Statistics About Children of Divorce

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There is no question that divorce can have a big impact on children. The following statistics suggest that fathers need to do all they can to preserve marriage where possible, and if already divorced, to be a responsible and involved father.

Incidence of Divorce

Approximately 50% American children will witness the breakup of a parent's marriage. Of these, close to half will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage. (Furstenberg, F.F., Nord, C.W., Peterson, J.L., and Zill, N. (1983). "The Life Course of Children of Divorce." American Sociological Review 48(5): 656-668.)

One of every 10 children whose parents have divorced will also see three or more subsequent parental marriage breakups. (Gallager, Maggie. The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love)

Of all children born to married parents this year, fifty percent will experience the divorce of their parents before they reach their 18th birthday. (Patrick F. Fagan and Robert Rector, "The Effects of Divorce on America," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, May 2000.)

Physical Effects 

Children whose parents have divorced are more likely to experience injury, asthma, headaches and speech impediments than children whose parents have remained married. (Dawson, Deborah. "Family Structure and Children's Health and Well-Being: Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey on Child Health." Journal of Marriage and the Family 53(August 1991):573-84.)

Following a divorce, children are fifty percent more likely to develop health problems than two parent families. (Ronald Angel and Jacqueline L. Worobey, "Single Motherhood and Children's Health," Journal of Health and Social Behavior 29 (1985): 38 - 52.)

Children living with both biological parents are 20 to 35 percent more physically healthy than children from homes without both biological parents present. (Dawson, Deborah, "Family Structure and Children's Health and Well-Being: Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey on Child Health." Journal of Marriage and the Family 53(August 1991):573-84)

Emotional Effects 

Studies from the early 1980’s demonstrated that children in situations where their parents had been involved in multiple divorces earned lower grades than their peers and their peers rated them as less pleasant to be around. (Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage; Harvard University Press 1981)

Teenagers in single-parent families and in blended families are 300% more likely to need psychological help within any given year than teens from intact, nuclear families. (Peter Hill, "Recent Advances in Selected Aspects of Adolescent Development," Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 1993)

Children from divorced homes have more psychological problems than children who lost a parent to death. (Robert E. Emery, Marriage, Divorce and Children’s Adjustment, Sage Publications, 1988)

People who come from broken homes are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who do not come from broken homes. (Velez-Cohen, "Suicidal Behavior and Ideation in a Community Sample of Children" Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 1988)

Adult children of divorce tend to have: lower paying jobs and less college than their parents; unstable father-child relationships; a history of vulnerability to drugs and alcohol in adolescence; fears about commitment and divorce; and negative memories of the legal system that forced custody and visitation. (Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25-Year Landmark Study, New York, Hyperion, 2000)

Educational Effects

Children of divorced parents are twice as likely to drop out of high school than their peers who are still living with parents who did not divorce. (McLanahan, Sandefur, Growing Up With a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, Harvard University Press 1994)

Statistics on Fatherlessness

Forty percent of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers. (Wade, Horn and Busy, Fathers, Marriage and Welfare Reform, Hudson Institute Executive Briefing, 1997)

About 40% of children who do not live with their biological father have not seen him during the past 12 months; more than half of them have never been in his home and 26% of those fathers live in a different state than their children. (Father Facts, Fourth Edition (2002), National Fatherhood Initiative)

A Word From Verywell

Divorce significantly increases the risk for children to have major life challenges. While we recognize the risks, it is also important to acknowledge that divorce may be the best answer for children in cases of domestic violence, abuse or other harmful behavior patterns on the part of one or the other (or both) of the parents. Fathers need to work hard, whether married or not, to provide solid, responsible fathering and to work to preserve marriage, where at all possible, or to work hard to be a positive influence for good in the children's lives if the dad and mom are no longer married.

These statistics should be a wake-up call to any father who loves and cares about his children. Let's wake up and offer solid fathering for our children and a positive male role model in the lives of fatherless children around us and within our sphere of influence.

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