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Nova Law Review

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Divorce is one of the greatest challenges that American children face. The numbers affected are enormous. In 1951, a rate of 6.1 children per thousand were involved in a divorce. In 1981, the rate reached18.7 children per thousand. Since then, the rate has fallen back some-what to 16.8 children per thousand in 1986, the last year for which statistics are available. This number translates to about 1.2 million children each year who experience the divorce of their parents. If current rates of divorce continue, we can expect that a significant percentage of all American children will become children of divorce by age eighteen.

All children of divorce experience difficult transitions: dissolution of the image of a "normal" family; absence of one parent and, in many cases, grandparents and other extended family loss of traditions; loss of socioeconomic status; divided loyalties; and the emotions associated with these losses.

For some percentage of the children of divorce, however, the risks are greater. Prolonged sadness and deep depression are relatively common. So is serious educational decline. There is also evidence of increased risk of teenage suicide, drug use and criminal involvement. It has been suggested that some percentage of these children of divorce have difficulty forming long-term relationships and attachments with the opposite sex." Overall, children of divorce tend to be much less optimistic about their capacities to master life's opportunities and problems, a state of mind that tends to reduce their capacities for achievement and physical and mental health.

Divorce is not, however, inevitably an insurmountable crisis of childhood. In fact, some percentage of children may emerge stronger after divorce than before it. Research is accumulating that indicates that responsible parenting, a sensitive court system, family therapy and school-based intervention programs can significantly help children to deal with divorce-related problems.

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Family Law Commons



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