THE EFFECT OF MARITAL DISRUPTION ON THE IDENTITIES OF SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES

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CHAPTER THREE SUPPORT GROUPS

INTRODUCTION

The emotional problems and the subsequent adjustment problems accompanying marital disruption that are experienced by families were discussed in chapter two.
Marital disruption complicates the lives of those concerned and makes the attainment of secure, integrated identities increasingly difficult (Breger 1974:335). Single-parent families experience identity diffitsion and need support to assist them to re-evaluate themselves and form sound new identities. This process implies a rearrangement or realignment of previous identities with an acceptance of some and a rejection of others (Breakwell 1988:153).
Thus there is a need to devise a support group programme to assist these families to form realistic new identities. Society has not yet developed effective support systems to help . alleviate some of the problems divorced people face; and in spite of existing support, divorce usually causes a measure of personal suffering. The word « divorce » implies the disintegration of a marriage in legal terms. In general, society does not approve of divorce and is therefore unable to be totally supportive of the individual involved in a divorce situation (Potgieter 1986:41).                      ·
This  chapter  reviews  the  availability  and  types  of support  systems, and  explores justification for the establishment of a particular support group programme based on relational theory.The aims, value, criteria and development of the support group is also examined.
 

DEFINITION. AVAILABILTY. RELEVANCE AND TYPES OF SUPPORT GROUPS

Cobb (1976) as cited by Gladow and Ray (1986:114) defines support as the exchange of information that provides individuals and families with emotional esteem and network Burgess (1979: 13 7) indicates that there are various community services that are effective to an extent but are regarded more as a patchwork remedy.
Friedlander and Watkins (1984: 349) define a support group as » … a self-help or mutual endeavour in which individuals work together in an attempt to overcome a common problem, to change themselves or society. According to Wong (1978:46) support groups are distinguished from other groups on the basis of the following three characteristics: the voluntary participation of members, activities that are planned with community objectives in view and the fact that the course of events in the group is determined by the members themselves without interference by a professional person.
A support group may be called an emotional crutch which offers mutual support to the group members and within which uniqueness of each member may be discovered and cherished in an atmosphere of trust and open-heartedness (Verreynne 1991: 59).
According to Eloff(l986:72), the term « support group » identifies a group of people who share a common problem and who come together to offer the individuals in ·the group reciprocal help and support with the aim of solving the problem.  Parks ( 1981: 73) believes that a support system implies the existence of activities at a personal level that help people master stress and facilitate coping behaviours. Social support furnishes information that tells people that they are valued and part of the functioning social network, and should promote contact between individuals with common problems.
Milardo (1988:137) acknowledges that social participation affects one’s physical and psychological well-being after marital disruption. For recently divorced or separated parents networks may provide emotional and instrumental support to alleviate the stress of single life, to provide integration into social groups and the wider community and to ease the transition into the new lifestyle.
The five year  »Children of Divorce Project » developed by Wallerstein and Kelly (1979) emerges as the most comprehensive programme thus far offered, and consists two intervention models. The first is designed primarily for children too young to allow the therapist direct access to their feelings or conflicts. Three or four diagnostic sessions with individual children are followed by interviews with their parents who focus on interpreting the crisis for their children, planning post-divorce arrangements and discussing ways of easing damaging effects. The second model is an extended crisis-focused intervention designed for older children. Because many children in the early latent stage ( 6-8 years) are unable to discuss divorce without ~~ked denial and anxiety, a technique described as « divorce monologue » is implemented. Direct counselling proves reasonably effective in dealing with children in the later latent phase (9-12 years), although the researchers note that children’s feelings of guilt and anger prove resistant to short-term intervention. Counselling failure is also attributed to the parenting process and to family situations in which high levels of hostility between parents continues (Simmons 1983:15).
Guerney and Jordan (1979:289) developed a community-sponsored support group.  The support group programme was implemented with volunteer participants aged from nine to ten years.  The programme goals were developmental and not therapeutic.The goals were  aimed  at: helping  children  develop  realistic  appraisals  of their  life  situation, improving problem solving in relation to their specific situation (example, how to talk to teachers and friends about their experiences regarding the divorce), improving their self- concept through self disclosure, peer support and leader empathic understanding.
Stewart (1990:1144) found that a network of single parents is a source ofinstrumental support when parents exchange parenting and child care skills.  He recommended that a mentoring programme with experienced single-parents providing assistance and support to new single parents could be established to assist in the transition to single parenthood According to Farmer and Galaris (1993:40-42) group affiliation has proved to be a valuable means of reducing stress and social isolation for adults coping with divorce and the groups.  It was noted however that the support groups designed especially for children affected by the divorce of their parents have been slower to take hold.  Services offered to these children have often been limited to individuals or family psychotherapy.This trend has continued despite the research (by Hetherington et al., 1989, Kalter, 1987 and Wallerstein and Blakeslee, 1989) that has shown that parental separation or divorce canhave an adverse affect on any child’s immediate and long term emotional, social and academic functioning.
Benedek and Benedek (1979:165) advocates readily available, goal-directed counselling. In a similar vein, Renouf (1981 :79) developed a general Introductory Group Programme, suitable  for  implementation in community health centres.In  addition to  providing supportive psychological service for parents and children, the system itself includes sensitisation of the community as well as education and training for teachers who are generally uninformed of even basic psychological principles relating to separation and divorce.
In South Africa a self-help group does exist called the Single Parent Association. This association was established for all single parents, whether that single parenthood is due to death, divorce or any other cause. Organised social activities, discussions and lectures are provided for members and their children.  The self-help group model typically does not include specific education, goal-directed counselling or prescriptive therapy as part of its programme.  As a consequence these groups are not designed to help parents explore and deal with the feelings oftheir children other than ata relatively superficial level. However, research to evaluate the effects of such self-help groups on both parents and children has not  yet  been  undertaken  and  the  impact  of these  programmes  has  not  yet  been systematically studied (Potgieter 1986:45) The existing service provided by the Single Parent Association is essentially inadequate in dealing with problematical attitudes and poor self-concept of children of divorce. There is  a  profound lack of and urgent need for  goal-directed counselling which aims at identifying divorce-related problems and designing a programme to assist single-parent families.  It should focus on the feelings children have regarding divorce, such as guilt, anger,  shame, and a sense of loss; and their identity crisis (Potgieter 1986:46).The overall goal should be to facilitate children’s successful transition to new roles and lifestyle and to assist families in forming realistic new identities.
According to Kessler and Bostwick (1977:38), during and after a divorce, friends and relatives commonly express great concern about how single-parent families might be affected, but for most families little or no assistance is offered in coping constructively with their feelings with the new changes divorce makes in their lives.
Kelly and Wallerstein (1977:30) claim the following as the goals of their intervention programme:

  • reduction in suffering, where suffering is defined as intense anxiety, fearfulness, depression, anger, longing and other symptoms causing distress;
  • reduction in cognitive confusion relating to the divorce and its sequence;
  • successful resolution of various idiosyncratic issues, for example, dealing more comfortably with an emotionally disturbed non-custodial parent or working through the dilemma of having to choose between parents.

Rozman and Froiland ( 1977 :531) describe possible interventions for the five stages of divorce based on the concept of loss. They state that some direction must be given to counsellors to assist children in reconstructing their worlds.
Dlukoginski (1977:23) maintains that in coping with the crisis precipitated by divorce, children often follow a regular evolutionary pattern involving three progressive stages of orientation, integration and consolidation. All three stages above are directed at children in both the early and later latent stage.
In view of feelings expressed by the children of divorce in his study, Freed (1979) recommends time-limited, small supportive groups for children as an intervention strategy.
Rogers (1973) studied the impact of a structured group counselling process on children in the latent phase residing with a separated or divorced parent, and found that this programme did not facilitate attitudinal changes. It is thought that by the short length of time allowed for each session with the total number of sessions and the evaluation procedure within a short treatment period may be significant in this regard.
Kessler and Bostwick’s (1977) model offers a one-day, small group session for divorced parents and children.  The general goal is to provide a catalytic climate for the acquisition of specific therapeutic skills.
Specific therapeutic goals are:

  • for parents to explore their own and others’ values and assumption about marriage and divorce;
  • for children to recognise, express and cope constructively with their own and their parents’ emotions;
  • for families to develop communication skills in handling difficult situations.

Wilkinson and Bleck (1977:205) discuss the Children’s Divorce Group (C.D.G) which has been offered in various schools in Florida in the U.S.A., and claim that the C.D.G. provides a means of dealing with the crisis of divorce in a way that is familiar and acceptable  to  many  primary  schools.  The  C.D.G. is a developmentally based unit consisting of eight 45-minute sessions intended for small groups in elementary schools and involves various activities aimed at dealing with divorce. In a group of peers (of divorced single-parent children); children can find support and freedom to work through problem areas and to develop self-confidence, thereby enhancing their self-concept.
Wallerstein and Kelly (1977:12) devised a programme called the Single-Parent Family Project  which  attempts  to  provide  supportive  and  coping  interventions  during the transitional and acute stages of the divorce process.The project is directed specifically at custodial parents and their children and is based on theory targeting divorce-related problems.  The project is unique in that it provides parents and children with simultaneous services.  The project is designed to help parents and children to improve their personal adjustment and lessen their experienc~ of distress associated with marital disruption.
According to Cebollero et al. (1986:220), an increasing number of single-parent families are seeking counselling to help them deal with the process of post-divorce adjustment and change.    Services that have been provided in the past include individual therapy for mothers and fathers, short-term group treatment (Wallerstein and Kelly 1977), educational workshops (Granvold and Welch 1979; Stolberg and Garrison 1985; and Warren and Amara 1984) and single parent support groups (Jauch 1977).  Hetherington et al. (1978) devised a crisis model to help facilitate transition and help children deal with the short-term effects of divorce.  These services focused on interpersonal skills, on the maintenance of emotional and social adjustment (Magid 1977) and on the effects of divorce on children (Pett 1982).
Burgess (1970: 141) stresses the need for an educational programme to help single parent and their children re-establish self-confidence and positive identities. Research by Knive- Ingraham (1985:327) also emphasises the value of a support system to help single-parent families increase their self-esteem and adjust confidently to new roles.
Prince (1984 :39) stresses the importance of an effective support system for single parents which positively influences their self-concepts. The support group assists in dealing with emotional issues, helping parents talk about their experiences and feelings, developing good self-esteem and an awareness of one’s skills and qualification and how these can be used in the employment situation. He further suggests that assistance in building up self-esteem and good presentation skills should be dealt with in the group session.
Hetherington et al. (1989) believe that the most salient support system for the single- parent  family  is  a continued  positive,  mutually  supportive relationship  between the divorced couple and the continued involvement of the non-custodial pareni and child.

CHAPTER ONE  STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM I
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 PROBLEM ANALYSIS
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
1.4 AIMS OF THE RESEARCH
1.5 DEFINITION OF CONCEPTS
1.6 METHOD OF RESEARCH
1.7 RESEARCH PROGRAMME
CHAPTER 2
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 MARITAL DISRUPTION
2.3 THE EFFECT OF MARITAL DISRUPTION ON THE IDENTITIES OF SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES
2.4 RELATIONAL THEORY
2.5 EFFECT OF MARITAL DISUPTION ON RELATIONSHIPS ACCORDING TO RELATIONAL THEORY
2.6. IDENTITY FORMATION
2.7 IDENTITY FORMATION AFTER MARITAL DISRUPTION ACCORDING TO RELATIONAL THEORY
2.8 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 DEFINITION. AVAILABILITY. RELEVANCE AND TYPES OF SUPPORT GROUPS
3.3 SUPPORT GROUPS
3.4 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 AIMS OF THE RESEARCH
4.3 SUMMARY OF LITERATURE REVIEW
4.4 HYPOTHESES
4.5 RESEARCH DESIGN
4.6 RESEARCH METHODS
4.7 INTERVIEWS
4.8 THE SUPPORT GROUPS
4.9. CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 RESULTS OF THE INTERVIEWS
CHAPTER 6
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 FINDINGS FROM THE LITERATURE STUDY
6.4 FINDINGS FROM THE SUPPORT GROUP PROGRAMME
6.5 FINDINGS DERIVED FROM THE PRE- AND POSTTESTnINTERVIEWS OF THE SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES
6.6 CONCLUSIONS DERIVED FROM LITERATURE STUDY. RESULTS OF THE ITERVIEWS AND SUPPORT GROUP PROGRAMME
6.7 RECOMMENDATIONS
6.8 LIMITATIONS OF THIS STUDY
7. BIBLIOGRAPHY
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
A SUPPORT GROUP PROGRAMME FOR SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES BASED ON RELATIONAL THEORY

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