Are children of divorce more likely to end up getting divorced? Numerous studies have been conducted on this topic, often called the “intergenerational transmission of divorce” in the past few decades. While most of the earlier reports found evidence to show that divorce, indeed, causes more divorces, failed relationships, and fewer marriages, more recent studies suggest that there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
Researchers who believe in the first outcome believe that most people model their own marriages on their parents’ marriage, and hence, have a greater chance of failing. Another theory suggests that children whose parents had had bad marriages are not taught essential relationship skills, such as dealing with conflict, which stops them from having a successful marriage. They are more likely to copy their parents’ ways of communicating or handling conflict, which increases the likelihood of divorce.
Another group believes that children of divorce, especially women, exhibit lower relationship commitment, have a more negative attitude towards the marriage, and are less confident in their own ability of having a happy, long-lasting marriage, which again, increases their chances of divorce. Some people also suggest that kids of divorce have a deep-instilled fear of rejection or abandonment and also face problems trusting their partner, because of which they more likely to run for the hills at the first hint of trouble in their marriage instead of staying on and trying to find a solution.
However, it is important to remember that every kid is not impacted by divorce in the same way. While it is undeniable that our parents’ marriages influence our own relationships in a number of ways, we cannot always assume that divorce leads to divorce. Several other aspects, including the children’s view on divorce, the level of conflict in the parents’ relationship, whether or not the parents remarried after the divorce etc., play huge and influential roles in the kids’ lives when they start to form their own relationships.
For example, many studies have shown that children from high-conflict families where the parents stayed together also experience trouble sustaining healthy, long-lasting relationships. Experts attribute this to the kids’ diminished abilities to find solutions or arrive at a compromise, possibly caused by daily exposure to fights and conflict between the parents. On the other hand, children of divorce from high-conflict families fared similar to children from low-conflict families where the parents stayed together, suggesting that the parents’ happiness after divorce can contribute to the children’s happiness too.
Also, instead of blindly aping the parents’ marriage as a role model, many children who grow up in high-conflict homes choose to pick what they want from their parents’ relationship or use it as an example of what mistakes to avoid. They “learn” from the mistakes their parents made and use that experience to create their own path to a happy and fulfilling relationship.
So, what’s in store for children of divorce?
While children of divorce certainly have a high chance of repeating their parents’ mistakes, it is not a fate written in stone. Your marriage is not doomed to fail because of this one reason alone. There is definitely a risk – just like you would if you had a parent with cancer or high blood pressure. You can reduce your risk of succumbing to those risks by staying aware and taking necessary precautions. Never forget that our relationships and their success are determined by the choices we make.