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Research and Statistics Affecting Blended Families

The information below is from AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors) website: www.aacc.net 9/19/03)The Many Costs of Divorce -A recent issue of AACC's Marriage and Family: A Christian Journal (1999, v. 2, 1) published a review of research on the effects of divorce by David & Susan Larsen and James Swyers. Cautious about inferring causation as every good researcher must be, they nonetheless agreed with University of Virginia sociologist Stephen Nock that "Divorce may be the number one unrecognized health problem in the United States." This review of published research was comprehensive for both adults and for children-surveying the clinical, social, and demographic consequences of divorce in the United States. Following are some highlights of this ground-breaking review of the data on divorce.
Data on Divorced Adults -
Nearly half of all marriages now end in divorce; and from 1970 to 1992, the number of divorced adults in America quadrupled.

    * Remarriages after divorce tend to be unstable, break up more often, and end more quickly than do first-time marriages. Remarriages are 50% more likely to divorce in the first five years compared to first marriages.
    * Morbidity studies-rates of particular diseases among distinct population groups-showed that divorced persons exhibited consistently higher rates of acute medical crises, chronic medical conditions, and highest physician use rates.
    * Rates of psychiatric illness were highest for divorced persons vs. any other marital group. Men were affected the most.
    * Clinical depression rates overall were highest among divorced women, but divorced men showed the highest rates among those who had not been previously depressed. Depression was most acute among those divorced who did not have consistent relations with their children, among ex-spouses who continued in on-going conflict, and among those who were socially isolated.
    * Alcohol abuse and alcoholism affected divorced men at a rate 4.5 times higher than married men. Social isolation, depression, and suicidal struggles were all shown to contribute to the abuse of drugs.
    * Women and children suffered most economically. Only half of the divorced men in America pay their full support responsibility; one-quarter make partial, inconsistent payment, and one-quarter pays nothing.

Data on Children of Divorce -
Numerous longitudinal studies that have been following children over the past 20 years and more are showing a dark and difficult picture of divorced children, with long-term adverse effects lasting well into adulthood.

    * One million American children experience divorce every year.
    * Single parent families increased from 13% of the U.S. family population in 1970 to 31% in 1994
    * 56% of divorced children had no contact whatsoever with their fathers in the first year after divorce, and 23% had no contact after five years.
    * Divorced children had the deepest feelings of anger, fear, and rejection of any childhood group, and were three times as likely to receive professional help as kids from intact families.
    * Suicide rates for teenage males increased 557% from 1946 to 1988.The single best predictor of teen suicide was parental divorce and living in a single parent household.
    * Rates of depression, low self-esteem, drug and alcohol abuse, and juvenile delinquency were all significantly higher for children of divorce.
    * Divorced children drop out of school at twice the rate of children from intact families. They were twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school, and consistently showed lower test scores, lower grades, and more placement in special and remedial classes.
    * Early sexual behavior was more frequent among divorced children
    * Divorced children were far more likely to cohabit and not marry.

Using an analogy to medicine and the FDA, the authors point out that physicians are required by law to inform patients if a drug has a major side effect in just 1% of cases. Shouldn't counselors, in line with our duty to informed consent, outline the myriad harms of divorce to those we counsel who are seeking one?

Divorce Views Among Counselors -
From professor and author Don Browning (interviewed by Mark Yarhouse in our Marriage and Family: A Christian Journal), on results from his national research survey on religion and the family:

"One surprise was that 55% [of therapists] did think family form made a difference [with child well-being]... a majority thought that the best form for a family with children was a working father and stay-at-home mother... This contrasts to the common understanding of what therapists stand for today. Another surprise was that specialized pastoral counselors were the least concerned of any professional to caution against divorce if there were children involved. We don't know exactly how to explain that. The most conservative group when confronting divorce were psychiatrists, and female psychiatrists were more conservative than males."

The Barna Update, October 26, 2004 reported...

Less than one out of every five adults believes that children under the age of 13 are being "pretty well" prepared for life emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually or morally.

    Intellectually 50% said "poorly prepared"
    Physically 54% said "poorly prepared"
    Emotionally 62% said "poorly prepared"
    Spiritually 71% said "poorly prepared"
    Morally 75% said "poorly prepared"

The average age at which people first dissolve their initial marriage tends to be in the early thirties. Among people in their mid-fifties or older, the median age of their first divorce was 34. Among Baby Boomers, millions more of whom are expected to get a divorce within the coming decade, the median age of the first divorce is currently 31. The Barna Group expects the average age of a first divorce among Boomers to be similar to that of the preceding generations by 2015, as the aging members of that generation sustain divorces later in life.

The research revealed that Boomers continue to push the limits regarding the prevalence of divorce. Whereas just one-third (33%) of the married adults from the preceding two generations had experienced a divorce, almost half of all married Boomers (46%) have already undergone a marital split. This means Boomers are virtually certain to become the first generation for which a majority experienced a divorce. (The data described in this report are based on nationwide telephone interviews conducted by The Barna Group with a random sample of 3614 adults, age 18 or older, between January and August 2004. The Born Again Christians Just As Likely to Divorce As Are Non-Christians, September 8, 2004)

The Barna Report 2000 revealed...

77% of dads in Chattanooga (75% of current moms) say that fathers should be more active in the lives of their children. Likewise, 17% of fathers (14% of mothers) say that fathers in Chattanooga are sufficiently involved in their children's lives.

The average father spends less than 10 minutes a day in one on one time with his child.

Journal of Marriage and Family found...

Of children living with their mothers, whether as a result of non-marital birth or divorce, 35% never see their fathers. 24% see their fathers less than once a month. (Journal of Marriage and Family 1988, J.A. Seltzer, "Children's Contact with Absent Parents")

The American Family Association reports...

(The study was conducted by the General Social Survey (GSS) of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.)

    * The number of U.S. families that fit the traditional mold will probably be in the minority in the 21st century.
    * The bad news: the percentage of children who live with both biological parents, who remain married, has dropped from 73% in 1972 to 51.7 % in 1998.
    * Twenty-eight years ago 45% of households consisted of married couples with children. In 1998, that percentage had fallen to 26%.
    * Families are smaller and less stable.
    * Marriage is less central.
    * Cohabitation is more common and the value of children as well as the values for children has altered.
    * Within marriage gender roles have become less traditional and more open.

U of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite found statistics on unmarried mothers are also indicators that the family is going through an astonishing upheaval. By 1996 the number of overall births attributable to unmarried mothers had jumped to 32%. "If you add to that, women who are divorced or cohabiting with children, marriage is seen today as much less important. And that is probably to the bad," she said.

Four of five states that lead the nation in divorces are in the Bible Belt. Barna's research group has found that Christians don't always practice what they preach when it comes to the institution of family. People who self-identify as evangelical Christians are now more likely to get divorced than non-Christians.

News from www.stepfamily.org tells...

U.S. corporations lose well over $10 billion each year due to problems resulting from stepchildren and working parents and other forms of marital stress, according to a workplace psychologist at Pace University in New York. "Relationships between the children and parents in stepfamilies, which often include misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations, cause lost time, absenteeism and lower productivity at work," said Barry Miller, who counsels stepfamilies. "Common as they are, divorced parents with a working step parent or working live-in partner aren't helped through normal family counseling."

U.S. Census Bureau 1996 conveyed...

The United States is now the world's leader in fatherless families. (U.S. Census Bureau 1996)

Nearly 40% of children in our country will go to bed each night without their biological father in the home. (Blankenhorn, Fatherless America 1995)