The effects of divorce on society

Updated February 23, 2018

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control reported a divorce rate in the United States of 50 per cent. With over one million children affected each year by divorce, the negative effects of this epidemic are felt, not only within the family itself, but by society as a whole. From emotional and social developmental of the children to a higher crime rate and increased poverty, the breakdown of a family has far reaching effects.


Exposure to parental conflicts leading up to divorce, as well as the trauma of the divorce itself, induce negative feelings in children such as resentment, disappointment, loneliness, rejection and insecurity. This can lead to increased anxiety and depression, which has been shown to inhibit a child's school performance. A study conducted at Kent University in Ohio observed school performance of almost 700 elementary students. Results revealed that children whose biological parents were still married performed better at reading, math and spelling than those whose parents were divorced. Cumulative studies suggest that a child is more likely to drop out of high school if the parents have been divorced. College attendance among children of divorce is 60 per cent lower than children whose parents stay married, as reported by the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.


Another troubling effect divorce has on society is a higher crime rate. University of Michigan sociology professor, Robert Sampson, studied 171 major cities and found a direct correlation between the city's divorce rate and the incidents of robbery. In Wisconsin, Heritage Foundation reported the number of incarcerated juvenile delinquents whose parents divorced was 12 times higher than the number of incarcerated minors whose parents remained married. Apparently, the trend continues into adulthood. In his book "Fathers, Marriage and Welfare Reform", psychologist Wade Horn says that 70 per cent of prisoners who are serving lengthy sentences for serious crimes come from a divorced family.


Even with the payment of child support to the custodial parent, divorce causes a severe reduction in household income. Mary Corcoran, a political science professor at the University of Michigan, compiled data relating to the household income of divorced families. On average, an annual two family income of £28,340 is reduced by 42 per cent to £16,445 following a divorce. The transition from a two parent household to a single parent home can mean poverty for many families. The House of Representatives' Committee of Ways and Means reported that 40 per cent of families receiving assistance from the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF or welfare) program in 1998 were comprised of divorced or single parents. Besides the additional strain on government assistance programs and resources, children experience a lower quality of life and loss of security.

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About the Author

Brandi Palkoner brings a refreshing voice to the world of freelance writing. She is a member of Freelance Writers Association. Her lifelong love affair with words began at the early age of 3, when she first learned to read.