I love kids, which means I hate those things that hurt kids. And divorce is one of those things I hate. Don't get me wrong. I don't hate people who have suffered through divorce, I simply hate the prevalence of unnecessary divorces in our culture today. I've seen unnecessary divorce hurt my nieces and nephews and their parent--my sibling--so I've seen it first hand. I've also studied the effects on children reported in many research studies. That research is unified and clear. Children from divorced homes suffer hardships in much higher incidence than children from intact homes. To a child, a divorce is not simply an event, it is a cascade of events that serves to de-stabilize and emotionally traumatize the child. It often means a loss of one parent or the other for some period of time. Judith Wallerstein's studies in the 90's showed that 10 years post divorce, two-thirds of fathers were totally absent from their children’s lives. Let that sink in a moment.
Divorce also often means a loss of financial stability, a loss of a familiar home as living arrangements change, a loss of school and church relationships as some parents move to start over, resulting in loss of friends or support networks. Yes, there are rare occasions when a divorce is necessary and ultimately beneficial to the child. But children, even grown ones decades later, will tell you that they would prefer their parents stay together even if it means added tension in the home.
Some would say that these dire effects ensue only if the parents are poor, but that's not true. A recent article by W. Bradford Wilcox in Family Studies (the blog of the Institute for Family Studies) says...
"People who get divorced are more likely to lose their homes, to stop pooling income, and to fall into poverty. So when divorce strikes, or families fail to form in the first place, there is less money for the necessities of life, not to mention the problems facing all too many poor and working-class kids, from bad schools to dangerous neighborhoods.... Safety net programs can mitigate some of these problems to a limited extent, but as described above, family breakdown takes a toll even on rich kids."
"As Urban Institute economist Robert Lerman noted, a substantial body of research suggests that on average, at every socioeconomic level, families headed by a continuously married couple will earn more money and accumulate more wealth than other types of families with similar educational and personal backgrounds." http://family-studies.org/even-for-rich-kids-marriage-matters/
Here's a chart from the article to illustrate their findings:
The key comparison from the chart shows that 54% of children of continuously married mothers manage to stay in the top third of American income earners, while only 37% of children of divorced mothers stay in the top third. Parents' divorce hurts the earning potential of their children.
Another chart in the study shows that college graduation rates suffer due to parents' divorce, even among parents who themselves graduated from college. So divorce costs you, and it costs your kids not only emotionally and socially, but financially.
There are plenty of reasons I hate the prevalence of divorce in our society. I share this information with parents not to make a divorced parent feel bad but to help married couples commit to do their best to protect their marriages. If for no other reason, do it for the kids.