The US is one of the leading countries in divorce, with the sixth highest divorce rate in the world. In 2021, there were 1.98 million marriages, of which 689,308 ended in divorce. Nearly 50% of all marriages in the US end in divorce or separation. Every 42 seconds, there is one divorce in America, which equates to 2,046 divorces a day, and 746,971 divorces in a year (Divorce statistics and facts, 2022). Divorce not only disturbs family dynamics but also has lasting effects on both the children and parents.
Studies have shown that parental divorce or separation is associated with increased risk of academic difficulties, developmental problems and disruptive behavior. Often in divorced or separated families, the child loses time with each parent both because of physical separation and because each parent has to adjust to their own new lives. This means that each has less emotional investment into the child. The child may also lose economic stability due to legal fees of divorce and separation of wealth among the parents (D'Onofrio, 2019).
Due to the diminished emotional and financial investment in the child, the child may experience developmental difficulties throughout childhood. For example, a study (Brand, 2019) showed that white children with divorced parents had a decline in educational attainment compared to those with un-divorced parents. Children with divorced or separated parents also exhibited more risky sexual behavior, such as earlier sex debut and increased approval of premarital sex and divorce (D'Onofrio, 2019). A Harvard study also showed that the biggest factor preventing upward economic mobility is living with a single parent. This is because divorce disturbs the child’s competence in future family relationships, education and emotional maturity (Anderson, 2014).
Divorce not only affects the children, but also affects the parents as well in the long run. In general, married people were better off in life than their non-married counterparts. For example, married people were less likely to drink or smoke, less likely to commit suicide, and had the lowest incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease (Anderson, 2014). Married people were also more likely to have higher incomes, as longer marriage usually correlates with more wealth accumulation. Divorced people were also less happy as a result of their divorce, as in only 10 percent of divorces, partners felt that their life was happier. Also, a third of divorced women and a fourth of divorced men felt their life was disappointing after their marriage (Anderson, 2014).
Divorce is a significant life event that affects every aspect of a family dynamic and causes significant changes that every party needs to be mentally and financially prepared for. This is especially true for children, who at a young age, often lack the knowledge and mental capacity to cope with and overcome the difficulties that divorce brings. Therefore, it is necessary that children get the proper, age-appropriate guidance and explanation necessary to cope with such a big life stressor (Çaksen, 2021). Parents must be willing to prioritize the mental well-being of the children to ensure that the future capabilities of the child are not diminished. This often involves the help of health care professionals, who must carefully consider the family dynamic of divorce when evaluating the mental health of a child.