Divorce's Devastating Impact on Children

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Divorce's Devastating Impact on Children

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Children of divorce often experience the same hardships suffered by children born out of wedlock. Because divorce typically slashes the mother’s financial resources, “mothers and children in families that were not poor before separation suffered an average decline in income after divorce of 50 percent” (Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, The Divorce Culture, 1996, p. 93).

The consequences of divorce on children are far-reaching. One detailed study found that, “five years after the divorce, more than a third of the children were experiencing moderate or severe depression. At ten years a significant number of the now-grown young men and women appeared to be troubled, drifting, and underachieving. At the fifteen-year mark, many of the thirtyish adults were struggling to establish secure love relationships of their own … Cruelly, the experience of parental divorce damaged many young adults’ ability to forge strong attachments of their own, in both their work and their family lives” (Whitehead, p. 99).

A 25-year landmark study of 131 children of divorce demonstrated some alarming facts. “Adolescence begins early in divorced homes and, compared with that of the youngsters raised in intact families, is more likely to include more early sexual experiences for girls and higher alcohol and drug use for girls and boys” (Judith Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, 2000, p. 299).

The study also found that “one in four of the children in this study started using drugs and alcohol before their fourteenth birthdays” (p. 188). Cohabitation rates were high among the group. Several of the single young women felt that simply moving in with a man “was safer than marriage because escape was easier if they needed to get out or if the man left” (p. 289). Their reasons boiled down to a distrust of men that resulted when their parents divorced.

Many children of divorce rush into cohabitation or early marriage in young adulthood. “Being alone raises memories of lonely years in the post divorce family and feels like the abandonment they dread. They’re trapped between the wish for love and the fear of loss. This amalgam of fear and loneliness can lead to multiple affairs, hasty marriages, early divorce, and—if no lessons are gleaned from it all—a second and third round of the same” (pp. 31-32).

The results of the study indicate that, when marriages end in divorce, often the children experience difficulty in relationships, including an increased likelihood of divorce and promiscuous sex.

Not as well publicized is the much-higher rate of delinquent behavior among children of single-parent or otherwise divorced households. For example, “a study of Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Youth Development in 1985 indicated that children in single-parent families headed by a mother have higher arrest rates, more disciplinary problems in school, and a greater tendency to smoke and run away from home than do their peers who live with both natural parents—no matter what their income, race, or ethnicity” (Daniel Amneus, The Garbage Generation, 1990, p. 215).

A far more extensive study of Bureau of Justice statistics of 25,000 jailed juveniles found that “72 percent of them came from broken homes” and “a child growing up in a single-parent home (usually female-headed) is seven times as likely to be a delinquent” (Amneus, p. 179).

In light of these debilitating consequences, we shouldn’t be surprised when God thunders that He “hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16 Malachi 2:16For the LORD, the God of Israel, said that he hates putting away: for one covers violence with his garment, said the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously.
American King James Version×
). GN

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