In fact, the negative consequences of divorce are being measured over and over again, and the findings are grim.
Consider these statistics. Children in single-parent families are six times more likely to be poor, and half the single mothers in the United States live below the poverty line. Children of divorce suffer intense grief, which often lasts for many years. Even as young adults, they are nearly twice as likely to require psychological help. Children from disrupted families have more academic and behavioral problems at school and are nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school. Girls in single-parent homes are at much greater risk for precocious sexuality and are three times more likely to have a child out of wedlock.
Crime and substance abuse are strongly linked to fatherless households. Studies show that 60 percent of rapists grew up in fatherless homes, as did 72 percent of adolescent murderers and 70 percent of all long-term prison inmates. In fact, most of the social pathologies disrupting American life today can be traced to fatherlessness.
Surprisingly, when divorced parents marry again, their children are not any better off, and some studies actually show that the children develop increased pathologies. Preschool children in stepfamilies, for example, are forty times more likely to suffer physical or sexual abuse.
Adults are also profoundly harmed by divorce. A study that examined the impact of divorce ten years after the divorce found that among two-thirds of divorced couples, one partner is still depressed and financially precarious. And among a quarter of all divorced couples, both former partners are worse off, suffering loneliness and depression.
Divorce affects even physical health. Children of divorce are more prone to illness, accidents, and suicide. Divorced men are twice as likely as married men to die from heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and cancer. They are four times more likely to die in auto accidents and suicide, and their odds are seven times higher for pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver. Divorced women lose 50 percent more time to illness and injury each year than do married women, and they are two to three times as likely to die of all forms of cancer. Both divorced men and women are almost five times more likely to succumb to substance abuse.
The impact of divorce on health, says David Larson, president of the National Institute for Healthcare Research, “is like starting to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day.”
And the effects don’t stop with the families directly involved. When family breakdown becomes widespread, entire neighborhoods decay. Neighborhoods without fathers are often infected with crime and delinquency. They are often places where teachers cannot teach because misbehaving children disrupt classrooms. Moreover, children of divorce are much more likely to get divorced themselves as adults, so that the negative consequences pass on to the next generation. In this way, family breakdown affects the entire society.
— Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, from How Now Shall We Live?, p. 323