Divorce Harms Children

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Divorce Harms Children


Divorce rates rose a dramatic 79 percent in the United States between 1970 and 1977. Although these high rates have since declined, a high proportion of marriages still end in divorce. In the 1970s, children were considered to be better off living with one parent than to live with both parents amidst conflict, abuse, or both. Indeed, there is considerable evidence from numerous research studies that indicate a conflict-ridden marriage is not in the best interest of the children. Sometimes, divorce is the best course of action. However, even under the best of all circumstances, few would argue that children are not affected by divorce.

The greatest focus of divorce's effect on children has been on the weeks, months, and the first few years following the divorce. But what about the long-term effects of divorce? For example, those preschool children who experienced the divorce of their parents in the 1970s and early 1980s have now reached young adulthood. What has been their life experience over the last 20 to 25 years, and how did the divorce impact those experiences? This publication summarizes the findings of several recent studies related to this question.

The Reality of Divorce

Regardless of personal values, community standards, or religious teachings, divorce is a fact of life, as shown by these facts:

2 of 5 children will experience the divorce of their parents before they reach age 18.

About 25 percent of all children will spend some time in a step-family.

A couple's marriage lasts about 7.2 years prior to divorcing.

Divorce rate leveled in the 1980's and is now about 11 percent lower than in 1979.

There are about 1,250,000 divorces per year in the United States.

Every year, over 1 million children under age 18 are involved in a divorce.

The Phases of Divorce

Divorce is much more complex than it appears on the surface. Ending a marriage connection is not a one-time happening that happens in a courthouse; it is a process. Usually, a series of events and behaviors on the part of one or both spouses erodes the positive feelings toward one or the other or both. Over a period of time, one or both of the marital partners becomes convinced that the relationship is intolerable, or at least is not working.

The divorcing couple, as well as the entire family, experiences a variety of abrupt changes which impact nearly every aspect of their lives. Divorce is most often an extremely painful series of events. According to one expert, divorce occurs in six phases:

The emotional divorce centers around the problem of the deteriorating marriage. This phase usually takes place over a period of time, which varies from couple to couple. The positive feelings of love and affection are displaced by increasing feelings of anger, frustration, hurt, resentment, dislike, or hatred, and the perception that the positive feelings are gone forever. The attributes that attracted the couple to each other become less important in the presence of these negative feelings.

The legal divorce is based ...
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