Consequences of Divorce : Long-lasting effects on children

Updated 2019 05 15
Divorce : Long-lasting effects on children

Divorce: Children not so resilient

As to Consequences of Divorce : Long-lasting effects on children, it is an unsubstantiated myth that children are resilient, that their parents’ separation and divorce will not affect them, even be good for them.  Yet, as Stephen Baskerville wrote, the common ‘wisdom’ is that,

…”No good can come from forcing people to remain in loveless marriages, even in the misguided belief that somehow it is better for the children,” runs an editorial in the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah, opposing a mild reform bill recently introduced. “Is it really good for children to be raised in a home by two parents who don’t love each other and who fight all the time but who are forced to stay because of the law?”

These questions are red herrings. Divorce today does not necessarily indicate marital conflict and is less likely to be the last resort for a troubled marriage than a sudden power grab. Most divorces are initiated with little warning and often involve child snatchings. In 25 percent of marriage breakdowns, writes Margaret Brinig of Iowa State University, the man has “no clue” there is a problem until the woman says she wants out. A University of Exeter study found that in over half the cases there was no recollection of major conflict before the separation. “The assumption that parental conflict will cease at divorce is not only invalid,” writes Patricia Morgan; “divorce itself instigates conflict which continues into the post-divorce period.”

Further, as Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee found, few children are pleased with divorce, even when severe conflict exists. “Children can be quite content even when their parents’ marriage is profoundly unhappy for one or both partners,” they write. “Only one in ten children in our study experienced relief when their parents divorced. These were mostly older children in families where there had been open violence.” Divorce and separation almost always have a more detrimental effect on children than even high-conflict marriages. “The misery their parents may feel in an unhappy marriage is usually less significant than the changes [the children] have to go through after a divorce,” says Neil Kalter, a University of Michigan psychologist. Surveys of children by Ann Mitchell and J.T. Landis found that most recalled a happy family life before the breakup….«

—Stephen Baskerville, in
Crisis, vol. 23, no. 3 (March 2005), pp. 14-20

Comments pertaining to, and excerpts from, the research done by Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee:


A Summary of Some of the Findings in the Book: ‘Second Chances: Men, Women, & Children a Decade After Divorce’ by Judith S. Wallerstein & Sandra Blakeslee (New York: Ticknor & Fields [Houghton Mifflin], 1989)

Quoted from that:

E. One-year Results Contrary to Expectations:

Wallerstein explains that when they began the study they expected that divorce would be a short-term crisis that people soon recovered from:
The study was supposed to last one year, for we believed that normal healthy people would be able to work out their problems following divorce in about one year’s time….Indeed we did not question the commonly held assumption that divorce was a short-lived crisis.

But when we conducted follow-up interviews one year to 18 months later, we found most families still in crisis. Their wounds were wide open. Turmoil and distress had not noticeably subsided. Many adults still felt angry, humiliated, and rejected, and most had not gotten their lives back together. An unexpectedly large number of children were on a downward course. Their symptoms were worse than before. Their behavior at school was worse. Their peer relationships were worse. Our findings were absolutely contradictory
to our expectations (p. xv).

[The five-year results were still troubling.  So were the ten-year and the fifteen-year results, but take a look at what Wayne Grudem quoted and wrote about that. —Walter]

By Wayne Grudem, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Deerfield, Illinois
July 31, 1996


See also:

(Visited 49 times, 1 visit(s) today)
This entry was posted in Divorce. Bookmark the permalink.