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Ethics & Religion
August 24, 2017
Column #1,878
Impact of Divorce on Kids
By Mike McManus

Have you wondered why relatively few Millennials are marrying? If the same percentage of people were marrying today as in 1970, there would be 1.3 million more marriages a year!

A high percentage of Millennials are children of divorce, for whom dating and romance are more difficult. Adult male children of divorced parents are more ambivalent about becoming involved in a relationship.

Women "share this ambivalence and demonstrate more conflict, doubt and lack of faith in their partner's benevolence and tend to place less value on consistent commitment," reports Pat Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

Adolescents who have experienced their parents' divorces and remarriages may feel that marriage is unpredictable and unstable. Therefore, they are two to three times more likely to cohabit than to marry. They fear their future marriage will lack love, trust or communication, and that they will be beset by infidelity, conflict or abuse.

Fagan reports that their "anxiety interfered with their ability to marry well. Some failed to form satisfying romantic ties, while others rushed impulsively into unhappy marriages." Those who marry are 38% more likely to divorce than those from intact families.

One reason for this high failure rate is that children of divorce are 39% more likely to marry other children of divorce. Such couples are three times more likely to divorce than those from non-divorced homes, according to one study.

Why are their failure rates so much higher?

A study by Susan Jacquet and Catherine Surra report that parental divorce leads to low trust among children. The divorce of their parents makes dating and romance more difficult. These effects carry into adulthood. Compared with women from intact families, women from divorced families reported less trust and satisfaction in romantic relationships and a greater fear that relationships are beset by infidelity and the absence of trust.

Compared with children of always-married parents, children of divorce also have more positive attitudes towards divorce and less favorable attitudes towards marriage, reported an article in the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.

Parental divorce also profoundly affects the physical health of their children. Males are 39% more likely to smoke and women, 29%.

Children whose parents divorced are more likely to contract cancer of the digestive tract, the esophagus, anus, pancreas, lungs and cervix. Their mortality risk is 44% higher than those from intact homes. And on average, their lifespan is shortened by an average of 4.5 years.

(The impact on lifespan is even greater for women who divorce who will live 5 years shorter lives and divorced men lose ten years of life.)

An analysis of 49,000 people reports a parental divorce increases the likelihood of a suicide. Pat Fagan and Robert Rector state a child of divorce is six times more likely to commit suicide than one from intact parents.

The psychological effects of a parental divorce are substantial. Children from divorced families have more emotional and behavioral problems, negative feelings and less psychological well-being than adults from intact homes. Children of divorce experience a profound "sadness, anger, loneliness, depression, heightened anxiety, worry, lower life satisfaction, lower self-esteem and self-confidence."

However, boys find parental divorce more emotionally disturbing than girls do. Boys tend to be more depressed.

Children of divorce also lag in math and social skills. A Canadian study reported that children born in 1984 whose parents divorced before they were 18 were significantly less likely to finish high school, and the younger they were at the time their parents parted - the less likely they were to graduate. They are also three times more likely to be expelled from school or to become pregnant as a teenager.

A large Finnish study found that 22-year-old children of divorced parents experienced more job loss. Sons experienced more conflict with supervisors and teachers and daughters experienced more interpersonal conflict.

They are also less likely to move up the income ladder. "Divorce is particularly harmful for children's mobility," a large, long-term study reported in 2010. Of children starting out in the lowest third of incomes, only 26% with divorced parents were able to move up to the middle or top third as adults, compared to 50% of children with continuously married parents.

Therefore, parents considering divorce should reconsider - given the likely horrific impact it will have on their children.

On the other hand, they should know a child raised by both parents is immensely privileged in America. As Dennis Prager puts it, "If you are raised by a father and mother, you enter adulthood with more privileges than anyone else in American society, irrespective of race, ethnicity or sex."
Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.

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