a view to helping shed light on possible approaches of providing therapeutic treatment and support to such divorced women.

Financial instability has specifically been noted as one of the leading stressors for divorced women in the United States (Schmidt 2004), usually leading to this groups of the American population to wallow in poverty. The case is even made worse when such divorced women are jobless, and have children to take care of. Consequently, the only choice that is left for them is to engage the help pf the Social Security services, in order to take care of their families.

Yamokoski and Keister (2006) have demonstrated that divorced women and children records the highest rates of poverty in the United States, when compared with the other demographic populations. What is more, divorced women have been shown to suffer the most, more than even their male counterparts, in as far as self esteem and interpersonal relationships are concerned. This acts to further compound the experiences of such divorced women, and their capability to rebound from these kinds of stresses (Dykstra & Fokkema, 2007; Karasu, 2007; Gardner & Owsald, 2006; Turner, 2006; van Schalkwyk, 2005).

If at all the available information on the level of stressors that divorced women goes through day in-day out in the united states is anything to go by, then we need to be very afraid that our women are being subjected to untold misery not just from the financial and emotional point of view, but also from a social perspective. Society often looks at divorced women as being less-equal with their married counterparts, and a similar standard is not applied to the males.

Furthermore, a divorced woman may find it harder to rise through the ranks in the workplace, in part due to the stigma that is often attached to her status, and partly also due to the various roles that she has to juggle (Dykstra & Fokkema 2007). First, she may be the sole bread winner for her children. Secondly, she is a mother and a friend to her children, not to forget that she has to make an equal contribution to the workplace like the rest of the employees, for those with a job. Whereas there is available evidence to support claims that divorced women may at times find solace in their work, it is important to note that this can only take place in a working environment that is both conducive and friendly to them.

In general, what the research on stressors for divorced women in the United States appears to depict is a disturbing picture of legal, social and financial problems that have over time become quite entrenched within the American culture (Wilson, 2008; Rettig, 2007; Ocana, et al., 2005; Empereur, et al., 2003; Engle & Holiman, 2002; Martin, et al., 2002). Consequently, it becomes very difficult for divorced women to adjust quickly, both emotionally and psychologically.

There is a need therefore for both the policy makers and researchers alike to further assess the convergence of the stressors to divorced women, along with their associated negative impacts on the women, especially those who have to take care of their children. This way, there are bound to come up with long-term and sustainable structural solutions to curb the suffering of divorced women.

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