Study: Children of divorce
suffer ‘mass of injustice’
By Mark Norton
Washington—Millions of children each year experience their parents’ divorce, and the impact on their lives can be far reaching, even though it may be difficult to observe, according to a new report.
“It’s only when you get to the macro level and begin to aggregate it all that you can see the clear pattern of the advantage of kids from intact marriages over kids from divorced families,” said Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute.
Comparing long-term studies worldwide, Fagan and MARRI colleague Aaron Churchill illustrated divorce’s harm to children in a report released earlier this year.
Among U.S. children, 47 percent do not reach the age of 17 without a family split, according to the 2009 American Community Survey.
Divorce can decrease the ability of a child to function well in five areas of society, according to the MARRI study unveiled in January: Family, school, church, marketplace and government.
The report said children who have an intact married family are less likely than those who have experienced a split family to:
• Think their fathers are not warm and loving.
• Get in a fight with a family member.
• Lie, steal or damage property.
• Hurt someone, get drunk or skip school.
• Have sex before age 14 and have an unwed pregnancy.
The child with an intact, married family has a better chance to:
• Have a 2.9 grade-point average or higher.
• Receive a bachelor’s degree.
• Not be incarcerated or be sexually abused by a family member.
• Have a higher income.
“Divorced homes show a decrease in language stimulation, pride, affection, stimulation of academic behavior, encouragement of social maturity, and warmth directed towards the children,” the study reported.
“There’s a mass of injustice that has been done to kids by their parents when the parents split,” Fagan stressed.
The emotional impact on children can be great, said Linda Jacobs, former executive director and developer of DivorceCare 4 Kids, a program that helps kids learn to cope with their emotions after a divorce.
The emotional experience of divorce can leave children sad, angry and depressed, Jacobs said. For many children, “anger speaks for them when they are young; they do not have the language to say that I am angry, so their behavior becomes their voice for them,” she noted. (BP)
Western Recorder issue date: March 13, 2012.
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