Effects of Divorce on Parents

I have written on the devastating effects of divorce on children and on the quality of the workforce of a country in the long run. If children coming from divorced parents are more prone to poor academic performances and mental and psychological disorders, legalising divorce in the Philippines can erase to a great extent our advantage of having a “young, growing and English-speaking population.” It is clear, therefore, that the issue of divorce is more than just a religious question. It has a lot to do with the economic progress of the nation and the common good of society.

The American College of Pediatricians, however, has more to say about the harmful effects of a culture of divorce. In a document authored primarily by Jane Anderson, MD, FCP, last May 2014, it enumerated the deleterious effects of divorce on the parents themselves. It showed scientific evidences that parents who divorce also experience adverse effects on their physical, emotional and financial well-being, thus also directly rendering them dysfunctional in their professional work, trade, or occupation. According to this study, married (whether male or female) people are more likely to have better physical health. Married people smoke and drink less. Married men are less likely to commit suicide than men who are divorced or separated. Married individuals have the lowest incidence of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Married men are more likely to live longer after a diagnosis of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Married men live longer than men who never married. In the Framingham Offspring Study, married men had a 46% lower rate of dying from cardiovascular disease than unmarried men.

Married people are more likely to have higher incomes. Individuals who are married have greater wealth. The longer they stay married, the greater the wealth accumulation. Men especially benefit, as married men earn 22% more than single men. Women who experience divorce face a 27% decrease in their standard of living. Married women are more likely to be physically safer than divorced or separated women. Married people have more civic responsibility, are more likely to volunteer in service projects, and are more likely to be involved in schools and churches.

Divorce may have adverse long-term emotional effects on parents. In Wallersteins’ long-term study, half of the women and one-third of the men were still very angry with their former spouses. One-third of the women and one-fourth of the men felt that life was unfair and disappointing. In only 10% of divorces did both partners feel they achieved happier lives. One-fourth of the older divorced men remained isolated and lonely. One study demonstrated that those who were unhappy in their marriage when first surveyed, but remained married, were likely to have improved relationships and be happier five years later than those who divorced. One may conclude from this finding that it is worthwhile for spouses having difficulties in their marital relations to exhaust all possibilities of remaining together, not only for the sake of their children, but also for their own individual happiness.

Aggregating the negative impacts on both children and parents, it can be concluded that divorce adversely affects society by : 1) Diminishing the child’s future competence; 2) Weakening the family structure; 3) Contributing to early sexual experimentation leading to increased costs for society; 4) Adversely affecting religious practice (divorce diminishes the frequency of religious worship); 5) Diminishing a child’s learning capacity and educational attainment; 6) Reducing the household income; 7) Increasing crime rates and substance use, with associated societal and government costs; 8) Increasing risk for school suspensions, “persons in need of supervision” status, binge drinking, and marijuana use; and 9) Increasing emotional and mental health risks, including suicide. Studies have estimated that the financial cost of divorce to the United States reaches about $33.3 billion per year, with adolescent pregnancy costing about $7 billion annually.

With all these empirical evidences from what can be considered the Divorce Capital of the world, we would have a hole in our head if we overturn our centuries-old tradition of no divorce in the Philippines. We have to give full support to the statement of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte that the Philippine Congress will never legalise divorce. For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia