Study Indicates Divorced Parents More Likely To Disengage, Engage Too Much
A recent survey conducted in China that studied the responses of 681 adolescents appears to show that parents in recent divorces have a propensity toward extremes. While some parents were said to disengage from their child’s life, others went to the opposite extreme and became excessively controlling and harsh in their parenting style.
The data was collated into a two-axis test which included the qualities warmth and control. Parents who were low on warmth and low on control were considered “disengaged”. High warmth and low control were considered “supportive”. Those were high and warmth and control were considered harsh, while those who were low on warmth and high control were considered “very harsh”.
The study appears to indicate that adolescents from divorced households were more likely to consider their parents’ behavior “very harsh” or “disengaged” with more frequency than children whose parents were still married. Children with married parents tended to describe their parents as “supportive” or merely “harsh”.
An interesting aside
The study seemed to indicate that narcissistic traits actually supplied a buffer for children of divorce who felt lonely, to seek out more social interactions. While narcissism is generally believed to be an anti-social trait, more work has been done in recent years discussing healthy adult narcissism as opposed to the destructive kind seen in personality disorders. The study indicated that adolescents with narcissistic traits fair better than their peers without.
The culture of China is not the same as America and the study surveyed the perceptions of children, a notable limitation. Further, Chinese culture stigmatizes divorce in a way that American culture doesn’t, which would account for increased problems for children. Loneliness remains a major pitfall for children of divorce, especially in cases where they’re trapped with a controlling family member.
Interestingly, children from households with parents that were considered engaged and controlling were not considered “protective” or “proactive” or any possible positive adjective you could think of. They were considered “harsh”. Parents who lacked warmth and yet were still controlling were considered “very harsh”. So the only way a parent could end up with a positive review from their kid is if they were in a household with a parent who wasn’t controlling but was still warm. The study appears to indicate that this dynamic is the ideal.
While the study is limited to the perceptions of children in intact or divorced families, it can be informative to note that children in divorced families do face special considerations in their emotional lives. One of the main considerations will be a lack of engagement from their parents and alienation, so ensuring the children are still socializing with friends becomes of paramount importance to their emotional life.
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