Divorce in Our Nation

  • We must do a better job of educating people. Young people and parents alike typically believe, regardless of background or life experience, that their chances of divorcing are 50 percent. They do not know that their chances of divorce decrease if their parents are still married, they graduate from college, they do not have a child before marrying, they do not cohabitate before marriage, they are not poor, they have the same religious values, and they participate in premarital preparation.[5] It is not rocket science, but it is information.
  • We must address unrealistic expectations head-on. Whether someone believes they lack what it takes to have a healthy marriage or aspires to the magical white-picket-fence perfection, parents, places of faith, community initiatives, and schools need to discuss how two imperfect people can create a healthy — not perfect — marriage. We need to teach people how to communicate well, to manage conflict, and to regulate their emotions. Myriads of people seek to form relationships, but they are ill-equipped to navigate life, much less have a healthy marriage.
  • We need to spread research-based truths in a non-judgmental way regarding cohabitation’s impact on adults and children, the consequences when families fail to form, and similar issues. People deserve to know the research findings, for example, that adolescents living in cohabiting-parent families — whether both are biological parents of the child or just one is — have higher levels of anti-social behavior, such as drug abuse, running away from home, violent behavior, being suspended from school, or getting arrested.[6] Similarly, rates of serious abuse are lowest in intact families, four times higher in an unmarried-parent family, and eight times higher when a parent is cohabiting with a partner who is not the biological parent (usually the mother cohabiting with a boyfriend).[7] Major media campaigns and other initiatives across civil society can help spread this kind of information.
  • We need to teach people that you cannot “test drive” marriage. Anyone who has been married recognizes that being married takes more than love. It requires commitment to figure out how to dance together. Living together is more about independence than it is about interdependence.

Next Up in the Culture Section:


  1. Erin E. Clack, “Study Probes Generation Gap,” Children’s Business, Vol. 19, No. 5 (May 2004).
  2. Susan Gregory Thomas, “The Divorce Generation,” The Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2011,
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303544604576430341393583056 (accessed June 14, 2016).
  3. Kate Hughes, “The Adult Children of Divorce: Pure Relationships and Family Values?” Journal of Sociology, Vol. 41, No. 1
    (March 2005), pp. 69–86.
  4. Karen Benjamin Guzzo, “Trends in Cohabitation Outcomes: Compositional Changes and Engagement Among Never-Married Young Adults,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 76, No. 4 (August 2014), pp. 826–842.
  5. Scott Stanley, “How to Lower Your Risk of Divorce: Advice to Singles,” Institute for Family Studies, February 11, 2015,
    http://family-studies.org/how-to-lower-your-risk-of-divorce-advice-to-singles (accessed June 14, 2016).
  6. Robert Apel and Catherine Kaukinen, “On the Relationship between Family Structure and Antisocial Behavior: Parental Cohabitation and Blended Households,” Criminology Vol. 46, No. 1 (March 2008), pp. 35–70.
  7. Andrea J. Sedlak et al, Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress, 2010 (Washington: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families),
    http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/nis4_report_congress_full_pdf_jan2010.pdf (accessed June 14, 2016).



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