I don’t want to go too far off digging into the statistics, but they truly are astounding and absolutely worth a look. These points from Lauren Hansen’s March 28, 2013 article published in The Week highlight some startling facts specific to the children of divorced parents:
- Significantly higher likelihood of becoming smokers
- Increased use of the prescribed drug, Ritalin
- Poorer performance in mathematics
- 11% higher risk of developing health issues or illness
- 18% higher risk of dropping out of high school
- Higher likelihood of engaging in criminal activity later in life
- Increased risk of stroke due to early changes in physiology
- More likely to divorce themselves
- Shorter lifespan (almost 5 years less on average)
Reading these facts should scare you. It’s important to understand just how life-altering and dramatic divorce is for children. Simply brushing off the impact your divorce has on your children is not an option. Being afraid of these facts is not helpful to you or your children, but acknowledging them, and working to counteract them is. Getting divorced does not automatically doom your children to lives of misery and illness. It’s not a hopeless situation, and there are often times when it is better to divorce than to stay married (almost always the case in situations involving child and/or spousal abuse). It is going to take time, energy, and effort to mitigate the negative effects your children may experience as a result of your divorce.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the counterpoints related to the effects divorce has on children. In a 2013 Scientific American article, authors Hal Arkowitz and Scott Lilienfeld report that:
“Divorce affects most children in the short run, but research suggests that kids recover rapidly after the initial blow. In a 2002 study psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington of the University of Virginia and her then graduate student Anne Mitchell Elmore found that many children experience short term negative effects from divorce, especially anxiety, anger, shock and disbelief. These reactions typically diminish or disappear by the end of the second year. Only a minority of kids suffer longer.”
Later in the article, the authors continue with:
“Most children of divorce also do well in the longer term. In a quantitative review of the literature in 2001, sociologist Paul R. Amato, then at Pennsylvania State University, examined the possible effects on children several years after a divorce. The studies compared children of married parents with those who experienced divorce at different ages. The investigators followed these kids into later childhood, adolescence or the teenage years, assessing their academic achievement, emotional and behavior problems, delinquency, self concept and social relationships. On average, the studies found only very small differences on all these measures between children of divorced parents and those from intact families, suggesting that the vast majority of children endure divorce well.”
There are many factors that contribute to your child’s ability to recover from the pain of your divorce. Two key factors include:
- Your child’s disposition and personality plays a major role in their ability to cope with the effects of your divorce. If your child tends to be an easy-going and adaptive, they will likely recover faster than a child who has difficulty coping with change.
- Your ability to parent effectively and to provide your child with the structure, affection, care, and attention they need, will directly influence their ability to cope and adjust to the difficulty and uncertainty divorce brings.
Of the two key factors indicated above, you can only directly influence one, the influence your role as a parent will have on your child’s life. Being the best parent you can be, putting your child’s needs before your own, guiding your child through this difficult point in their life – these are the things that you can do right now that are proven to help your child.