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Evanson: Falling divorce rate good for families

BY KEITH EVANSON | DECEMBER 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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As the holidays approach, Americans are busy; they are out buying presents, preparing food, and scheduling family visits. Children of divorce, however, have to clear some extra time to spend with both mom and dad. If you have a significant other to spend the holidays with, you might have to set time to not only meet with both your own divorced parents, but hers or his, too.

The common saying goes, “Over 50 percent of marriages end up in divorce.”

But that just isn’t true anymore, at least with marriages that have occurred in the last 30 years.

It might seem surprising to some to hear that. The narrative has been ingrained in our skulls that marriages just don’t last. The prototypical nuclear family is gone. Don’t forget to sign that prenuptial agreement, because the odds are against you.

Statistically, they are not.

According to the Census Bureau, the divorce rate was 3.6 per 1,000 people in the most recent data available, 2011, which is much fewer than the number in 1981, when 5.3 people per 1,000 people divorced.

Since peaking in 1979, divorce rates have consistently fallen.

What does this mean in the grand scheme of things for Americans?

For those who study the effects of divorce on childhood development, they would say that it means everything. Accredited social-science journals continually emphasize the negative effects that divorce has on children. Whether it’s emotionally or mentally, the scars from witnessing your parents divorce can follow children into adulthood.

A report from Patrick F. Fagan on how divorce affects children showed that children with divorced parents perform more poorly in school and have higher high-school-dropout rates. Financially, approximately 50 percent of families going through divorces tend to depreciate to levels of poverty after they are finalized.

Just the mere fact that divorce rates are declining doesn’t necessarily mean that poverty levels will decrease and the U.S. educational system will be resurrected, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Because society is inherently composed of many families connected to one another through marriages, there is reason for optimism when looking at the declining divorce rates. Strengthening marriages, the foundation of our society, is beneficial for both our children and country at large.

I am lucky to have grown up in a household with parents who have been married for more than 30 years. I am so proud of my parents for making it to that milestone. Things were stable at home growing up, and I never had to deal with the burdens children of divorced parents had to go through.

I never had to worry about if I was staying at my dad’s house this weekend, or if my mom was trying to seek sole custody of me.

For those who have gone through a divorce, I could never condemn you. The divorce rate may have declined in the last three decades, but there is no measurement for happiness in the marriages that weren’t terminated. Ultimately, being happy and living a personally fulfilling life is the goal to which we all aspire to attain; if a marriage is not conducive to that, then it is appropriate to end it.

This holiday season, whether you are spending time with your mom and dad separately, or with them together, I hope all is filled with joy in the time you spend together. Behind the raw numbers and statistics, what really matters love you feel from spending time with family and friends, regardless of what is considered to be the “normal” nuclear family.


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