Statistics About Children of Divorce

In This Article

There is no question that divorce can have a big impact on children. The following statistics suggest that parents should attempt, when possible, to preserve their marriage. However, this is not always a feasible measure. Where divorce needs to happen, it is key that parents maintain an active and present role in their child's life.

Incidence of Divorce

Approximately 50 percent of 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. One of every 10 children whose parents have divorced will also see three or more subsequent parental marriage breakups.

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. Following a divorce, children are fifty percent more likely to develop health problems than two-parent families.

Children living with both biological parents are 20 to 35 percent more physically healthy than children from homes without both biological parents present.

Emotional Effects 

Studies from the early 1980s 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.

Teenagers in single-parent families and in blended families are 300 percent more likely to need psychological help within any given year than teens from intact, nuclear families. Children from divorced homes may have more psychological problems than children who lost a parent to death.

People who come from broken homes are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who do not come from broken homes.

Adult children of divorce tend to have lower-paying jobs and less college education 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.

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.

Statistics on Fatherlessness

Forty percent of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers. About 40 percent 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 percent of those fathers live in a different state than their children.

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. Parents need to work hard, whether married or not, to provide solid, responsible support and to work to preserve the marriage, where at all possible, or to work hard to be a positive influence for good in the children's lives if the parents are divorced.

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Article Sources

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Anderson J. The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorceLinacre Q. 2014;81(4):378–387. doi:10.1179/0024363914Z.00000000087

  2. Langton CE, Berger LM. Family Structure and Adolescent Physical Health, Behavior, and Emotional Well-BeingSoc Serv Rev. 2011;85(3):323–357. doi:10.1086/661922

  3. Furstenberg FF, Nord CW, Peterson JL, Zill N. The Life Course of Children of Divorce: Marital Disruption and Parental ContactAmerican Sociological Review. 1983;48(5):656. doi:10.2307/2094925.

  4. Fomby P, Cherlin AJ. Family Instability and Child Well-BeingAm Sociol Rev. 2007;72(2):181–204.

Additional Reading

  • 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.

  • Gallager, Maggie. The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love

  • Patrick F. Fagan and Robert Rector, "The Effects of Divorce on America," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, May 2000.

  • Ronald Angel and Jacqueline L. Worobey, "Single Motherhood and Children's Health," Journal of Health and Social Behavior 29 (1985): 38 - 52.