The family is the most basic unit of society. It’s where we first develop our virtues, values, and beliefs, it’s where we first learn about our culture and society, and it’s where we can first seek support as we go through life. Families are basically the foundation of who we are which can determine how we interact with others and the world around us. But what happens when that foundation is broken?
What are Broken Families?
Broken families happen when the family structure falls apart, or when a member of the family leaves. Not all families with a separated member are broken, however, as some can still function even after. Families break when crisis occurs, such as arguments and difficult circumstances, which leads to them separating unhealthily or with no proper resolution (Saikia, 2017). Some factors include the death of a parent, low relationship quality, and divorce or separation.
After the break, parents may be burdened by the pain of separation and in managing the family on their own. However, children are arguably the most affected by broken families as they have lost their foundation and role models. They may also receive less love and support from their parents (Moneva et al., 2020). Broken families can negatively impact children in many ways.
How Broken Families Affect Children
Children may be unable to rely on their family for safety, support, and comfort. This can lead to several mental health concerns. For one, they may become more anxious and insecure in themselves. They may also be more stressed as they have a reduced ability to cope, and they may develop feelings of loss and isolation. Furthermore, since they cannot rely on their parents, children may suppress their negative emotions. As a result, they don’t know how to properly and healthy express their feelings which can lead to depression, anxiety, and aggressive behaviors (Gul & Nadeemullah, 2017; Saikia, 2017).
Conflict and separation between a child’s parents can change their perceptions and feelings towards relationships in general. They may have difficulty forming relationships since they now mistrust others and fear commitment. Aggressive behaviors can push people away and make them rejected by their peers. They may also avoid forming relationships entirely. Conversely, if a parent is unable to give love and companionship to their child, the child may seek it elsewhere like from their peers. They may prefer to spend more time with their friends rather than at home and use them to forget about their problems (Gul & Nadeemullah, 2017; Moneva et al., 2020).
Since parents may be unable to guide and monitor their child, children may resort to dangerous and immoral behaviors to get attention, release repressed feelings, and cope with their situation. For example, they may engage in risky behaviors like smoking, drinking, premarital or unprotected sex, and gambling. They may also be aggressive towards others by bullying, getting into fights, or resorting to physical and verbal abuse (Magpantay et al., 2014). Some children or adolescents may even become juvenile delinquents (Gul & Nadeemullah, 2017).
Broken families can create several problems for children such as emotional stress, unstable home environment, and inadequate resources (Saikia, 2017). As a result, they may have difficulty focusing on their studies and paying attention in class. They may also avoid going to school entirely. Since they do not have support from their parents, they may have trouble keeping up with school. All these effects can result in poor academic performance from the child (Gul & Nadeemullah, 2017).
Helping Children from Broken Families
If the problems children experience from broken families are unresolved, then they may persist until adulthood and impede their functioning. To resolve them, the parents or other key persons should continue to provide them with support and affection and serve as their role-models even after the separation. They need to be reminded that they are not at fault for their broken family and that their negative emotions on their situation are normal. Parents, teachers, and guidance counselors should teach and encourage their self-expression by being a safe space for them to open up. They can also facilitate other forms of self-expression like writing or doing art. Schools can provide programs and support groups to help children from broken families with their academics as well. Finally, families should also consider seeking professional help to aid in their recovery and rebuild the family relationship.
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Gul, A., & Nadeemullah, M. (2017). Psycho social consequences of broken homes on children: A study of divorced, separated, deserted and blended families. Pakistan Journal of Applied Social Sciences, 6(1), 17-36. http://dx.doi.org/10.46568/pjass.v6i1.307
Magpantay, M. J., Malabrigo, P., Malijan, R. J., & Manarin, M. G. (2014). Behavioral problems and coping strategies of selected adolescents belonging to a broken family. CAM Research Journal, 2(1), 112-135.
Moneva, J. C., Bantasan, M., & Vertulfo, R. M. (2020). Performance tasks and socialization of students with broken families. International Journal of Social Science Research, 8(2), 88-101. http://dx.doi.org/10.5296/ijssr.v8i2.16789
Saikia, R. (2017). Broken family: Its causes and effects on the development of children. International Journal of Applied Research, 3(2), 445-448.