In 1950 the divorce rate of the United States was around twenty percent, which means that around eight out of ten families who got married in the fifties stayed together. However, by 1970 the American divorce rate had steadily climbed to the rate of fifty percent, more than double that of just twenty years before. In comparison, the amount of Americans that claim to be happy has dropped from around forty percent of Americans born in the 1950s or before, to around twenty-nine percent of those born after 1970 (Sifferlin). There is a great chance that the reason for the correlation of divorce rate and happiness of the people raised during that time period is the causal relationship between divorce, insecurities, mental health, and ultimately a lack of happiness. Divorce not only tears apart a family, but divorce also has a long-term effect on the children by making it difficult for them to have future relationships and creating roots for health issues including depression.
More and more scientific information is being accumulated about the long-term effects of divorce on children. Increasingly, long-term studies are providing insights about effects on the formation of intimate relationships and marriages in adulthood. The major finding that gets the most attention is the slightly increased likelihood that children of divorce will also divorce. The Huffington Post claims that “In keeping with previous research, they found that children with divorced parents were somewhat more likely to be separated or divorced in young adulthood. Additionally, young women whose parents divorced were also less likely to have been married” (Hughes). The research done by them suggests that a connection definitely exists between divorce in parents and struggles for the children in future relationships. While the surface reason behind the children’s relationship woes and those their parents went through, the Huffington Post also suggests that there is a deeper reasoning “On the other hand, there were several important findings of how parental divorce affected young women. Though parental divorce itself did have a direct effect on young women’s chances of divorce, the major effect of divorce on young women was the mother-daughter relationship in adolescence. Parental divorce tended to undermine the mother-daughter relationship”(Hughes). What this quote is saying is that the reason divorce has an impact on the relationships of the children involved is because of the strain it can place on the parent-child relationships. The custody battles and other conflicts between the parents in a divorce often either legally leave the children able to see only one parent or they tarnish the relationship between the children and a parent by essentially pitting both parents against each other and making the child choose between them. Multiple sources confirm the destructive tendencies of divorce to everyone involved in a family, in fact, “reactions to divorce and separation include significant pragmatic, physical and emotional problems and disruptions in family functioning”(Dillon). These disruptions can often be instigators to greater problems that stem out of lack of family functioning, one example of this kind of downward spiral can be that some households drop down to one income when parents get divorced, which puts the children in that household at risk of living in poverty that is five times higher than that of children who live with both parents. However, divorce seems to affect women more often than men. In fact, women whose parents underwent a divorce showed to be much more likely to both never get married and get divorced than men under the same circumstances(McCabe). This seems to be because women have shown to be slightly more reliant on relationships with their parents than their male counterparts, on the other hand, when males do feel the effects of their parent’s divorce it tends to affect them more at a young age often leading to delinquent behavior or built-up anger.
One of the other major effects on both children can be health issues such as depression, physical ailments, or even deep-rooted anger against a certain gender due to how a divorce can play out. Divorce also distracts a child from the world around them which can have negative side effects. In fact, children in school, no matter the age, may see a decline in their academic performance. Their grades may slip, and they may refrain from participating in any recreational or after-school sports or activities because they become distracted by what is going on at home. However, not every child whose parents decide to divorce gets bad grades. In fact, some go on to become academic achievers, with scholarships to prestigious schools. Although, as more research has been conducted into this area, it appears that even children who do well in school and who would otherwise appear unaffected by the divorce may suffer long-term trauma beneath the surface. Kids can also internalize their anger and sadness if their parents go through a divorce. “This can cause them to get sick more often, and to recover slower than they would have if they weren’t under so much stress. Of course, psychological issues also play a part and may develop into long-term conditions. For instance, children of divorce may be more likely to succumb to conditions brought on by a traumatic event, like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or phobias. Children may also feel like they are to blame for the divorce, and they may become confused as to which parent they’re expected to be loyal to. This is especially true if the parents involve the children in the animosity that exists between them, as opposed to civilly co-parenting the children(Chase-Lansdale).” Clearly, a divorce can affect almost every aspect of a child’s life. Children of divorce can also have poorer math and social skills, and they battle mental health issues like anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and sadness. They have trouble forming and maintaining friendships, expressing their feelings in positive ways, showing sensitivity to others’ feelings, comforting other children, and getting along with people who are different. The problems don’t resolve once the divorce becomes complete, but neither do they intensify. Children of divorce don’t appear to catch up with their peers. “That children whose family structure is falling apart are more prone to experiencing social distress is not surprising. Stressed-out parents can create stressed-out kids, and arguments over custody and worries about acclimating to two homes instead of one can cause children to turn inward. “They may not want to meet other students and may have problems expressing their own feelings,” says Kim.(Rochman)”. The negative effects of divorce cannot truly be contained or narrowed down to any certain scenario where they could be avoided. Regardless of how careful the parents may be, the children will always at least wonder if they were the ones to blame for the entire debacle. Even in the best scenario, feelings of insecurity and self-guilt can be nearly impossible to avoid.
In conclusion, divorce can be a devastating end to an unhealthy relationship between two people. But the sad part is that the effects are rarely solely contained to the people that caused the problems. In any case, in which the couple has children, divorce has a ripple effect that could last for generations. Unfortunately, however, divorce is a part of our world and can be in many cases inevitable. If one must get a divorce it would be best to just keep the children out of it according to the numerous studies above. The more the children become involved in a custody tug-of-war, the more their little hearts and minds become damaged forever. This leads to a higher chance of the children making the same mistakes due to personal issues the children may not even know they have and likely have no control over. If it is all possible, love the person you marry, and love your children.