Weak Relationships With Parents and Other Kin in Adult Life

Children’s relationships with both their parents change after a divorce: they become more distant from both, more so even than children living with married but unhappy parents (Amato & Booth 1991; Amato & Keith 1991a).  Children of divorced parents rate the support they receive from home much lower than do children from intact homes. These negative ratings become more pronounced by the time they are in high school and university. This emotional distance between children and parents lasts well into adulthood, and may become permanent.

As adults, children of divorced parent families are half as likely to be close to their parents as children of intact families are. They have less frequent contact with the parent with whom they have grown up, and have much less contact with the divorced parent from whom they have been separated by the divorce. The financial assistance, practical help, and emotional support between parents and children diminishes more quickly than that in intact families. Also, they are less likely to think they should support their parents in old age. This finding alone portends a monumental problem for the much–divorced baby boom generation when it becomes the dependent elderly generation in the first half of the twenty first century. 

Children whose parents divorce later in life such as late teenage years and early adulthood have fewer difficulties than children whose parents divorce during their childhood, but they deeply dislike the strains and difficulties which arise in long–held family celebrations, traditions, daily rituals, and special times, and see these losses as major. Furthermore, even grown children continue to see their parents divorce very differently than do the parents.


Wallerstein & Blakeslee (1989) disturbed America with their widely reported research on the effects of divorce on children. The research has continued in many follow–up studies on these children. Fifteen years after the divorce only 10 percent of children felt positive about their parents’ divorce even though 80 percent of the divorced mothers and 50 percent of the divorced fathers felt that it was good for them.



Amato P. R., & Booth A (1991). Consequences of Parental Divorce and Marital Unhappiness For Adult Well-Being. Social Forces. 69: 895-914  

Amato P. R., & Keith B (1991a). Parental Divorce and Adult Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Marriage and the Family 53:43-58. 

See also, Amato P. R., & Booth A (1997). A Generation at Risk. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts. p 73

Wallerstein J. S., & Blakeslee S (1989). Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children: A Decade After Divorce. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston

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