The brokenness of divorce and its impact on faith nurture

In the world that some of us grew up in, divorce was almost unthinkable. In fact, Chap Clark in his book Hurt points out “we moved from a culture with a divorce rate that affected 2% of the married population in 1940 to a society in which 43% of first time marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years of marriage as of 2002.” In today’s world it may be difficult to find a family that has not been impacted by it. Both my wife and I each have one sibling who has experienced divorce.

Divorce and its aftermath has a strong impact on children – Clark believes that it is a contributing factor to the current abandonment and aloneness that youth feels. He goes on to state: “The consequences of a ripped-apart family system remain a constant source of brokenness throughout one’s life.” His observations made while working in a school setting bear out the impact of the lack of a secure family environment: “The mid-adolescent students who struggled the most in nearly every category of adolescent development – for example, self-concept, sexual behavior, substance abuse, and trust in friends or authority figures – almost universally came from a family system in which the home was less than a safe, supportive environment…mid-adolescents known as sexually ‘loose’ often came from families in which the father was not present or there was a specific and observable disconnect between the child and the father.”

Jean Twenge points out in her book, Generation Me, that children coming from divorced homes are more anxious and cynical while also developing a self – reliant individualism that results in a distorted sense of self-importance. She also believes that GenMe children have difficulty in forming close relationships due to the instability brought on by parents divorcing when they were young. Consequently GenMe is single longer, marrying later if at all, and living a lonely and isolated life leading to anxiety and depression.

A recent study coming out of the American Institute for American Values points out that divorce has a very negative impact on the faith of youth. Consequently they are more likely to lose their faith or be less religious in adulthood. Here is an article on the report.

As a society we have accepted certain myths about the impact of divorce – such as children recover quickly and are adaptable, children are better off with divorce when parents don’t get along well, and children have as good or better marriages when they get married. For the research answers to these and other divorce myths, see this Rutgers study summary called The Top Ten Myths of Divorce: Discussion of the most common misinformation about divorce by David Popenoe.

Please feel free to encourage parents in your school or church with the information presented above. It may be one of the best things we can do to encourage the faith development of our youth.

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Filed under encouraging the heart, kids/culture, student outcomes

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