Sociology of the Family Term Paper

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divorce rate in the United States is rising at an alarming rate. Just after the Civil War, approximately 5% of marriages in the United States ended in divorce. The divorce rate increased to approximately 10% by the 1920s and approximately 35% by the mid-1960's. By 1990, the divorce rate in the United States had risen to 50%. In a span of 125 years, the divorce rate in the United States increased by 900%. These rising divorce rates have undoubtedly had a profound effect on children. In 1988, 15% of all chil-dren lived with a divorced or separated parent. Presently, more than one mil-lion children per year experience a parental divorce. In the 1960's, almost 90% of children lived in homes with two biological parents. By 1995, approximately 18.9 million children under the age of 18 lived with one. With the rising divorce rate it is important to look at how divorce affects adolescents in these situations. In terms of academics both boys and girls are more inferior to that of nondivorced children in school performance. There is also a lower number of these children who go on to higher education. One difference that is found between boys and girls form divorced families, is that boys of divorced parents are found to have the most behavioral problems (e.g., aggressiveness, impulsivity). These poorer skills prior to the divorce lead to decreased school performance. Also the dropout rate for boys from divorced families is higher than that of girls in the same. Not only are there academic effects of divorce but also social. These effects were reported to be similiar in many cases. Some of them are having more responsibility at home (e.g., baby-sitting, household chores, etc.) causing them to spend less time with friends and going to social events. Many teens experience anger and frustration toward the parents for this reason. These as well as other things lead to depression which is frequently found in teens form divorced families. One difference in social adjustment after divorce in girls is that they become more sexually active at a younger age.

In addition, the alarming rise in the number of children from di-vorced households has generated concern among educators, mental health professionals, researchers, and society as a whole. Although divorce affects children in a number of ways, one of the most important areas impacted is academic achievement. A number of research studies have demonstrated that children from di-vorced families do not excel as well in academic endeavors as their counterparts who come from non-divorced families.

Although there is little doubt that divorce has a negative impact on the academic achievement of children, the underlying causes of diminished performance are not clearly understood. The following literature review section will review a number of recent research studies to help understand potential underlying causes of poor academic performance in children of divorced parents.


Recently, Ham (2003) investigated the effects of divorce on the academic performance of high school seniors. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between divorce and the academic achievement of adolescents. This study examined the GPAs of high school seniors from intact and divorced families. The research also included a review of at-tendance of the same students. Differences were also examined in relation to gender and ethnicity. This study tested two hypotheses: (1) that the grade point averages of high school seniors will be found to be lower for students from di-vorced families than for students from intact families. (2) That high school seniors from intact families will have higher school attendance than students from divorced families

The subjects for this study were students from the Academy School District in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The students were selected from one of four high schools in the district. Resulting in potentially 318 seniors. The students were administered a questionnaire to assess the variables of interest.

The results of this study indicated that family structure plays a significant role in grades and attendance. This study supports the hypotheses that high school seniors from intact homes perform better academically and have better school attendance than do students from divorced homes. Students from non-divorced families performed better than students from divorced families with GPA's almost 11% higher. High school seniors from divorced households missed almost 60% more unexcused absences than did high school seniors from intact families. Students resid-ing with their two biological parents have an increased chance to excel academically over those students from divorced households. This study also demonstrated a positive relationship between the mother's education level and academic success. The further the mother progressed in her own formal education, the better the child seemed to perform. The results of this study firther substantiated the negative effects of divorce on academic success. In addition to the negative impact of divorce, some researchers have argued that remarriage does not diminish the impact of divorce.

A substantial amount of research has indicated that parental divorce and remarriage have a negative impact on the academic achievement of success. It has been postulated that this is the result of diminished parental involvement following remarriage. Research indicates that greater parental involvement produces increased academic achievement of children. Jeynes (2002a) investigated whether parental involvement would eliminate the deleterious effects that divorce has on academic success in children. The purpose of the study was to examine whether the effects of parental involvement on the academic achievement of children will cause the effects of divorce and remarriage to disappear. The study draws from students who participated in the National Education Longitudinal Survey (NELS) for the years 1988, 1990, 1992. There were three parental variables assessed for this study. The first parental involvement variable assessed the extent to which a parent was directly involved in helping their child with homework and in his or her child's social life. The second parental involvement measure was based on the extent to which a child discussed events at school with his or her parents. A third parental involvement variable measured the extent to which parents were involved in events at school.

The results of this study indicate that children of divorced families have lower academic achievement compared to children from non-divorced families. High degrees of parental involvement on the part of single parent divorced parents is not sufficient to remove the academic disadvantage faced by children of divorce. The results of this study primarily support the notion that advantages that come with living with two natural parents are very difficult to duplicate if one of those parents is absent.

These result remains, even when the socioeconomic status of the household increases. Remarriage generally raises the family SES level, especially the income component of SES. However, the act of remarriage apparently does not raise and may even reduce the educational outcomes of adolescents. These results therefore indicate that considering the increased level of SES that remarriage produces, one would expect that academic achievement would also rise. However this is not the case. The act of parental remarriage does not help the already depressed levels of academic success experienced by children from divorced single-parent families. The two major findings of this study are; Parental divorce and remarriage are significant enough events so that as important as parental involvement is, the latter cannot totally compensate for the impact that parental divorce and remarriage have on academic achievement. Second, parental involvement does impact the academic success of children.

Family income and socioeconomic status following a divorce is thought to be one of the underlying contributors to poor academic success in children. SES generally has three components: the family income level, the educational level of the parents, and the oc-cupational status of the parents. The family income component of SES is especially subject to change due to divorce. Social scientist agree that family has some impact on the academic achievement of chil-dren, and that the family income and socioeconomic status of the family are central to academic achievement. A recent study by Jeynes (2002b) investigated the impact of family income and socioeconomic status on academic achievement. The subjects for the study consisted of students who participated in the National Education Longitudinal Survey (NELS) for the years 1988 -- 1992, which included 16,310 students. The NELS research project was sponsored by the Na-tional Center for Statistics, U.S. Department of Education (1992). The Na-tional Opinion Research Center (NORC) and NORC subcontractors designed the study. Of the students sampled 69% were White, 13% were Hispanic, 11% were African-American, 6% were Asian, and 1% were Native American. For each year that income data was taken the median family in-come level was between $40,000 -- $50,000. Among the parents, 26% had at least a 4-year college degree and 89% had earned a high school diploma. In terms of gender, 50.6% of the students were female.

Two sets of analyses were conducted in this study. The first analysis com-pared the effects for divorce for the 1,103 students who experienced parental divorce during the 1988 -- 1992 period, when compared with those children who…

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