The Effects of Divorce on Children

Each year, over a million American children suffer the divorce of their parents. Divorce causes irreparable harm to all involved, but most especially to children. Though it might be shown to benefit some individuals in some individual cases, over all it causes a temporary decrease in an individual’s quality of life and puts some “on a downward trajectory from which they might never fully recover.”

Divorce also permanently weakens the family and the relationship between children and parents. It frequently leads to destructive conflict management methods, diminished social competence and for children, the early loss of virginity, as well as diminished sense of masculinity or femininity for young adults. It also results in more trouble with dating, more cohabitation, greater likelihood of divorce, higher expectations of divorce later in life, and a decreased desire to have children. Paul Amato, professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University summed it up: divorce leads to “disruptions in the parent-child relationship, continuing discord between former spouses, loss of emotional support, economic hardship, and an increase in the number of other negative life events.”

The major issue for researchers is no longer to learn what the ill effects of divorce are, but to understand the extent of these effects on children and grandchildren and to identify ways of reversing their intergenerational cycle.

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