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Children's experiences of divorce in Botswana

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  • Hv Social Pathology. Social And Public Welfare
  • Economics
  • Law


This study explores children and mothers' perceptions of children's experiences of divorce in Botswana. To illuminate this complex topic, the study draws on two main overlapping theoretical perspectives. These are the social constructionist approach and the sociology of childhood approach. The concept of resilience as well as some concepts of feminist theory, social network theory and family stress theory were also used in the study. A few children believed their experiences had long-term effects on them. These were mainly children who experienced multiple stressors. For example, they perceived: their relations with mothers (who were their custodial parents) as negative, their relations with fathers were not close, they believed they experienced severe economic declines, they changed neighbourhoods and schools many times, witnessed and / or were victims of parental violence either for many years prior to the separation or continued to be exposed to violence even after the legal divorce. This study has explored an issue that remains largely unexplored in developing countries. Some of its findings are similar in broad terms to those of studies that have been conducted in developed countries, but they manifest themselves differently. For example, women in this study stayed in unhappy marriages for many years partly because of lack of services for them, customary laws that make divorce more difficult for women than for men, cultural expectations that require women to persevere in order to preserve their marriages and fear of stigma as well as economic hardships. Therefore when violence occurred, its impact on their children can be much more severe compared to their counterparts in developed countries. Findings of this study are also manifested differently from those of studies from developed countries in relation to children's experiences of economic hardship during the post-divorce period. Studies from both developing and developed countries attest to the low family income in maternal custody families following divorce. However, children in developing countries such as Botswana experience more severe economic hardships than their counterparts in developed countries because welfare programmes in the countries are less generous and the criteria used to determine eligibility exclude able-bodied unemployed mothers. The major policy implications arising from this study that need close attention therefore are: the need to improve the economic circumstances of children, the need to reduce if not eliminate children's exposure to parental violence, as well as the need to educate parents about how they can help their children to cope with the divorce process.

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