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Divorce has serious effects on the life and development of girls, though this impact is likely to manifest itself in different ways. Here are some aspects in which a girl’s experience of divorce differs from that of boys:

How girls react to divorce

A) Girls are more likely to internalize their symptoms or withdraw within themselves in their response to the stress of divorce. This can make it more difficult to spot problems in girls, since their symptoms are better hidden. Girls don’t exhibit the same “in your face” symptoms that boys do.

B) Whereas boys are trained to suppress their emotions, girls are given leeway to express their feelings more openly. Adults are also more likely to respond to a girl’s distress and offer comfort. The environmental conditioning (or rather, a lack of the repression boys deal with) can make girls better equipped to deal with the emotional turmoil brought on by the divorce.

C) Girls may be more socially skilled than boys, and are also more likely to seek comfort from other adults, which can help them handle the emotional impact of divorce better.

D) Girls are more likely to be thrust into caretaking roles for younger siblings, and may even take on the role of surrogate partner to their struggling parents. This can add additional stress to the situation. In addition to their own struggles, they now feel a need to look out for either their siblings or parents, possibly both.

E) Girls can suffer profoundly because of the lack of a father figure. Many experts believe that the opposite-sex parent has a more profound impact on the child’s development, especially when it comes to girls. Opposite-sex parents play an important part in the psychosexual development of children, serving as role models and “imprinting” a child’s psychology in ways that guide future mate selection and relationship patterns. For example, girls who grew up around unstable or absent fathers tend to be attracted to similar traits in their mates later on, which is why girls with “Daddy issues” often end up with abusive or delinquent boyfriends. A child’s caretakers are her first templates for what masculinity or feminity is, as well as their earliest experience with heterosexual affection, and thus their behavior (or absence) can affect children in unseen ways.

F) For this reason and others, girls from divorced homes display promiscuous sexuality at earlier ages and engage in more attention seeking behavior towards men. (Hetherington, 1972) They also have significantly higher rates (7 to 8 times) of teenage pregnancy and birth. (Kiernan & Hobcraft, 1997)

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