By Carma Haley
One out of every three marriages will end in divorce. According to the United States Department of Vital Statistics, marriage and divorce rates have increased by 68 percent since 1995. Today, one out of every four teens will have parents who are divorced. As the rate of divorce continues to rise, does having divorced parents change the way a teen feels about marriage?
The answer depends upon the circumstances that ended the marriage.
“Divorce always affects the children of the marriage,” says Paul Coleman, author of “How to Say It to Your Children.” Divorce, he says, can make children feel depressed, blameworthy and out-of-sorts at the disruption of their lives.
“Some will fare better than others,” Coleman says. “The best predictors of positive adjustment are two factors: whether the [teens] have adequate time with each parent — especially the father — and whether the parents get along as well as can be expected post-divorce.”
Teens who have experienced their parents’ divorce agree. “Divorce causes a lot of unwanted arguments and disagreements between the divorced and the family members,” says Mallory, age 17 from Leaf River, Ill. “I think that in some cases, kids get pulled into these arguments deliberately to hurt the accused parent. I think that teens that grow up without a mom or a dad miss out on a lot. I don’t know what I would do without my mom there to discuss all of the problems I am having. I miss not having a dad around. I think divorce has a major affect on teens.”
However, there are teens that feel their parents’ divorce helped both the family and themselves. “My parents’ divorce happened when I was little, says 13-year-old Alaina of Batavia, Ill. “I know the way things are, they are better for my dad and mom. I don’t think divorce always breaks a family apart; it can make it stronger. For one, my mom is extremely happy with my stepdad — and that makes me happy.”
Marriage has always been thought of as a union of two people and their lives “until death do us part.” This belief of marriage continues with most of the teen generation. “To me marriage means you devote your life to one person, and no one else,” says Holly, age 16 from Springdale, Ark. “People get married because they’re in love and they want to spend the rest of their life together. My parents are still together — and they met in high school. They have been together for almost 20 years. That’s marriage.”
To Alaina, people get married because they are deeply in love. “Sometimes you think this person is ‘the one,’ or at that moment that person is ‘Mr. or Mrs. Right.’ But, like in everything else, sometimes people are wrong; we make mistakes. And things just aren’t going so well anymore and it gets to the point where happiness no longer comes from being with that person. Then they get divorced.”
Teens are exposed almost daily to what is said to be the driving force behind marriage — love. Through songs, movies, music videos and television, they hear the story of “boy meets girl, boy loves girl and boy marries girl.” But, do teens know what causes divorce?
“I think that people get divorced because they try to rush into things,” says Mallory. “I think that so many people are getting married so young, that they don’t know what they want. The first person that comes along, they automatically think that he/she is the ‘right’ person for them.”
Although divorce was not intended to be a “normal” part of life, for some teens, that is exactly what it has become. “My parents got a divorce when I was two,” says Mallory. “When I was four my dad remarried and when I was 13 my mom remarried. Divorce is something that I have had to live with my whole life, so I really don’t know otherwise. It makes me feel like it’s just what people do.”
Regardless of whether or not a teen has parents who have been together since high school or divorced since they were young, they still hold the union of marriage sacred and in high regard. And some of them even have a plan on how they will be one of the two couples that stay married.
“I still want to get married, but I am going to take my time,” says Mallory. “I think that if I marry the first guy I ‘fall in love with’ I will only become a statistic. I think I will reduce my risk of becoming a divorce statistic by not rushing into things and by knowing that it is right.”