Why Do Americans Believe That Divorce Is Damaging to Children Compared to Remaining in a “Bad” Marriage?

Your question is not a good one because it’s based upon a false premise. Not all Americans believe that it’s better for all children for their parents to remain in a bad marriage. A better question would be:

Is it better for children of parents in a bad marriage for these parents to stay married or to divorce?

While this is a better question, it’s still not very good because so many factors vary so much. Not all children, parents, or marriages are the same. What one parent may consider a “bad” marriage the other parent may consider not just “not bad” but a good marriage. And the effects of divorce vary widely as well. Some children benefit from their parents divorcing, most do not. For some, divorce is vastly superior to remaining in a particularly dysfunctional, miserable marriage. Others regret divorce, discovering that the marriage was not the problem, that the marriage could have and should have been salvaged, and/or that the divorce caused more problems than the marriage did.

It is an undeniable fact that marriage is generally better for the overwhelming majority of normal people than staying single or divorcing. I believe most people believe this as well.

Life’s greatest joys are found in or stem from a sound marriage and family. Life’s greatest joys come from being cared for as a child by loving parents and by caring for and loving one’s own spouse and children. The best thing that one can do for a child’s long-term well-being as an adult is rearing that child in a loving, responsible nuclear family. With rare exception, those who say that they don’t want marriage and children are lying. Even people who shun marriage and families because they grew up in a dysfunctional family or in no family aren’t evidence that marriage and family are bad. Even children of dysfunctional families or single-parent families or no families at all will, when being honest with themselves and others, concede that they yearn for a loving marriage and family of their own. It’s in our nature to want to be a child of a sound marriage and family and to raise children of our own in a sound marriage and family.

Successful marriage is work, but when undertaken with the right motives and understanding, a labor of love in both good times and bad. Denying oneself the blessings of marriage and family out of fear that the potential marriage and family demands sacrifice and might fail is self-defeating. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. No one likes to fail, but what is worse than a failed attempt is no attempt at all.

Obviously, chronic serious dysfunction is not an attribute or purpose of a sound, successful marriage. Those dysfunctions must be addressed and overcome (or at least be successfully treated on an ongoing basis) or the marriage should end. Neither is a good marriage without some betrayals, unmet expectations or hopes, conflict, and other disappointments. But no reasonable person could argue that children are better off with unmarried parents if those parents could marry and stay married in a wholesome family environment. The data proving such are overwhelming.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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