Ethics & Religion
August 24, 2017
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
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
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
Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus,
President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous
columns go to
Search for any topic.
2019: Column 1965: Protecting Girls from Suicide
Eight Reasons To Marry
Ten Myths of Marriage
The Ministry of Marriage 911
The Message by Eugene Peterson
Green New Deal
Christian Persecution Rising Abroad
Gun Control Laws Needed
The Worst Valentine:
Pornography: A Public Health Hazard
Sextortion Kills Teens
Cohabitation: A Risky Business
same sex marriage,
abortion and infanticide,