With 40% to 50% of first marriages (Cherlin, 2010) and 60% of second marriages (Amato, 2004) ending in divorce, divorce is a topic that demands discussion.
While the function of marriage has shifted over the years, today’s marriages seek to form unions founded in love, common interest, happiness, and friendship—not unions of obligation as in the past. Could this shift be the very reason divorce rates are increasing?
While, the shifting view of marriage is one explanation for the increase of divorce, there are others. Including: legalization of “no-fault” divorces, change from farming society to industrialized society, access to contraception, women in the workforce, and more.
How can I know if I am more likely to be in the 50% of marriages that end in divorce?
Amato (2010) identifies some predictors of divorce:
- Parental divorce
- Marrying as a teenager
- Unemployed at time of marriage
- Low educational attainment
- Cohabitating before marriage (this is highly debated)
- Employment of the wife
- Domestic violence
- Issues with trust
- Poor relationship/communication skills
- High level of conflict and unhappiness
- Low level of commitment
How does divorce impact children?
- A third of child will adjust well and maintain good relationships with both parents (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).
- Living arrangement changes (Kelly, 2007). This might be in the form of single-parent household, stepfamily household, moving in with grandparents, or other structures. Potential to diminish the bond with the non-custodial parent.
- Stress from coping and change may cause psychological distress—for 20-25% of children, impaired psychological and social functioning (Kelly, 2002).
- Children might experience clinical depression, poor performance at school, difficulty with friendships, sleep problems, continued hope for parents to reconcile (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).
- Half of all children will grow into “worried, underachieving, self-deprecating, and sometimes angry adults” (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
- Harsher outcomes for children impacted by lower household income (poverty) or single-parent households: drop out of school, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, poor mental health, and behavior problems (Amato, 2004).
What can I do to help children cope and offset these negative outcomes?
Having meaningful conversations about the divorce and changes with children. Using children’s literature as a means to open discussion can be helpful. Avoid placing your children in the middle of conflict. Offer reassurance and continue routines/family traditions. Encourage children to maintain strong relationships with both parents. Seek professional help if you or children continue to struggle with the divorce for an extended time.
For more information, access my Divorce Brief shared below and under the “Family Resources” tab.
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