The American College of Pediatricians urges parents in troubled marriages to make every effort to heal their relationship and preserve the marriage. In the position statement, The Impact of Family Structure on the Health of Children: Effects of Divorce, the College calls attention to the negative impact of divorce on children, parents and society as a whole. The College encourages public policy which promotes the health and preservation of the child’s biologic family.
It is commonly assumed that when marriage no longer provides personal happiness for a couple, divorce is the best solution with few long-term, adverse consequences for the children. Children, it is argued, are resilient and adapt easily to new family relationships. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most children. In fact, the best scientific literature suggests that, with few exceptions, children fare better when parents work at mending and maintaining their marriages.
Two large meta-analyses studies over a ten year period showed that “children with divorced parents continued to score significantly lower on measures of academic achievement, psychological adjustment, self-concept, and social relations.” When parents divorce, children often suffer many losses including less parental attention, economic security, emotional security (due to weakened relationships with parents and grandparents), and cognitive and academic stimulation. Other studies have documented higher rates of physical illness and emotional distress among children in divorced families.
Remarkably, divorced parents also suffer negative consequences, including lower incomes, higher risk of physical illness and increased future risk of intimate partner violence. Since divorce is linked to physical and emotional illness, and often results in a single parent living in poverty, divorce consequently wounds society. Studies have estimated the financial burden of divorce to the United States at $33 billion each year.
This does not mean troubled couples must resolve to stay together and be miserable. There is great hope for a marriage that seeks counseling and enrichment. College Board member and statement author Dr. Jane Anderson notes, “Research has shown that two thirds of unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later.”
For further information, see The Impact of Family Structure on the Health of Children: Effects of Divorce