Toronto Star

Tuesday, August 10, 1999

Divorce affects kids less and less

Odds that their marriages will fail cut in half since 1973

by Elaine Carey
Toronto Star Demographics Reporter

CHICAGO -- The children of divorce are doing better in their own marriages than in the past, a new study says.

The odds that children whose parents divorced will see their own marriages dissolve have been cut in half since 1973, says the study released today at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Before 1975, the children of divorce were 2.5 times more likely to see their own marriages end than children from intact families. By 1996, that was down to 1.4 times.

That's largely because divorce is having less harmful effects on children, said the report's author, Nicholas Wolfinger of the University of Utah.

"Single mothers and their children don't suffer the same ostracism they once did," he said in an interview. "And because social and legal barriers to divorce have diminished, most couples don't wait as long before ending their marriage."


'Single mothers and their children don't suffer the same ostracism they once did... When divorce is uncommon and heavily stigmatized, its toll on children is much greater.

Nicholas Wolfinger, University of Utah Professor and Author of Report on Divorce



As a result, kids don't endure as much of their parents fighting as they did in the past, he said, so they come out of it in better shape to deal with their own marriages.

As well, a small part of the change is due to the fact that the marriage rate is declining for children from divorced families.

In 1973, children of divorced parents were a third more likely to get married than children whose parents stayed together. By 1996, they were slightly less likely to marry.

The research has implications for those policy-makers who are trying to make it harder for people to divorce, he said. While they want to avoid the negative consequences of divorce on kids, it could have exactly the opposite effect, trapping them in warring marriages.

"When divorce is uncommon and heavily stigmatized, its toll on children is much greater," Wolfinger said.

The study used data on 22,000 individuals aged 18 to 89 collected across the United States since 1972.

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