Children of divorce are at higher risk for divorce than children of intact families. You would think that this would deter the younger generation from matrimony, but findings show that generation Y is more motivated than ever to get married and stay married. We as a culture should do everything we can to help them meet this goal. Our churches can do much to help these young married hopefuls stay married for a lifetime.

The Parents of Today's Newlyweds

In 1965 the divorce rate surged, peaking in 1979 at the rate of 23 divorces per 1000 couples. This was the boomer generation who ended their marriages in record numbers leaving their children bereft, not knowing what a healthy lasting marriage is all about. It was even true of the church whose divorce rate was no different than that of the secular community. But rather than steering clear of marriage these boomer offspring are embracing it. According to Pamela Paul in her book, The Starter Marriage, "Today's generation is reacting against divorce by romanticizing marriage. They are searching for the permanence and connection that was lost when their families dissolved. This younger, more hopeful generation wants what their parents rejected and is seeking it in increasing numbers."

Culture is obliging these young hopefuls with a more positive take on marriage as well. We are becoming "The Marriage Culture" with television shows like Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, The Bachelor, Bachelorette, Married in America and Regis and Kathie Lee's Wedding Week which had 10,000 applicants who wanted to tie the knot on live TV. A 1996 Redbook article by Lois Smith told "Why Marriage is Hot Again." And on June 11, 2000, The New York Times reported that the "I do's" were "expected to reverberate more than usual this year."

All this was published before the September 11th tragedy which has only spurred marriages on. In October 2001 the New York Times reported that Fayetteville, NC chapel owner Mary Spicer observed a record number of marriages after the 9/11 bombings. "Our chapel does 50 weddings a year and did 17 last week."

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Sentiments were echoed in Norfolk, VA. Not only did the number of marriages increase in the wake of 9-11, but the number of divorce dismissals also increased. In Harris County Texas there was a record number of divorce dismissals. District Court Judge Linda Motherly said that there was a general sense that people realized their lives had changed forever. When a couple files for divorce their problems seem insurmountable, but a tragedy of the 9-11 caliber put everything in perspective. Couples felt like the things they worried about were small potatoes compared to families like those involved in the trade center tragedy.

Is Wanting Marriage Enough?

So, it seems that after a brief period of the anti- marriage sentiment of the 60's and 70's, America is harkening back to a pro-marriage position. The problem is that this young, brave generation with its positive spin on marriage has poor role models of what a healthy marriage should be. Not only do they lack healthy role models, but they are indeed harmed from their parents' divorces. Children of divorce display problems in the following areas:

  • Self-esteem - how they feel about themselves
  • Performance - how they function, grow and adapt to life
  • Social skills - how they get along with peers, work, church, community and the world at large
  • Intimate relationships and marriage - how they respond to intimates

The Heritage Foundation's June 5, 2000 Report on The Effects of Divorce on America states that children of divorce suffer from more depression, anxiety, low self-esteem. They experience higher rates of suicide, feelings of rejection, drug and alcohol abuse, delinquency and criminality and diminished learning capacity leading to more school failure. They have poor interpersonal relationships, are increasingly the victims of abuse and neglect, and are two times as likely to divorce than children from intact families.