Divorce can change a person. In fact, about one-third of women even go so far as to change their hairstyle after going through a divorce, but sadly, divorce can also change a person on the inside, too.
According to a recent study, children of divorced parents are less likely to have any attachment to the Christian church than children from nuclear families.
The study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute looked at divorce rates in the 1980s and compared them to the decline of religious affiliation from 1972 to the present. They found that the steepest decline coincided with the coming of age of those children whose parents divorced in the 1980s.
In the report, 35% of the (now adult) children of divorce reported that they were non-religious. On the other hand, only 23% of those raised in a nuclear family said the same thing.
In 1972, only five percent of American adults claimed no religious affiliation. That percentage has grown to 25% in recent years. Because divorce rates climbed to the highest levels ever recorded during the 1980s, when many millennials were very young, researchers are suggesting that there is a correlation between a generation of children raised in broken homes and the major decline of organized religion in the current cultural climate.
Another factor, however, could be the shift in values among America’s current population. For instance, a separate study revealed that 29% of adults who were raised in religious households and later abandoned their faith did so because of the religion’s negative attitude towards homosexuality.
“A lot of the narrative around the rise of the nones, or the rise of the non-affiliated, has focused on how there’s changing cultural preferences, that people are choosing to move away from religion,” said researcher Daniel Cox. “I think there’s also a structural part of the story that has not gotten as much attention. We wanted to focus on the way millennials were raised, which is different from any previous generation. And part of that is they’re more likely to have grown up with parents who are divorced.”
Andrew Root, a professor at Luther Seminary agreed that divorce plays a major role in the rejection of religion.
“Everything in a divorce gets divided. Literally everything. Parents’ friends get divided. Relatives get divided. Everyone takes sides,” he said. “Even religion takes sides. The church gets divided. Dad leaves Mom’s faith, or vice versa. Negotiating those worlds becomes difficult.”
According to Root, churches are not doing their part to address the concerns of children in divorce situations, causing these kids to lose trust and faith in the church. He has long advocated for more support services for children whose parents are going through a divorce.
Fortunately, you can do something to help your kids keep their faith. You just have to be a good role model to them.
Research from University of Southern California sociologist Vern L. Bengtson indicates that parents pass on their churchgoing habits to their children. Bengston found that 59% of parents who attend church “weekly or more” passed that quality onto their kids, while the kids of more than half (55%) of parents who “never” go to church also don’t attend.
According to Bengtson, the one reason for this data “is parental behavior, such as role modeling and consistency. If the parents are not themselves involved in religious activities, if their actions are not consistent with what they preach, children are rarely motivated to follow in their parents’ religious footsteps.”