Does Divorce Affect Parents Differently than Couples Without Children?
by Caty Long
Divorce harms every person involved – wife/mother, husband/father, and children. Often research is directed at how children are affected, as they are often left the most vulnerable by their parents’ separation. A recent study reported on by the Child and Family Blog took a different approach to the effects of divorce, looking at the differences between divorcing couples with children and those without.
Over 2000 married couples, both with and without children, who divorced between 1985 and 2012 were surveyed and asked about feelings of general, economic, and family well-being.
Fathers of children aged 4 and under reported that their sense of family well-being decreased three times as compared to a job loss, whereas the mothers’ sense of family well-being dropped a third compared to the fathers’. Since many fathers are not the primary caretakers of their children after a divorce, these negative feelings could be due to fathers not regularly seeing and interacting with their children. Comparably, those without children experienced hardly any change in their sense of family well-being.
In terms of economics, mothers were more affected than fathers. Decline in economic well-being was almost at the same level as with the death of a husband, and it was twice that experienced by divorced fathers, continuing several years after the separation. This could be due to women’s child-rearing obligations, which may cause difficulties in returning to work and balancing a job with raising children.
The study found that the “well-being gaps” between divorced childless persons and divorced parents diminish over time. As a pastoral takeaway, given the unique suffering of parents from divorce, and the effects that this pain has on their children, it is important to offer support for these families, as well as to all who are hurt by divorce.
About the author
Caty Long is a first year Master of Theological Studies student at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute and currently an intern for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth at the USCCB.