When Children of Divorce Marry

Are you getting married? Good for you. Hopefully you and your spouse to be are both committed to each other and to your relationship. Most people don’t go into marriage with the idea that it’s going to fail. But, new research suggests that children of divorced parents, especially female children, may be less confident that the marriage will succeed and less committed to working on the marriage when problems arise.
Beginning in the late 20th century, social psychologists started to study the effect of divorce on the adult children of those earlier divorces. A 1996 study found that adults with divorced parents have lower commitment to marriage as an institution. But that did not mean that the generalized feeling would have an effect on that person’s own marriage. Unfortunately, a 2008 study found that women whose parents divorced are more likely to enter marriage with relatively lower commitment to, and confidence in, the future of those marriages, potentially raising their risk for divorce. These findings were corroborated by a second study in 2014. Surprisingly, parental divorce, but not parental conflict was linked to the lower level of commitment. Why? Well, that research has yet to be done. It is possible that women are more cognizant of the fact that statistically it is women who suffer greater financial difficulties in a divorce situation than men. Or it is possible that, since women are socialized to be more relationship-oriented than men, they may be more attuned to their parents’ marital dissolution and its lessons regarding the (im)permanence of marriage.
While there has been nothing reported on any possible mitigating actions to counteract the negative beliefs which the parental divorce may have caused, it would seem that a logical first step would be to discuss the importance of long term relationships and how to deal with the inevitable disagreement and conflict that may arise.

Footnotes:

1 Amato PR. Explaining the intergenerational transmission of divorce. Journal of Marriage & the Family. 1996;58:628–640.
2(Whitton, S. W., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2008). Effects of parental divorce on marital commitment and confidence. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(5), 789-793. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0012800 ).
3Hetherington EM. Intimate pathways: Changing patterns in close personal relationships across time. Family Relations. 200
4Gilligan C. In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Harvard University Press; Cambridge, MA, US: 1982.

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