The data is in, and it is now widely recognized that an intact family structure is closely linked to household’s economic well-being and its ability to rise from dependency. Decades of research also provides evidence that children of married couples tend to fare better across a spectrum of measures, including academic performance, behavior, substance abuse, and psychological/emotional well-being.
What may not be so well known is the fact that the ripple effects of family dissolution go beyond the impact on the immediate children of broken marriages. Current trends toward dissolving (or never forming) marriages have consequences for a third (and even fourth) generation, given that children’s life course of relationships tend to track that of their parents.
Children who do not grow up in intact families are less likely to have positive attitudes toward marriage and have lower expectations for their own marriages. Correspondingly, in adulthood, they are more likely to form a high-risk marriage, experience less marital satisfaction, and have marriages that end in divorce.
Moreover, research by a leading sociologist in the arena of family structure found that even the divorce of grandparents was associated with a greater likelihood of marital discord and divorce among grandchildren in adulthood—even if the grandparents’ divorce occurred before the child was born.
The silver lining of this gloomy news is the converse of these findings: Any investment in building and strengthening healthy marriages today can brighten the prospects of generations to come.
To learn more about National Marriage Week and find a community event near you, visit nationalmarriageweekusa.org.