January 24, 2013
Churches Should Focus on Children of 'Good Divorce,' Study Suggests
Adults raised in divorce more than half as likely to attend religious services compared to those raised in happy marriages.
A new study suggests that children raised in divorce—even "good" divorces—are less likely to attend religious services and express interest in God than children raised in happy marriages.
Observers say this implies the future health of churches could depend on getting non-traditional family ministries right.
The report, titled "Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith?", is comprised of papers from family and religious studies experts who together declare "that today’s grown children of divorce form a 'broken leading edge' of the trend of more Americans considering themselves 'spiritual but not religious.'"
Researchers found that adults raised by happily married parents were "more than twice as likely to attend religious services, compared to those raised in good divorces." Such adults were also less likely to report negative experiences of God.
"Children of divorce [have] spiritual stories quite often characterized by loss or suffering," report co-author Amy Ziettlow wrote in an article for The Atlantic.
And the problem for many churches is that their family ministries do little to help families struggling through divorce, said Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Center for Marriage and a co-author of the report.
"'Mainline [Protestant Christianity] has done very little and has largely trusted that as long as everybody gets along and keeps their conflicts down, things will be OK,'" Marquardt told the Deseret News. "'We're really trying to upend that view.'"
According to a blog post by the report's lead researchers published in The Washington Post, "It is especially critical for churches to help couples work through moderate difficulties rather than settle for a 'good' divorce—in which parents stay involved in the child’s life and minimize conflict with one another."
CT has regularly reported on divorce, including why divorce calls children's existence into question, as well as lies told to children about divorce.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated. A previous version of the post misspelled Amy Ziettlow's name.