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The Effects of Divorce on AmericaThe Effects of Divorce on AmericaThis article is adapted from a June 5, 2000 article published by the Heritage Foundation.by Patrick F.
American society may have erased the stigma that once accompanied divorce, but it can no longer ignore its massive effects. Each year, over 1 million American children suffer the divorce of their parents (see Chart 1). But the social science research also is showing that the effects of divorce continue into adulthood and affect the next generation of children as well.
Children of divorced parents more frequently demonstrate a diminished learning capacity, performing more poorly than their peers from intact two-parent families in reading, spelling, and math. Divorce generally reduces the income of the child’s primary household and seriously diminishes the potential of every member of the household to accumulate wealth. Religious worship, which has been linked to health and happiness as well as longer marriages and better family life, is less prevalent in divorced families.
The effects of divorce on children can range from mild to severe and from short-term to long-term.
Policymakers at the federal and state levels have ample evidence to lend weight to efforts to change the culture of divorce. Federal officials can assist them in this effort by establishing the importance of marriage in federal policies and programs. American society, through its institutions, must teach core principles: that marriage is the best environment in which to raise healthy, happy children who can achieve their potential, and that the family is the most important institution for social well-being. The combined effect of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing means that more than half of America’s children will spend all or part of their childhood living in a single-parent, divorced, or remarried family. The divorce of parents, even if it is an amicable decision, tears apart a family–the fundamental unit of American society.
To understand the significant relationship between the rate of crime in a community and family background, one need only look at the evidence.
Moreover, data from Wisconsin dramatically illustrate that the rates of incarceration for its juvenile delinquents are 12 times higher for children of divorce than for children living with married parents.
Children of divorced parents are significantly more likely to become delinquent by age 15, regardless of when the divorce took place, than are children whose own parents are married. A 1985 study tracked 1,000 families with children aged 6 to 18 for six years and found that children living in intact married families exhibited the least delinquency, while children with stepfathers were more likely to demonstrate the most disruptive behaviors. Moreover, as a major review of literature on divorce conducted by the government of Australia found, divorce increases the likelihood that a child will feel hostility and rejection. Child abuse is closely related to delinquency and violent crime, and divorce is a relevant factor in an abused child’s background.
Serious abuse is much higher among stepchildren than among children of intact families, and adults who were sexually abused as children are more likely to have been raised in stepfamilies than in intact married families. The rate of sexual abuse of girls by their stepfathers is at least six or seven times higher, 18 and may be as much as 40 times greater, 19 than sexual abuse of daughters by their biological fathers who remain in intact families.
Margo Wilson and Martin Daly, professors of psychology at McMasters University in Canada, report that children two years of age and younger are 70 to 100 times more likely to be killed at the hands of their stepparents than by their biological parents.
The data from Britain predict a smaller risk, but this research is not as rigorous as the Canadian study.
Stepparents have a difficult time establishing close bonds with their stepchildren–a common theme in literature that is confirmed in the research literature.
Children who use drugs and abuse alcohol are more likely to come from family backgrounds characterized by parental conflict and parental rejection.
Throughout a child’s educational experience, the divorce of parents has an impact on learning and achievement. Divorce impedes learning by disrupting productive study patterns as children are forced to move between domiciles, and by increasing anxiety and depression in both parents and children.
The absence of the father lowers cognitive test scores for young children in general, 28 especially the math scores of daughters. Frequent relocation of these children appears to play a large role in their poorer performance, regardless of family background.
Divorce affects the grade level that children attain: High school dropout rates are much higher among children of divorced parents than among children of always-married parents. The divorce of parents also reduces the likelihood that a child will attain a college education. Judith Wallerstein, a clinical psychologist from San Francisco, found that of the college-age students who went to the same high schools in affluent Marin County near San Francisco, only two-thirds of children from divorced families attended college compared with 85 percent of students from intact families.
Family income may make a difference in college attendance, and income in the custodial family falls after a divorce. As the above information demonstrates, divorce has significant negative economic consequences for families.
Divorce has a greater effect on the household income of the custodial parent than the Great Depression had on the American economy. Almost 50 percent of households with children undergoing divorce move into poverty following the divorce. As Chart 10 shows, based on data from the Federal Reserve Board’s 1995 Survey of Consumer Finance, the differing ratios of poverty among different family structures tell the story of the impact of marriage on income. It is increasingly clear that divorce affects the health of children in broken families in many ways.
A major national survey of 20,000 adolescents found that the adolescent children of divorced parents did worse than their peers from intact families on such measures of satisfaction with life as happiness, sense of personal control, trust, and friendship. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago found that the adult children of divorced parents experience mental health problems significantly more often than do the adult children of intact families. The British National Longitudinal Study, which continuously tracked a national sample of children born in 1958, has shown that divorce is associated with a substantial 39 percent increase in the risk of psychopathology. Children younger than five years of age are found to be particularly vulnerable to the emotional conflicts occurring during the separation and divorce of their parents. Unlike the experience of their parents, the child’s suffering does not reach its peak at the time of the divorce and then level off.
This link between the rise in adolescent suicide in the past three decades and parental divorce can be found again and again in the literature; 81 and in cross-cultural studies of Japan and the United States, 82 as well as Holland, the link between divorce and the frequency of thoughts of suicide is clear. Suicide is often triggered by the child’s thoughts that his parents have rejected him 84 or lost interest in him.
Divorce affects not only the emotional and mental life of the child, but also his physical health–even the length of his life.
A longitudinal study that tracked over 1,500 privileged middle-class children with high IQs over their life span found a significantly higher mortality rate for those whose parents divorced, compared with those from intact families. Health effects during childhood include a doubling of the risk of asthma and a significant increase in injury rates. Divorce affects all the major institutions of society, but none more than the family itself and the child’s capacity to sustain family life as an adult.
Because of the negative impacts that divorce has on educational attainment, health, community life, and (as will be shown below) religious worship, it is particularly troubling that divorce seems to perpetuate itself across successive generations. Not only do parents divorce each other, but they in effect divorce or partially divorce their children.
Divorce presents most parents with two sets of problems: their personal adjustment to the divorce and their adjustment to the new and different role of divorced parent. After divorce, children tend to become more emotionally distant from both the custodial and non-custodial parent. Children’s contact with their fathers does not fare well, especially for non-custodial fathers.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the National Survey of Families and Households found that about one in five divorced fathers had not seen their children in the past year, and less than half the fathers saw their children more than a few times a year. The quality of the relationship that divorced fathers have with their sons, often troubled before the divorce, tends to become significantly worse after the breakup. The relationships of father to daughter and mother to son have their own special twists: Boys, especially if they are living with their mothers, respond with more hostility to parental divorce than girls do, both immediately after the divorce and for a period of years thereafter.
Moreover, children of divorced parents rate the support they receive from home much lower than do children from intact homes. Grown children continue to view their parents’ divorce quite differently than the parents do.
This emotional distance between children and parents lasts well into adulthood and may become permanent. Also, children of divorce are less likely to think they should support their parents in old age. For instance, compared with students from intact families, college students from divorced families use violence more frequently to resolve conflict. Adolescents who have the ability to get along with peers have acquired a significant social skill that can lead to greater happiness in their adult family life and in the workplace. When parents are in the throes of a divorce, the conflict is often accompanied by less affection, less responsiveness, and more punitive acts toward the children–all of which leaves the children feeling emotionally insecure 127 and more likely to believe that their social milieu is unpredictable and uncontrollable.
The faculty at Kent State University conducted a major national study on the effects of divorce. Many teenagers struggle with feelings of inadequacy and frequently turn these feelings into erroneous judgments of peer rejection. Children, especially pre-teen children (ages nine to 12), who maintain a good relationship and frequent contact with their fathers after a divorce are better able to maintain their self-confidence. The divorce of parents makes romance and courtship more difficult and tenuous for the children as they reach adulthood.
These effects on dating seem to be the strongest when the divorce takes place during the child’s teenage years, 141 but they also carry into adulthood. To avoid divorce, 149 some children of divorced parents become more selective in choosing a marriage partner, while some remain very uncertain of marriage and their own ability to handle it. American 156 and British 157 studies show that daughters of divorced parents will be more likely to endorse premarital sex 158 and engage in early sexual intercourse outside of marriage.
The rate of virginity among teenagers at all ages is highly correlated with the presence or absence of married parents.
Following a divorce, most mothers have to work full-time; this combination of divorced and full-time working mothers leads to the highest levels of sexual activity 165 in teenage children and is significantly correlated with having multiple sexual partners after a teenager becomes an adult.
Children of divorced parents, as noted above, are more likely than children of always-married parents to have more positive attitudes toward cohabitation and more negative attitudes toward marriage. However, when children of an intact marriage have a poor relationship with a parent, they often act in ways that are quite similar to children of divorced parents. From the empirical evidence, it is clear that, to a large degree, the marital instability of one generation is passed on to the next.
Daughters of divorced parents tend to divorce more frequently than do the sons of divorced parents, 177 with the risk as much as 87 percent higher during the earlier years of marriage 178 for daughters of divorced parents than for those from intact marriages. Given the effects of divorce as already enumerated, this lowered quality of marriage for children of divorce should not be surprising.
Conversely, the continued presence of a married father in the home strongly predicts the happy marriage of the child. When a family breaks apart, the rhythm of family life is deeply affected, and this often means that religious practice is disrupted. The data clearly show that parents and children in intact families are much more likely to worship than are members of divorced families or stepfamilies. When you have to discuss custody, visitation, support, or other details of the divorce, speak directly with your ex. You may be awfully curious about your ex’s new life, but don’t ask your child to get the dirt for you. This week, we are going to look at various charts and statistics related to marriage and divorce. One of the issues we face in making people aware of the impact of divorce on kids is the general disconnect between how parents and other adults view how their kids react to a family disruption and how the kids react.
These statistics mean that if you have a small group in your children’s ministry of five children that statistically two of them do not have married biological parents at home.  It is naive at best to assume that the issue of children of divorce is not relevant to your church.
Researchers at The Marriage and Religion Research Institute (an organization related to the Family Research Council) have spent numerous hours compiling statistics for their Map America Project. To measure the effects of family structure and religious attendance on both children and adults, Dr.
The study looks at various outcomes in life based on a person’s family status and religious attendance.
I didn’t fully appreciate at the time how draining it was to be in a toxic relationship with my ex. Sure, some people will argue that divorcing for one’s own happiness is a selfish act.
Since divorcing I have moved on with my life and met and married a wonderful man with children of his own.
Sure, in an ideal world things would have worked out with my ex and we would have had a happy and long marriage.

Anyone who has been through a divorce can tell you how bad it is. So bad, in fact, that I think most of us would rather subject ourselves to a full body cavity search than go through the divorce process again. It’s really easy, particularly early on in the divorce process, to allow every little thing about your ex to bother you. Maybe your ex is late dropping the kids off after his weekend with them, or wasn’t necessarily accommodating when it came to your request to switch up the schedule for a family function. When you’re going through a divorce and pounding out the details of visitation, holidays, etc., it’s easy to focus on what you may want or need, without thinking about your kids. It’s tempting to do what you can to make your ex’s life miserable when you’re divorcing them.
As social scientists track successive generations of American children whose parents have ended their marriages, the data are leading even some of the once-staunchest supporters of divorce to conclude that divorce is hurting American society and devastating the lives of children. Moreover, half of all children born to married parents this year will experience the divorce of their parents before they reach their 18th birthday.
If the effects are indeed demonstrable, grave, and long-lasting, then something must be done to protect children and the nation from these consequences.
Mounting evidence in the annals of scientific journals details the plight of the children of divorce and clearly indicates not only that divorce has lasting effects, but that these effects spill over into every aspect of life. They exhibit more health problems, as well as behavioral and emotional problems, are involved more frequently in crime and drug abuse, and have higher rates of suicide. They also are more likely to repeat a grade and to have higher drop-out rates and lower rates of college graduation.
For families that were not poor before the divorce, the drop in income can be as much as 50 percent. The research shows not only that it permanently weakens the relationship between a child and his or her parents, but also that it leads to destructive ways of handling conflict and a poorer self-image. Though none of the effects necessarily applies to every child of divorced parents, millions of children who see their parents divorce are nonetheless affected in serious ways by that act of rejection. For example, Washington could require the states to collect and provide accurate data on marriages and divorces, noting in each case the ages of the children involved. Three-fourths of Asian-American teenagers live in an intact-married-couple family with both biological parents.
It should be no surprise to find, then, that the prevalence of divorce is having profound effects on society.
For example, Robert Sampson, professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, found that the divorce rate predicted the rate of robbery in any given area, regardless of economic and racial composition. Farrington, professor of criminology at Cambridge University, found that the divorce of parents before a child reached age 10 is a major predictor of adolescent delinquency and adult criminality. 10 Further research on the relationship between family background and crime indicates that rejection by peers can lead hostile children to join delinquent gangs.
16 Not only do higher levels of divorce accompany higher levels of child abuse, but remarriage does not reduce the level of child abuse and may even add to it. The British study reports that fatal abuse of children of all ages occurs three times more frequently in stepfamilies than in intact married families.
Because divorce increases these factors, it increases the likelihood that children will abuse alcohol and begin using drugs. Because of its impact on stable home life, divorce can diminish the capacity to learn–a principle demonstrated by the fact that children whose parents divorce have lower rates of graduation from high school and college and also complete fewer college courses. 29 By comparison, a girl’s verbal capacities increase when the father is present, especially when he reads aloud to her when she is young. 37 Even if the children’s primary parent remarries, stepfamily life does not wipe out the educational losses generally experienced by these children.
The college attendance rate is about 60 percent lower among children of divorced parents compared with children of intact families.
43 The well-known high rates of college attainment by Asian-American children illustrate this point. The breakup of families leaves one parent trying to do the work of two people–and one person cannot support a family as well as two can. Between 1929 and 1933, the economy contracted by 30.5 percent and the gross national product (GNP) went from $203 billion to $141 billion (in constant 1958 dollars). Moreover, divorce causes both parents to lose the economies of scale that are implicit in the larger pre-divorce household. 51 Some 40 percent of families on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) are divorced or separated single-parent households. The stepfamily has a lower poverty rate, most likely because the remarriage often takes place later in the life of parents, when their incomes will be somewhat higher.
Mothers in this latter group go on welfare as frequently as single mothers who lose their jobs. 56 Immediately upon the breakup of their families through divorce, children experience reactions ranging from anger, fear, and sadness to yearning, worry, rejection, conflicting loyalties, anger, 57 lowered self-confidence, heightened anxiety and loneliness, more depressed moods, more suicidal thoughts, and even more attempts to commit suicide. 64 They cling more to their parents and regress more often to problems that are characteristic of younger children, such as bedwetting. For these children, anxieties run very high about their relationships with the opposite sex, personal commitments later in life (particularly during the late high school years), and marriage.
68 Other disturbing outcomes for teenagers include increased aggression, loss of self-confidence, 69 and particularly a sense of loneliness.
The British National Longitudinal Study cited above found a strong link between parental divorce during the middle and late childhood years (ages seven through 16) and significantly lower mental health status in young adulthood, with a 39 percent increase in the risk of psychopathology. As the work of Patricia McCall, a sociology professor at North Carolina State University, shows, the most frequent background characteristic among adolescents who commit suicide is the divorce of their parents. According to one study, the life spans of children whose parents divorce before the children have reached their 21st birthday are shortened by an average of four years. 87 Another study found that these mortality rates increase when the divorce occurs before the child’s fourth birthday. 89 A separate study confirmed these findings and went on to note that the negative health effects of divorce did not abate when the mother remarried.
The severing of the relationship between mother and father rends the hearts of most children, making their own capacity to have deep and trusting relationships more tenuous.
The negative impact of divorce on home life is so strong that children of divorced parents struggle as adults to create a positive, healthy family environment for their own children. The primary effect of divorce (and of the conflicts that lead to divorce) is the deterioration of the relationship between the child and at least one parent.
As many as 40 percent are so stressed by the divorce that their child-rearing behavior suffers.
97 This distancing effect is stronger than the similar effect that occurs among children living with parents who are married but unhappy and quarreling with each other. 99 In particular, divorced mothers have problems with their sons, though their relationship is likely to improve within two years 100 even when some discipline problems persist up to six years after the divorce. Their contact declines over time, though this pattern is less pronounced the older the child is when the divorce occurs. 103 By adolescence (between the ages of 12 and 16), less than half of children living with their separated, divorced, or remarried mothers had seen their fathers at all in more than one year, and only one in six saw their fathers as often as once a week.
106 Finally, the higher the level of conflict during the divorce, the more likely the distance between father and children afterwards.
Young adults who feel emotionally close to their fathers tend to be happier and more satisfied in life, regardless of their feelings toward their mothers. The level of contact between the children and their natural parents is not restored to the level enjoyed by children in intact families. 114 These negative ratings become more pronounced by the time they are in high school 115 and college. They deeply dislike the strains and difficulties that arise in daily rituals, family celebrations, family traditions, and special occasions and see these losses as major. Psychologist Judith Wallerstein was the first to disturb the nation with her widely reported research on the effects of divorce on children. As adults, children of divorced parents are half as likely to be close to their parents as are children of intact families.
123 This finding alone portends a monumental problem for the much-divorced baby-boom generation that will become the dependent generation of elderly during the first half of this new century. One important difference between marriages that stay intact and those that end in divorce is the couple’s ability to handle conflict and move toward agreement.
They are more likely to be aggressive and physically violent with their friends, both male and female. The parental conflicts that surround divorce and the social disruption that accompanies it place this competence at risk. 128 The worst troublemaker in school, the child who engages in fighting and stealing, is far more likely to come from a broken home than is one that is well-behaved.
131 They are likely to have fewer childhood friends and to complain more about the lack of support they receive from the friends they have. The findings: Compared with children in intact families, the children of divorced parents do more poorly in ratings by their parents and teachers on their peer relationships, hostility toward adults, anxiety, withdrawal, inattention, and aggression.
Daughters of divorce find it more difficult to value their femininity or to believe that they are genuinely lovable.
137 Older teenagers and young adults date more often, have more failed romantic relationships, and experience a more rapid turnover of dating partners.
Young adult children of divorced parents trust their fiances less (they expect them to give less and to be less committed) and tend to love their partners less altruistically (they give less and are not to be expected to give as much). Compared with children of always-married parents, children of divorced parents have more positive attitudes toward divorce, 144 have less favorable attitudes toward marriage, 145 are less likely to insist on a lifelong marital commitment, 146 and are less likely to think positively of themselves as potential parents.
150 Judith Wallerstein, in studying the children of divorced parents in Marin County, California, found that even a decade after a divorce, children experienced persistent anxiety about their own chances of having a happy marriage. Children’s approval of premarital sex and cohabitation and divorce rises dramatically, while their endorsement of marriage and childbearing is reduced.
159 According to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, African-American girls are 42 percent less likely to have sexual intercourse before age 18 if their biological father is present at home. 162 Indeed, each change in family structure during adolescence (from married to divorced, from single to married, or from divorced to stepfamily) increases the risk of initiation of sexual intercourse by one-third among the teenage children of these unions. 167 Children of divorced parents move away from their families of origin in greater proportion 168 and earlier 169 than do children of intact marriages. 171 (See Chart 12.) They are twice to three times as likely to cohabit and to cohabit earlier, 172 especially if their parents divorced during their teenage years.
In one study, for example, almost all daughters of divorced parents anticipated cohabiting before marriage, regardless of the level of affection between them and their fathers; but among daughters of intact marriages, it was those who had poor relationships with their fathers who anticipated cohabiting.
175 There are different estimates for the probability of divorce for children of divorced parents.
179 When the parents of both spouses have divorced, the risk of divorce is increased by as much as 620 percent in the early years of marriage, which declines to 20 percent by the 11th year of marriage.
181 It is evidenced in higher levels of jealousy, moodiness, infidelity, conflicts over money, and excessive drinking and drug use.
A 35-year longitudinal study found that the children of affectionate fathers were much more likely in their forties to be happily married and mentally healthy and to report good relationships with their friends. 185 Moreover, following a divorce, children are more likely to stop practicing their faith.
When she returns from a visit, don’t bombard her with questions about her father and his lifestyle.
Expressing your anger, hurt, and sense of failure to your child just makes him feel less secure. Instead, use your time and energy to work on building a positive dynamic in your home, your ex’s home, and everywhere in between. Over the years we have featured a number of articles including more detailed statistics related to the impacts of divorce and child living arrangements.
First, I ask them if they know how many children in their children’s ministries come from divorced homes. Fagan and his team of researchers at the Mapping America Project analyze data from a number of large, mainly federal surveys, such as the General Social Surveys (GSS) and the National Survey of Children’s Health. While the charts focused on religious attendance are fascinating and worthy of review, the focus for purposes of this article is on some of the impacts of growing up in a family without married biological parents. This touched every other aspect of my life — how I viewed myself, my friendships, my parenting.
The end of my marriage was angry, spiteful and draining for both their dad and I — a very unhappy home indeed. My children’s lives are now not only enriched by having step siblings, but there are also step-grandparents, step-cousins, and step aunts and uncles. If you want to avoid making the process even worse for yourself, here are some things that you should avoid like the Jell-O salad at a church supper buffet. Sure, you want to keep score and make sure that he doesn’t get the crystal vase that your aunt Gertrude gave you as a wedding gift.

It’s tempting to want to keep a score sheet in your head and repay the jerk next time he asks you for something. Try to remember that they’re being deeply affected by something that they have absolutely no control over. After all, divorce happens for a reason, and chances are you’ve got some anger and resentment built up there. Its effects are obvious in family life, educational attainment, job stability, income potential, physical and emotional health, drug use, and crime. This fact alone should give policymakers and those whose careers focus on children reason to pause.
Moreover, decline in income is intergenerational, since children whose parents divorce are likely to earn less as adults than children raised in intact families. Children of divorce demonstrate an earlier loss of virginity, more cohabitation, higher expectations of divorce, higher divorce rates later in life, and less desire to have children. There is no way to predict how each individual child will be affected or to what extent, but it is possible to demonstrate and predict the numerous and serious effects that divorce is having on society. State officials should greatly expand effective marriage education and divorce prevention programs. Congress could create demonstration grants, by diverting existing funding, to enable local community groups to provide marriage education and divorce prevention programs. What may surprise many policymakers and other Americans is how strong the relationship is between family background and such problems as crime, abuse and neglect, and addictions. 11 It is worth noting that these findings on delinquency are not confined to boys: Among adolescent girls, there is a strong correlation between family structure, delinquency, 12 hostile behavior, 13 drug use, larceny, skipping school, 14 and alcohol abuse. Neglect of children, which can be psychologically more damaging than physical abuse, 22 is twice as high among separated and divorced parents.
Adolescents whose parents recently divorced are found to abuse drugs and alcohol much more often than do adolescents whose parents divorced during their early childhood.
30 By age 13, there is an average difference of half a year in reading abilities between children of divorced parents and those who have intact families. 34 Such moves tend to increase the incidence of behavioral, emotional, and academic problems for all adolescents, regardless of family structure. Schools may expel as many as one in four stepchildren, 38 though this ratio can fall to one in 10 if stepparents are highly involved in their children’s school. Asian-Americans also seem to have the highest levels of intact family life of all American ethnic groups.
Because of this, divorce has been shown to lead to decreased household income and a higher risk of poverty.
48 Yet in each of the past 28 years, the households of over 1 million children have experienced an even greater contraction in income–with an average drop of between 28 percent to 42 percent. These young adults are most acutely concerned about betrayal in romantic relationships, both present and future; they also are concerned about being hurt or abandoned by a fiance or spouse.
73 For instance, one longitudinal study tracked children whose parents divorced in 1946 and tested them two and three decades later. 75 A large Finnish study found that at age 22, children of divorced parents experienced more frequent loss of jobs, more conflict with their bosses, and more separation and divorce; they also had more abortions. 90 Swedish researchers have found that, even in early adulthood, differences in health risk and rates of hospitalization are apparent after controlling for family and social background. For many children, the divorce of their parents is the beginning of an intergenerational cycle of family fracturing that is passed on to their children and grandchildren. All too often, adults who experienced divorce as children prove less capable of breaking the cycle and instead pass on a legacy of tragedy to their children and their children’s children. 92 Often, a deterioration of relations occurs between the child and both the custodial and non-custodial parents.
95 They frequently change from rigid to permissive behavior, and from emotionally distant to emotionally dependent. 104 In addition, paternal grandparents frequently cease to see their grandchildren as their son’s contact with his children diminishes. 108 These effects are somewhat mitigated the older the child is when the divorce takes place, the closer the children live to the father, and the more frequently they see him.
112 Nor does remarriage restore the enjoyment of the role of parent for most divorced parents.
They have less frequent contact with the parent with whom they grew up 120 and much less contact with the divorced parent from whom they have been separated.
Children of divorced parents can acquire the same incapacity to work through conflict from their parents.
124 In their own marriages, children of divorced parents are more likely to be unhappy, to escalate conflicts, to reduce communication with their spouses, to argue, to shout when arguing, and to assault their spouses physically when they argue. Sons of divorced parents frequently demonstrate less confidence in their ability to relate with women, either at work or romantically. 138 Not surprisingly, this leads to a greater number of sexual partners, 139 which in itself creates a grave risk that one will acquire an incurable sexually transmitted disease.
142 They fear being rejected, and the lack of trust frequently hinders a deepening of their relationships. 147 These differences in attitudes among children of divorced parents are noticeable even as early as kindergarten.
This anxiety interfered with their ability to form a lasting marriage; some failed to form satisfying romantic ties, while others rushed into impulsive unhappy marriages.
152 Women whose parents divorced are more likely to be hampered or even overwhelmed by anxiety when it comes time to decide on marriage. For Hispanic-American girls, the stepfather’s presence increases the likelihood of sexual intercourse before age 18 by 72 percent. 163 In Britain, children of divorced parents are three times as likely to have a child out of wedlock, compared with children of intact married families. Stepchildren are 40 percent more likely than children of intact marriages to leave home at any particular age to get married, and about 80 percent more likely to leave home early to cohabit or to set up their own independent residence.
183 The child with a father present in the early and adolescent years is more companionable and responsible as an adult.
186 Even when they enter a new stepfamily, their frequency of religious worship does not return to its prior level. If you’re a divorced mom – or headed in that direction – do your best to avoid these terrible divorce mistakes.
In fact, one of our very first articles when we launched the ministry was all about the different between how kids and parents see divorce. What they have documented so far is that growing up with both biological parents in a family that attends church together regularly is linked to a wide array of positive life outcomes for both children and adults, ranging from personal happiness to various behaviors, such as decreased criminal involvement and drinking alcohol as adults. The Mapping America Project includes numerous potential outcomes, and we will only cover some in this article today. Now that I have put this relationship behind me and moved on with my life, I am not only a much happier person, but a better friend, and a better parent. Now that we’re no longer together, our girls spend their time in two homes with happy and fulfilled parents. They now have an even bigger family circle to love and support them throughout their lives. You need to stay focused on the big picture and ask yourself if it’s really worth it to quibble over every single thing. Do your best to think about what’s best for the kids while you’re going through the process.
But in keeping with the previous point on this list (doing what’s best for the kids), it’s a much better idea to just focus on yourself and your own life, rather than on deliberately trying to make the person who hurt you so unhappy. Thus, the issue for researchers is no longer to determine what divorce’s ill effects are, but rather to understand the depth and persistence of these effects on children, their children, and even their grandchildren. Finally, Congress could establish a one-time tax credit for married parents who keep their marriage intact at least until their youngest child reaches age 18. As noted previously, over 1 million children experience parental divorce each year, and over 8 million children currently live with a divorced single parent.
After a divorce, mothers may marry again or acquire new boyfriends, but the presence of a stepfather or a boyfriend increases the risk of abuse, though at significantly different rates. When they are compared with children whose parents are still married, the difference grows even greater.
31 Even the most effective preventive work on reading and math skills does not eliminate the drop in performance at school among children of divorce.
35 Very young children are especially susceptible, since they are usually more attached to their home than older children are. 39 Children raised in intact families complete more total years of education and have higher earnings than children from other family structures.
It is a factor in a child’s diminished level of academic achievement, which translates into lower earnings as an adult.
49 For families that were not poor before a divorce, the drop in income can be as high as 50 percent.
71 Early sexual activity, substance abuse or dependence, hostile behavior, and depression also are more likely following a divorce.
Even 30 years after the divorce, negative long-term effects were clearly present in the income, health, and behavior of many of the grown offspring. 76 A large Swedish sample (over 14,000) confirms again the negative mental health effects of parents’ divorce on children, no matter what the socioeconomic status of the family may be. Divorced mothers, despite their best intentions, are less able than married mothers to give the same level of emotional support to their children. They have fewer enjoyable times with their children, more disagreements with them, and more altercations than intact families do. Wallerstein found that 15 years after the divorce, while 80 percent of divorced mothers and 50 percent of divorced fathers felt that the divorce was good for them, only 10 percent of the children felt positive about it. 121 The financial assistance, practical help, and emotional support between parents and children diminish more quickly than they do in intact families.
125 Thus, the destructive ways of handling conflict that lead to divorce can be transmitted across generations. 153 The problem of being overly meek or overly dominant, both of which indicate a lack of capacity to arrive at consensual agreement with others, is much more prevalent in the romantic relationships and marriages of the children of divorced parents than it is among children of intact marriages.
160 Furthermore, any sexual permissiveness on the part of divorced parents significantly increases permissive attitudes and behavior in both sons and daughters. She’ll feel not like she’s choosing one activity over another; she’ll feel like she’s forced to choose one parent over another. We gathered a lot more information than we were able to share in a one hour workshop, and over the next couple of months we will share a variety of statistics and study results related to children and the types of families they live in. Secondly, I point them to the national statistics which show that four in ten children live in a household with something other than their married biological parents (as shown in the following chart). Specifically, today we will review the impact of being raised a child of divorce or raised in a single parent family has on various social issues. I have shown them how to stand up for themselves, to not settle for less then they deserve, and how to be strong, independent women. In these communities, he found that the lower the rates of divorce, the higher the formal and informal social controls (such as the supervision of children) and the lower the crime rate.
25 Comparing all family structures, drug use in children is lowest in the intact married family. Leaving their family home for another after their parents’ divorce becomes even more traumatic because they tend to become more attached to their home during the breakup of their parents. 40 The advantage given by an intact family also holds for children in poor inner-city communities. 77 German research yields similar findings, 78 and a recent Australian parliamentary report reached similar conclusions. 93 Divorced fathers are less likely to have a close relationship with their children; and the younger the children are at the time of the divorce, the more likely the father is to drift away from regular contact with the children. 161 As with other family behaviors, children learn sexual permissiveness from their parents. Our sincere hope is that, armed with this information, the perception of the children in your ministry will change and you will be better able to minister to children from today’s diverse modern families.
Until we begin to truly see divorce from the child’s point of view, we cannot be in a position to minister to them. Life is so much better for everyone when you’re just able to move on and seek out happiness in new and better places.

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