How Successful Are the Marriages of People With Divorced Parents? by Joe Pinsker
May 30, 2019
Marital instability can be inherited—but less often than it used to be.
….But divorce, as a thorough body of research has demonstrated, often perpetuates itself across generations—“children of divorce,” as they’re called, are more likely to get divorced themselves than are people from “intact families.”
A parental split, it turns out, can shape the next generation from childhood on.
Researchers have been aware of the connection between a parent’s divorce and a child’s divorce for nearly a century, says Nicholas Wolfinger, a sociologist at the University of Utah.
Further, as Wolfinger found after he started studying the subject in the 1990s, people with divorced parents are disproportionately likely to marry other people with divorced parents—and couples in which both partners are children of divorce are more likely to get divorced than couples in which just one person is.
Wolfinger says that researchers have some ideas about why divorce would be heritable. One theory is that many children of divorce don’t learn important lessons about commitment. “All couples fight,” Wolfinger explains.
“If your parents stay together, they fight and then you realize these things aren’t fatal to a marriage. If you’re from a divorced family, you don’t learn that message, and [after fights] it seems like things are untenable. And so you bounce.”
One other (albeit minor) factor (Link): is genetics. By way of explanation, Wolfinger talked through a hypothetical generation-spanning chain of assholery:
“Some people are jerks, and there is some component of being a jerk that appears to be purely genetic. So: You’re a jerk, you get married, you have a kid, you don’t stay married—because you’re a dick—your kid inherits some of the genetic propensity to be a jerk. And so they get divorced.”
…Linda Nielsen, a professor at Wake Forest University who studies father-daughter relationships, has found that the reduced presence of a father tends to harm girls’ educational prospects and physical health—as well as their marriages, which are more likely to end in divorce.
Nielsen says that fathers can help daughters build confidence in themselves, and that this confidence serves them well when selecting their partners.
Girls who grow up “hungry for a better and deeper relationship with their fathers,” she says, often try to satiate that hunger “very quickly, with the first guys that come along.”
….Despite these challenges, the likelihood that children of divorce will go on to get a divorce themselves has diminished greatly over time.
According to Wolfinger, in the early 1970s, married people with divorced parents were about twice as likely as married people from intact families to get a divorce; now, the former group is only about 1.2 times as likely to get a divorce as the latter group.
In a 1999 paper, Wolfinger theorized about why this might be happening. One possibility is that as divorce became more common, the stigma attached to it started to fall away. This would matter in the sense that the shame children of divorce were made to feel in earlier eras might have inhibited their peer and family relationships.
This in turn could have deprived them of social skills in a way that might have increased their likelihood of getting divorced later in life.
These days, children of divorce generally aren’t outcasts, and so they might be better equipped socially to break the cycle.
Read the rest of that page on (Link): The Atlantic