Is it better for children if their parents don't divorce?


Fact Box

  • In 2017 there were 16.1 divorces for every 1,000 marriages in the United States [1].
  • A report from The Heritage Foundation in 2000 found that over one million children deal with the impact of divorce each year [2], which has likely increased in the twenty years since then.
  • In 2019 approximately 60% of US children lived in households with their married biological parents [3].
  • 82% of surveyed children of divorced parents say they preferred their parents separate [4].
  • Most children of divorce don’t suffer long term consequences from the divorce itself [5].

Nalda (Yes)

According to two meta-analyses conducted between 1991 and 2001, children of divorced parents, “score significantly lower on measures of academic achievement, conduct, psychological adjustment, self-concept, and social relations (Amato, 2001).” 

These outcomes are believed to be the result of a variety of factors that accompany divorce. It is thought that many of these issues are the result of a reduction in the amount of time a child spends with each of his/her parents after a divorce. Another issue is related to the fact that mothers experience a reduction in their income (25 to 50%) following a divorce, and a significant number of children of divorce live in single-parent homes run by mothers. According to the Urban Institute, economic insecurity increases stressors on both parents and children and reduces the resources available to support child health and development. 

According to the CDC, children living with one biological parent are between three and eight times more likely to experience violence in their neighborhood, caregiver violence, or incarceration of a caregiver. Children living in households with two parents are less likely to have lived with a caregiver with mental illness or substance abuse issues. These children are also less likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability or ADHD than children with divorced parents. The separation of a family imposes such a negative impact on children, divorce should be avoided except in cases of abuse. 

Louis (No)

Parenting is a lifelong commitment that should survive divorce. In such cases, there need not be an overall negative impact on children and can even be a positive experience by showing them how to handle difficult changes. The most significant factor for children of divorce is the ultimate happiness of their parents and how their parents treat each other through divorcing procedures. One study 1 shows that 82% of respondents from broken family units preferred their parents to separate than to stay together. Other studies show that most children do well in the longer-term or and don’t suffer long term consequences.

Children generally change their view of divorce as they mature and realize that their parent’s happiness is ultimately paramount to the happiness of the children themselves.

Divorce may be the definitional end of a marriage, but it is not the end of parenting. Some studies have shown the negative impact of divorce on kids’ academic and socio-economic performance; however, they admit that these effects may not be from the divorce itself and generally do not differentiate in cases of intentional co-parenting. They also rarely take into consideration the view of the children themselves, which is paramount, and attempt to boil happiness down to raw economical metrics.

Keeping “parenting” as a focus is likely the largest factor in helping kids cope with divorce. Parents serve their children best by setting examples they wish their kids to emulate. This means understanding that parenting is a lifelong commitment, even if their marriage isn’t.

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