The divorce rate has increased in the United States and most European countries since the 1960s. Public and scientific concern about the consequences of divorce for children has generated a large research literature. Most studies find that children with divorced parents experience more academic, emotional, and behavioral problems than do children with continuously married parents. The magnitude of these differences is similar in American and European studies. Associations between divorce and child outcomes are partly spurious (due to parental characteristics that precede divorce) and partly due to the multiple stressors that accompany marital disruption. These stressors include exposure to inter-parental conflict, impaired parenting, a drop in standard of living, changing residences, and a decline in contact with one parent. Children’s reactions to divorce are highly variable, and the speed and degree of adjustment depend on a variety of resources and post-divorce circumstances.
Paul R. Amato is the Hoffman Professor Emeritus of Family Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University. He has published over 150 journal articles and book chapters, along with four books, including A Generation at Risk: Growing up in an Era of Family Upheaval (Harvard University Press, 1997) and Alone Together: How Marriage in America is Changing (Harvard University Press, 2007). According to Google Scholar, his research articles have been cited more than 40,000 times. He received the Reuben Hill Award for the best article published on the family in the previous year from the National Council on Family Relations in 1993, 1999, 2001, and 2008. He also has received the Distinguished Career Award from the Family Section of the American Sociological Association, the Stanley Cohen Distinguished Research Award from the American Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and the Ernest Burgess Distinguished Career Award from the National Council on Family Relations. He is a former chair of the Family Section of the American Sociological Association and a former president of the National Council on Family Relations.