How does divorce affect the parent / child relationship?









"After divorce, children tend to become more emotionally distant from both the custodial and non-custodial parent." Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), p. 69, reporting the findings of Rossi and Rossi (1991).

"This emotional distance between children and parents lasts well into adulthood and may become permanent. As adults, children of divorced parents are half as likely to be close to their parents as are children of intact families. They have less frequent contact with the parent with whom they grew up and much less contact with the divorced parent from whom they have been separated." Lye et al., "Childhood Living Arrangements and Adult Children's Relations with Their Parents," pp. 261-280, and William S. Aquilino, "Later-Life Parental Divorce and Widowhood: Impact on Young Adults' Assessment of Parent-Child Relations," Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 56 (1994), pp. 908-922

"Compared with continuously married mothers, divorced mothers--whether custodial or non-custodial--are likely to be less affectionate and less communicative with their children and to discipline them more harshly and more inconsistently, especially in the first year after the divorce.  In particular, divorced mothers have problems with their sons, though their relationship is likely to improve within two years even when some discipline problems persist up to six years after the divorce." E. Mavis Hetherington, Roger Cox, and Martha Cox, "Long-Term Effects of Divorce and Remarriage on the Adjustment of Children," Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, Vol. 24 (1985), pp. 518-530.

"Divorced mothers, despite their best intentions, are less able than married mothers to give the same level of emotional support to their children." Jane E. Miller and Diane Davis, "Poverty History, Marital History, and Quality of Children's Home Environments," Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 59 (1997), pp. 996-1007.

"The quality of the relationship that divorced fathers have with their sons, often troubled before the divorce, tends to become significantly worse after the breakup. Finally, the higher the level of conflict during the divorce, the more likely the distance between father and children afterwards." Janet Johnston, "High Conflict Divorce," The Future of Children, Vol. 4 (1994), pp. 165-182, and Amato and Booth, A Generation at Risk, p. 68, reporting the findings of numerous authors.

"Also, children of divorce are less likely to think they should support their parents in old age. This finding alone portends a monumental problem for the much-divorced baby-boom generation that will become the dependent generation of elderly during the first half of this new century."  Aquilino, "Later-Life Parental Divorce and Widowhood," pp. 908-922.

"Even older young adults whose parents divorce report turmoil and disruption. They deeply dislike the strains and difficulties that arise in daily rituals, family celebrations, family traditions, and special occasions and see these losses as major."  Marjorie A. Pett, Nancy Long, and Anita Gander, "Late-Life Divorce: Its Impact on Family Rituals," Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 13 (1992), pp. 526-552.

All quotes above taken from:
The Effects of Divorce on America
by Patrick F. Fagan and Robert Rector

(Courtesy of Heritage Foundation, (c) 2000)
(Used with Permission)


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This website addresses the effects of a child and divorce.