According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 30 percent of first marriages among women 15-44 years old ended in divorce, separation, or annulment within 10 years, right when families are likely to have young children. In 2009, the United States’ divorce rate was 3.4 per 1,000 people, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Within those numbers are countless children who feel the effects of divorce keenly on several levels: emotionally, academically, even socially and economically.

Children of divorce tend to have more issues academically than children of two-parent households. These children are twice more likely to drop out of high school and have lower scholastic achievement. It’s estimated that children whose parents have divorced are less likely to continue their education into college, which can result in a lower earning potential later in life. Further, children of divorce are more likely to be raised in poverty or in a house with a lower income than the home they occupied before their parents divorced.

Socially, both sons and daughters of divorced parents are significantly more apt to start smoking. A recent study analyzed 19,000 Americans whose parents divorced before they turned 18. Forty-eight percent of the men and 39 percent of the women were more likely to smoke than their peers whose parents remained together.

Are children of divorce more likely to get divorced themselves? Maybe. A 2005 study from the University of Utah suggests that possibility, but mainly because those children typically marry at a much younger age.

Many of these and other related studies caution against making generalizations about these children, emphasizing that divorce can also be a positive step in a family relationship that becomes unhealthy and damaging to children. When abuse of any type or constant conflict is present, divorce can ease the dysfunction and instability and provide safety and stability. Some experts argue that it is the conflict leading up to and following the divorce, not so much the divorce itself, that affects children more.

But nevertheless, divorce is a serious issue affecting children, and couples going through divorce are encouraged to seek out professional help to make the transition easier on their children.


  • Twenty-nine percent of first marriages among women 15-44 years old can end in divorce within 10 years.
  • Divorced parents have children who can be emotionally, socially, economically, and academically affected.
  • Children of divorce are twice more likely to drop out of high school and have lower scholastic achievement than children of intact marriages.
  • Sometimes divorce can be a positive step in alleviating conflict and dysfunction for children.

Last reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, PhD. Review Date: September 2020


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statistics.
  2. National Center for Health Statistics. Social and Economic Characteristics of Currently Unmarried Women With a Recent Birth: 2011
  3. Marriage and Family Review. Personal, family, and school factors related to adolescent academic performance: A comparison by family structure
  4. University of Toronto. Children of Divorced Parents More Likely to Start Smoking.
  5. University of Utah. Children of Divorce More Likely to End Their Marriages.


  1. Hi Michele,
    Thank you for your response. I can totally sympathize with you! I wish there were more positive statistics out there, but the studies just do not demonstrate that. Yes, children from divorced families can do fine. And depending on the situation, I would argue some children are better off if their parents are divorced. However, this is not the norm. That is what this article is pointing out. The studies do show that the majority of kids struggle on some level after a divorce. Why? There are a lot of factors that go into this answer. It could be the age they were when their parents split. It could be how turbulent their family life was prior to the divorce or even how turbulent the divorce process itself was. Did the parents fight, put the kids in the middle, or drag everyone threw the mud? It could be just simply the lack of communication and consistency between the homes. Kids are resilient and can adapt to the new normal after some time. Since you and your ex-husband divorced while your son was so young, he does not know the difference. It seems you and your ex-husband are doing a very good job! It certainly is not easy. From personal experience I can agree with you completely. However, professionally I have seen the devastating effects of divorce on more children than I have seen it help. I wish people who got married and stayed in happy, healthy marriages. However, the divorce rate is over 50% nationally. That means more people are getting divorced than staying together. I do hope that in time we see a change in those numbers. That will mean that more parents are communicating and putting their children first regardless of the sacrifice or humbling effort it takes. It’s ok to be sensitive. I am glad to know there are more stories out there where kids are living happy healthy lives regardless of how their family is structured.


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