Hidden Costs of Divorce
Recent studies show that the number of children of divorce living in single parent households compared to those living in two parent families has risen steadily in the last decade to the point that now nearly 50% of all children live with one parent only. At the same time, the number of divorces in the United States has risen to a near 50% level as well and the number of children touched by divorce in has increased right along with the number of divorces in the country. All those kids living with one parent today mirrors adds support to the claim that half of all marriages in this country end in divorce and some studies have shown that the numbers could be even higher in areas of the country where divorce rates climb to nearly 60% for low-income, urban families.
Divorce is always a difficult experience for the adults, but it is the children of divorce who often suffer the most lasting negative effects. The recent shifts in American family structure have resulted in definite negative social and economic consequences for the kids of divorce. Numerous studies have shown that children from divorced households are less likely to graduate from college and will earn a lower salary over their lifetime. Children from two parent households have better physical and mental health, and are twice as likely to remain married as adults. When children witness a divorce their sense of lifetime marital commitment can be devalued, and that witnessing that divorce also doubles the chances that they will have serious social, emotional or psychological problems like dropping out of school or leaving the home early without real job skills. Compared to boys raised in single parent households, boys from two parent families are half as likely to be imprisoned for serious crimes by time they reach the age of 30.
While marital discord in the family does have negative effects on children, the assumption that children of divorce are better off than if they lived in dysfunctional two parent families, is wrong except in very high-conflict households where the threat of abuse meant physical separation was the only immediate choice. This means the effects of divorce are usually worse for the kids than the turbulence created by the parents staying together and attempting to work out their problems. Divorce will often affect a child’s sense of emotional well-being due to the sudden loss of familiar surroundings and routine. When everything in their world changes and normal daily routines and attachments are shattered, children will often feel like they have been abandoned by their parents and they have been left alone to deal with the world by themselves. The security of family, home, friends and neighbors is lost and replaced with uncertainty and fear.
Divorce can have negative consequences for the single parents of the children of divorce too. Over 25% of recently divorced single mothers are living below the poverty level in the United States today. Divorce not only increases the risk of poverty for single mothers, divorced women are more often the victims of violent crime than married women. The benefits of marriage for men over divorce are clear when you consider that married men have higher lifetime incomes, better relationships with their adult children and longer life expectancy overall. Married men also pay more attention to marriage and the family and are less likely to get into dangerous or criminal activities.
It not hard to see that marriage benefits children, parents and the community in general, and that divorce does not. Two parent households enjoy economic, health, educational and security benefits that single parents cannot provide and it is the children who are often most injured by a divorce. Unfortunately, the scenario is unlikely to change anytime soon and it falls to the parents to make sure their divorce as least destructive as possible so the children will have at least a chance of a positive outcome in their lives.