by Rakib Ehsan
Wednesday, 6
April 2022
Spotted
07:15

Study: divorce affects children more than death

New research has made a startling discovery
by Rakib Ehsan
Before it all goes wrong. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

A new study published by Demographic Research has found that parental divorce had a larger impact than parental death on youth educational attainment.

Based on data drawn from 17 countries, the study shows that the negative effect of parental divorce on educational attainment appears to be stronger for the children of higher-educated parents. Why? Experiencing divorce may have a stronger impact on these children, as they have more to lose in terms of both financial and non-financial resources.

Meanwhile, lower-educated parents traditionally have relatively low “parental resources” to begin with, meaning the “drop-off” in resources resulting from divorce is less steep — the so-called “floor effect“.

These findings are especially important considering the revolution that in family structure has taken place in the UK over the last few decades. This was recognised by last year’s Sewell report authored by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED):

More accepting attitudes towards divorce and more autonomy for women has increased human freedom… However, as these freedoms have grown, there is also greater stress on families and the prevalence of breakdown has increased.
- Sewell Report

In recent times, there has been a surge in divorces in modern-day Britain. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that in England and Wales, there was a total of 107,599 opposite-sex divorces in 2019 — an increase of 18.4% from the 2018 figure of 90,871. Divorce enquiries to British legal firms soared during the Covid-19 pandemic, with lockdowns and social distancing ending previous ‘separate’ routines and external leisure activities that served to mask underlying marital problems.

With family courts suspending operations over the course of the pandemic, Britain could be on the verge of a post-Covid divorce explosion — especially with the liberalising reforms on the horizon; in the biggest shake-up of England’s divorce laws for nearly half a century, no-fault divorces will come into force from today.

So there is a debate to be had over what the institution of marriage means to different sections of British society. Have the forces of market individualism reshaped the reality of marriage in Britain today? Individual freedom and personal self-interest can be very much at odds with more traditional understandings of marriage which are ultimately rooted in the value of self-sacrifice and the parental nurturing of the next generation. While these collectivistic framings of marriage continue to endure in some of Britain’s ethnic and religious minorities, they have been steadily eroded in the relatively secularised and atomised mainstream.

For decades that mainstream has consistently undervalued the negative impacts of divorce. The Demographic Research study confirms that parental divorce can be an incredibly traumatic experience for children. While it is admittedly sensitive territory, there now needs to be a frank national conversation on the risks of marital breakdown and the degree of public respect for marriage as a social institution with moral obligations.

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Stephen Walshe
Stephen Walshe
1 month ago

Of course it does. Death does not involve rejection. It does not involve new step-siblings. It does not involve conflict. Anyone who abandons their spouse while their children are not yet grown up is throwing them to the wolves also: the only possible excuse is violence in marriage, and certainly not merely the attractions of a new sexual partner, as is common. But The Times and other media outlets have taken an extraordinarily strident line on further liberalising divorce laws, and have wholly distorted their news priorities as a result. Nobody wants to go there.

Henry Haslam
Henry Haslam
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walshe

Just what I was going to write, but you have put it better and more strongly.
You are right to emphasis rejection, conflict and abandonment. That is the issue. It is a mistake to put too much emphasis on the need for a role model. As the article shows, children of bereaved families don’t have the problems that affect families where one parent is living but absent. Putting the emphasis on the need for a role model could make a young widowed parent feel pressured to remarry for the sake of the children – which could be a mistake.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walshe

Do not forget the role of television and the media which has normalised divorce and even glamourized it. They have also given us a bunch of selfish, narcissistic and immature “celebrities” as role models who are, of course, the least suitable people to be role models

Jim R
Jim R
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walshe

The problem is not the ease of divorce but that the laws allow and encourage the children to be used as pawns by narcissistically wounded spouses. It’s not enough to reject your ex – you need all your friends and family and especially the children to reject him too. That’s worse than losing the role model – the role model is turned into a caricature and scoundrel in the childrens’ eyes. Of course his death would have been better for them because then they continue to see him positively.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jim R
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walshe

Yes but is it your ‘best’ life you’re living? Are you as happy as you can be? That’s the mantra now, and screw the kids. People are mocked by trendy people for sticking with it, especially for the sake of the kids.

Jim R
Jim R
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Actually I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone mocked for staying in a marriage. The judgment is almost all in the other direction – such as your observation that people divorce for flaky reasons such as ‘living their best life’. In reality its the most difficult decision anyone ever makes in their life and the consequences are horrific in ways you probably cannot even imagine. Perhaps you might just count your blessings that you are not in a situation so unbearable that the horrors of divorce are an improvement?

Last edited 1 month ago by Jim R
Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago

If, as is often reported, there has been an increase in the number of children with anxiety problems, surely divorce is the main reason for it. Yet it is often overlooked in favour of explanations like the rise of social media. I have always suspected that this is because it is too painful to look at how much damage our drive for personal fulfillment has done to our kids.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt M

I agree. When you have children, if you can live together peacefully without exposing them to fights – and provided there is no abuse going on – it’s a good idea to remain together until they are adults.
But children in families where there is domestic violence being committed are in EXTREME danger of physical and psychological harm, and in these cases, divorce is the only good option for the children.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Yes I agree. Where there is no danger to either the wife or the kids, the parents should try to stay together until the children leave home.

Last edited 1 month ago by Matt M
Jim R
Jim R
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt M

So why did anxiety rates massively spike after the advent of social media when divorce rates stayed relatively constant? It’s easy to smugly declare that people resort to divorce too easily (patting yourself on the back for your stoicism), but its really not for you to judge. The same people who cannot resist the urge to engage in high conflict divorce are the ones who cannot resist the urge to engage in high conflict marriage. What the kids need is peace – and forcing parents to choose between two high conflict scenarios is hardly an answer. As a society we cannot bring peace to bad marriages but we could make divorce much less damaging by getting rid of the family law cartels who profit from increasing conflict.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago

It certainly bears out my experience of watching my children’s friends grow up.
In every case the children caught in the middle suffered greatly, all going off the rails to a greater rather than a lesser extent, all achieving less than they should hve done academically and all carrying the scars into early adulthood.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Jim R
Jim R
1 month ago

Imagine watching it happen to your own children. What would you do – sitting outside in the driveway of your house with the locks changed and your soon-to-be ex threatening to call the police if you try to come in. Children crying upstairs refusing to talk to you because all they know is mommy is mad at you and nothing destabilizes children like mommy falling apart. Call the police? Pointless. Call the family lawyer? The law says she can’t change the locks and she has to facilitate access to the kids – but what does it matter? Who’s going to enforce that right? No one. You would do what every father does – walk away in defeat and then watch helplessly what the whole process does to your children.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim R

I have far more experience than you might think

Jim R
Jim R
1 month ago

Having lived through a dreadful divorce that did unspeakable harm to my children, I can’t help but point out that perhaps the way we divorce is the problem, not divorce itself. Take two people who can no longer get along and stick them in an adversarial legal system 100% focused on twisted ideology and financial retribution and the result is more conflict and lawyer enrichment. When smug family lawyers tell you that the childrens’ interests are paramount, I’m pretty sure they mean their own children.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim R

The divorce laws are just tool for the parties to exercise the venom and loathing they have towards each other.
My old boss used to say f there is an amicable divorce then one party is getting shafted

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
1 month ago

The new divorce laws, not so much a crime, as a misdemeanour against humanity.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

If the law were changed so that no marriage could take place without agreeing that no future divorce could take place while a child was living in the house then perhaps more stable relationships could emerge?
Although I expect in the darkest cases child murder or abandonment would also rise.

Last edited 1 month ago by AC Harper
Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

No child deserves to be trapped in a home where domestic violence is being committed. There are too many women staying with men who traumatize their children because they are too afraid to leave.
There are also women (like my mother) who stay with the fathers of their children even when those fathers are sexually abusing their children.
But in the absence of abuse, of course it’s better to provide children with stability.
But there would almost certainly be a rise in domestic murder rates if divorce were legally forbidden. Only cultural attitudes will safely change the situation of disposable marriages.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Indeed. But separation and divorce need not be yoked together. Men and women (typically) marry for all sorts of reasons and are often blind to the possible consequences.

Jim R
Jim R
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

There are even (gasp!) some women who mistreat their children and have culpability in marriage breakdown. The man-hating culture might not be the antidote to family breakdown – it might be part of the cause.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago

Study: divorce affects children more than death. New research has made a startling discovery”
Who didn’t know that? What a world we live in when researchers are needed to state the bleedin’ obvious.
“If you want children get a spouse. If you want love get a lover. Remain loyal to you children, your spouse and your lover.”
I said that.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
1 month ago

I’ve often said, it’s better for the kids to kill their father than it is to divorce him. This avoids annoying child support battles, and the life insurance will cover the cost of college.
I’m not sure the researchers have thought through the implications of this study.

Jim R
Jim R
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Mothers would never allow the father to be killed and get off so easily when they can instead inflict life long harm through the divorce process. As the prosecutor in Texas famously said to the wife who murdered her husband “You didn’t have to kill him – you could have divorced him and made him wish he was dead”.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

So true, not helped in Britain by the verminous amoral divorce lawyer sub culture