The Harmful Effects of Divorce on Children
If you have kids and are considering ending your marriage, you need to know the truth about the effects of divorce on children. Today’s casual attitude toward divorce would have you believe that a broken marriage is not only harmless, it is also beneficial. In the spirit of not wanting anyone to feel bad about their separation, we reassure couples that divorcing will make everyone happier. After all, it is much better for children to be raised in a single parent household than have to endure their parents’ stony silence and bitter arguments, right? Right?
The True Effects of Divorce on Children
In the summer of 2009, Time Magazine published a ground-breaking article that challenges all conventional wisdom about divorce and children. In the article, author Caitlin Flanagan writes:
“…on every single significant outcome related to short-term well-being and long-term success, children from intact, two-parent families outperform those from single-parent households. Longevity, drug abuse, school performance and dropout rates, teen pregnancy, criminal behavior and incarceration — if you can measure it, a sociologist has; and in all cases, the kids living with both parents drastically outperform the others.”
You might be tempted to think that positive outcomes happen only in families where children are raised in a “happy” home. However, research tells us otherwise. The effects of divorce on children are far-reaching, regardless of the family’s background.
However, for most marriages, the negative effects of divorce on children outweigh any harm caused by normal marital problems. Every marriage will have its ups and downs. Quitting as soon as things get tough actually makes it more likely for your children to divorce themselves. They benefit from seeing their parents work through difficulties and model positive communication.
The one exception to this rule is if your spouse is abusive. Please remove your children IMMEDIATELY from an abusive situation. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) TODAY for anonymous and confidential help.
The Myth of Joint Child Custody
Some parents believe that they can divorce amicably and maintain joint child custody that will offset the harmful effects of divorce on children. However, the reality is that child support issues often lead one parent to petition for majority custody. Even in cases where legal joint custody is awarded, the logistics of having children split their time between two homes leads most courts to order majority physical custody with one parent.
In cases where parents do divorce on good terms, children are left wondering why their parents couldn’t simply get along in the first place. Such confusion and misunderstanding about their parents’ relationship can lead to lifelong issues. In fact, a study by Robert Emery found that children of divorced parents have more psychological issues than those who have experienced a parent’s death. Can you believe that?! The harmful effects of divorce on children are greater than those caused by a parent’s death!
Joint child custody does not negate these effects. It simply creates divided loyalties and confused children. The better option is for parents to try to work out their differences. Consider the findings of a 2002 study by the Institute for American Values…
- Unhappy married couples who divorce are no more likely to report an improvement in their emotional and psychological health than those who stay married.
- 8 out of 10 unhappily married couples who work through their difficulties report being happily married five years later.
While the conventional wisdom might be to pack your bags and leave when you are unhappy, research points to a different path. Instead of giving up, recognize that every marriage has its problems. Working through them is not an impossible task. It can not only make you happier, it can also help avoid the harmful effects of divorce on children.
Don’t Give Up Yet, There Is Help For Your Marriage
These facts aren’t meant to make you feel guilty. You have enough stress in your life without adding to it. They are just meant to give you the truth about how divorce could impact your children. Hopefully they have given you some encouragement that most marriages can not only be saved, but they can become the wonderful relationship that we all long for.
If you are willing to give your marriage another chance, if only for your children, there are lots of places you can go for help. One resource many couples have used to restore their marriage is “The Magic of Making Up“. This popular program has helped thousands of couples save their families from the devastating effects of divorce on children and adults.