Effects of Divorce on Children
If the family is the building block of society, then marriage is the foundation of the family. However, this foundation is growing weaker, with fewer adults entering into marriage, more adults leaving it in divorce. Each year, over 1 million American children suffer the divorce of their parents. According to the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finance, only 42 percent of children aged 14 to 18 live in a “first marriage” family. Mounting evidence in social science journals demonstrates that the devastating physical, emotional, and financial effects of divorce on children will last well into adulthood and affect future generations.
Among these broad and damaging effects of divorce on children are the following: Children whose parents have divorced are increasingly the victims of abuse. They worry that their parents don’t love them anymore and they feel abandoned. They often feel they are at fault. They may believe something they did or said caused a parent to leave. They exhibit more health, behavioral, and emotional problems, are involved more frequently in crime and drug abuse, and have higher rates of suicide. Children of divorced parents perform more poorly in reading, spelling, and math. They also have higher drop-out rates and lower rates of college graduation. Religious worship, which has been linked to better health, longer marriages, and better family life, drops after the parents divorce. The divorce of parents, even if it is amicable, tears apart the fundamental unit of American society.
Restoring the faith of marriage and lessening the effects of divorce on children will require politicians and civic leaders to make this one of their most important tasks. The federal government should establish, by resolution, a national goal of reducing divorce among families with children. Establish pro-marriage demonstration programs by diverting sufficient funds from existing federal social programs into programs that provide training in marriage skills. Mandate that surplus welfare funds be used to strengthen marriages and slow the increase in family disintegration. Create a public health campaign to inform Americans of the risks associated with divorce and of the long-term benefits of marriage. Require married couples with minor children to complete divorce education and a mediated co-partnering plan before filing for divorce. Promote community-wide marriage programs for couples planning to get married and marriage-mentoring programs for couples in troubled marriages.
Since divorce has such devastating effects of divorce on children, the American society, through its institutions, must teach core principles to rescue marriage: 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. To set about the task of rebuilding a culture of family based on marriage and providing it with all the protections and supports necessary to make intact marriages commonplace, federal, state, and local officials must have the will to act.