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Going through a divorce can be extremely traumatic for everyone involved.
People who undergo divorce face a variety of psychological issues including increased stress, lower life satisfaction, depression, increased medical visits, and an overall increase in mortality risk compared to those who remain married. Along with losing the benefits of a happy marriage, which can act as a buffer against the normal stress in life, there is also the divorce process itself. Depending on where people happen to live and the specific circumstances, divorce can be a long and drawn-out legal process involving mutual blame-casting and being forced to give testimony on many of the most sordid details of why a marriage happened to fail. Add in the trauma involved in custody battles over children of the marriage and the entire divorce process can be a nightmare for many people.
Another issue surrounding the emotional impact of divorce involves communal orientation or the psychological need to care for others. Married people (especially women) often get much of their personal sense of identity from their marital status and their self-identification as spouses or parents who feel a sense of responsibility for marital partners or children. This is especially true in more traditional cultures that place a strong emphasis on marriage and family. As a result going through divorce can often force people to change their very sense of self and make the divorce process especially stressful.
But is divorce always going to have a negative impact on the people involved? Nnot everyone is going to be worse off following a divorce. If anything, the risk for a poor outcome seems to vary depending on how well people are able to cope following divorce and what married life was like before the couple decides to separate. While most research looking into the aftermath of divorce has focused on psychological factors that can lead to poor outcomes, studies examining why many people are often better off following divorce aren't so common.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.
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