Aftermath of Divorce – Useful Resource for Therapists

Aftermath of Divorce: Useful Resource for Therapists

Constance Ahrons, (1994) ‘What’s Normal in Divorce’ In  ‘The Good Divorce’ Harper and Collins

Summary of some of the points made by Ahrons: Page 47-74 (Summarised C McMahon)

Obviously there are healthy ways of managing a divorce which can protect children.  a summarised outline of the differences in the typologies Ahrons proposed from her research study of 98 families.

Ahons considered the variables that needed to be researched; see below:
- The quality of co-parental communication – inter-parental conflict and mutual support – co-parenting relationships affecting child’s adjustment.
- Non residential parents’ involvement with children – frequency and duration spent with child and extent of involvement with child
- Custody arrangement
- Psychological variables; anger, guilt; positive feelings spouses; attachment former spouse; psychological distance former spouses; attitudes to divorce; feelings to former spouse as a parent; psychiatric symptoms.
- Co-parent interaction – re child rearing issues.

The Typologies (the clustering of people together based on similarities) Ahons developed the following:

  • Perfect pals – high interactors – high communicators – basically best friends – well connected with family and friends – still part of extended family – share certain times together e.g. meal- unusual access agreements, flexibility, lives entwined.
  • Cooperative Colleagues – moderate interactors – high communicators – cooperation around issues around the children – not friends but civil – split times; talked frequently about children – occasional special time together e.g. birthday, – not involved in each other lives – ability to compartmentalize their relationship – child first, contact because of children.
  • Angry Associates – moderate interactors – low communicators – angry when communicated and  only communicated because of children – let anger spread inter related and non related child issues – tense, hostile and open conflicts– all some form of sole custody arrangement
  • Fiery Foes – low interactors – low communicators – rarely interacted if they did usually fought – high litigious divorce for years – not able to work out arrangements for children and often 3rd person involved to help; anger seem to increase with contacts – clung to wrongs of couple relationship and exaggerated – could not let go high attachment through anger – polarized child contact arrangements – fathers often start not to see children and only talk through solicitors.
  • Dissolved Duos – entirely discontinue contact – could kidnap, geographical leaving of areas – disappearing not paying child support – single parent family – may return to claim parent right after years of separation.

50% of the samples were categorized as Fiery Foes or Angry Associates 1 year post divorce. What could children be exposed to by parents in these groups-

- Children see parent unable to communicate at home or in public places; such as schools events; bring their anger to these functions; later to marriage ceremonies; embarrassment, upset, confusion
- A parent could be excluded from an event and child feel guilty or torn because of loyalty ties; may feel they need to tell lies to protect a parent.
- Feel their telephone calls are being monitored and listened to; become message carriers; listen as emotional supports to a parent; can’t have non interrupted time with a parent as other always on telephone.
- Contact would be angry and could feel like a tug of war and they are the prized target when all they want is their family. Feelings of embarrassment; sadness, anger, overwhelm, feeling like they have to be the parent. Feeling they need to take sides when they don’t want to.
- Loyalty conflicts leave them trying to look after the wounds and feeling of one or both parents. Or they start to be able to use the family conflict to get what they want at the same time as feeling ‘destroyed’ by the conflict. May not even be able to mention the other parent; loss of family.
- Their role changes and they need to take more responsibility or a different role; confidant to mum or emotional support to dad. As grow confused about their roles, the role of mum and dad; they make decisions about their future; e.g. I am never going to get married.
- Children exposed to the ‘worst’ behaviors, feelings, role changes, revenge, hatred and confusion on a daily basis with warring couples and not feeling they have a voice or are at all important as number 1 in parents perspectives.

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