Research Reveals – Chapter Ten

RR10.1: Working on Marriage Benefits Children
In our book on marriage, I Choose Us, we wrote about the problems that accompany abandonment or separation:[i]

  • In Britain, less than half of the children in single-parent families see their fathers once a week. And 20-30% of non-resident fathers have not seen their children in over a year.[ii]In the wake of divorce, it is common for the “leaving parent”—the one not getting basic custody, usually the father—to promise the children that he will always be there for them and will maintain a close relationship with them. Unfortunately, this promise is frequently not kept. Because of inconveniences arising from the divorce, and for other reasons, fathers often find it challenging to see their children. It should not come as a surprise then that many good intentions fall through on the part of both of the parents after the divorce. Generally speaking, the bond, especially between fathers and their children, deteriorates after a divorce.[iii]
  • Children in single-parent families receive about nine hours less from their mother per week than children from families where the parents were still married and living together.[iv]

While no one sets out to get divorced, perhaps if parents knew the dire consequences of the alternative, they might take better care of their marriage!

Children learn from example, and imitate their parental role models more than parents realise. The lives of the parents provide a blueprint of how the children will probably lead their lives later on. Statistics show that the quality of the parents’ marriage affects the quality of the children’s relationships when they end up getting married. Our actions have consequences, the effects of which are felt in more than one generation.[v]

  • Single mothers are twice as likely as two-parent families to live in poverty.[vi]
  • Single mothers are also eight times as likely to be without jobs and twelve times as likely to be on some form of government support.[vii]
  • Divorce causes the level of income for a middle-income family to decrease by 50%.[viii]
  • Single parents are also twice as likely to not have any savings.[ix]
  • Children in single-parent homes are 80% more likely to have health problems, such as pains, headaches, stomach symptoms, etc., than children from two-parent homes, even after taking into account economic hardship.[x]
  • Divorce causes children to have more emotional distress and increases the risk of mental illness.[xi] These symptoms do not disappear quickly. They linger on, in some cases for years.
  • Children who live in a house with a stepfather, or a mother’s boyfriend, are more likely to be abused than those living with their father or with a mother only.[xii]
  • Living with a step-parent has turned out to be the most powerful predictor of severe child abuse yet.[xiii]
  • Young people are five times more likely to experience abuse if they grow up in a single home than if they grow up with parents whose marriages are still intact, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).[xiv]

The overwhelming evidence points conclusively to the fact that the state of marriages affects parenting, and has huge ramifications on children’s relationships with their parents, economic well-being, physical and psychological health, protection from domestic violence, and the likelihood that these children in turn will stay together later on in their marriages.

[i] Louis, J. P., & Louis, K. M. (2010). I choose us: A Christian perspective on building love connection in your marriage by breaking harmful cycles. Singapore: Louis Counselling & Training Services.

[ii] Burghes, L., Clarke, L., & Cronin, N. (1997). Fathers and fatherhood in Britain. London: Family Policy Studies Centre; Bradshaw, J., & Millar, J. (1991). Lone parent families in the UK. Department of Social Security Research Report No 6. London: HMSO.

[iii] Louis & Louis (2010), I choose us, 8.

[iv] Waite, L., & Gallagher, M. (2000). The case for marriage: Why married people are happier, healthier, and better off financially. New York: Doubleday. 128.

[v] Louis & Louis (2010), I choose us, 9.

[vi] O’Neill, R. (2005). Does marriage matter? London: Civitas, Institute for the Study of Civil Society. 10.

[vii] Office for National Statistics. (2001). Work and worklessness among households. London: The Stationery Office; Office for National Statistics. (2002, May). Family resources survey, Great Britain, 2000-01. London: The Stationery Office.

[viii] McLanahan, S., & Sandefur, G. (1994). Growing up with a single parent. Cambridge, MA: President and Fellows of Harvard College. 167-168.

[ix] Office for National Statistics. (2002). Social trends 32. London: The Stationery Office. Table 5.25, 103.

[x] Cockett, M., & Tripp, J. (1994). The Exeter family study: Family breakdown and its impact on children. Exeter: University of Exeter Press. 21.

[xi] Amato, P. R. (2000). Consequences of divorce for adults and children. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1269-1287; Simons, R. L., Lin, K-H., Gordon, L. C., Conger, R. D., & Lorenz, F. O. (1999). Explaining the higher incidence of adjustment problems among children of divorce compared with those in two-parent families. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61(4), 1020-1033.

[xii] O’Neill (2005), Does marriage matter?, 27.

[xiii] Daly, M., & Wilson, M. (1996). Evolutionary psychology and marital conflict: The relevance of stepchildren. In Buss, D. M., & Malamuth, N. M. (Eds.), Sex, power, conflict: Evolutionary and feminist perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 9-28.

[xiv] Cawson, P. (2002). Child maltreatment in the family. London: NSPCC. 10.