Divorce’s Effects on Children

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The dramatic rise in the rate of divorce in the United States between 1960 and 1980 is well known, and even more so are the high divorce rates over the past twenty years. In 1970, twelve percent of American families with children under age eighteen were headed by single parents, and by 1984, one-fourth of American families and nearly sixty percent of black families were headed by single parents (Demo & Acock, 1988, p. 619). These high divorce rates have resulted in numerous changes in American family life. While predictions vary, the consensus is that most youth will spend some time prior to age eighteen in a single-parent household based on recent social and demographic trends. Individuals with divorced parents are at increased risk of experiencing psychological problems in adulthood (Amato & Sobolewski, 2001, p. 900). Growing up divorced has become an alternative developmental path for a substantial number of children in this country (Kalter, 1987, p. 587). These trends in family composition have major repercussions for the life course of children and their well-being. Studies have shown that adults with divorced parents, when compared with adults with continuously married parents, report to greater unhappiness, less satisfaction with life, a weaker sense of control, more symptoms of anxiety and depression, and a greater use of mental health services. Overall, most children of divorced parents have experienced dramatic declines in their economic circumstances, abandonment by one or both of their parents, the diminished capacity of both parents to attend meaningfully and constructively to their children’s needs, and diminished contact with many familiar or potential sources of psychological support.
Marital dissolution is a pro...

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