Children of divorce: Educational achievement

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-Rapists, murderers, lifers, dropouts, abuse victims: mostly from broken homes
Effects of divorce on low-income boys (1994 Cornell U. study)

On June 4, 2002, USA Today reported on a new study, "which uses a
government-sponsored database, examined nearly 10,000 adolescents at four
points in time: at three years and at one year before the divorce, and one
year and three years after it. The study finds that the psychological
damage builds before the divorce and dissipates after it, but academic
progress continues to weaken. The researchers, at Ohio State University,
speculate that the children initially may fall behind academically and not
be able to catch up, or that once they fall behind, they lose self-esteem
and motivation. The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of
Marriage and Family."
--Smart Marriages listserv's summary of "DIVORCE DETRIMENTAL TO KIDS' ACADEMICS"-- USA Today June 4, 2002

High school counselor Barry Ham of the Academy School District in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has recently concluded that parental divorce hurts female high school students more than it hurts their male peers. In parsing data collected for 265 high school seniors, Ham established that "those students from intact families outperform those students from divorced families across all categories." More specifically, in multi-variable statistical analysis Ham calculated that students from intact families maintained grade point averages (GPAs) 11% higher than those of peers from divorced families (p < .05). The lower grades probably reflect, at least in part, differences in attendance: "the high school seniors from divorced households missed almost 60% more class periods than did those from intact families." "The most surprising finding," Ham remarks, "was that these results were most pronounced for females." Ham's analyses indicate that "for both grades and attendance ... females were more greatly impacted negatively by divorce than were males."
-- (Source: Barry D. Ham, "The Effects of Divorce on the Academic Achievement of High School Seniors," Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 38.3/4 [2003]: 167-185.) Abstract above is from the World Congress of Families, Family Update Online, Vol. 5, No. 17, 4/27/04

Dr. Dawson's review of the National Health Interview Survey of Child Health found that "children from disrupted marriages were over 70 percent more likely than those living with both biological parents to have been expelled or suspended."
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, citing Deborah A. Dawson, "Family Structure and Children's Health and Well-being: Data from the National Health Interview Survey on Child Health," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, p. 578.

A 1993 study by Dr. Nicholas Zill, et. al., found that children of divorce were twice as likely as children from intact families to drop out of school. This pattern remained even years after the divorce.
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, citing Nicholas Zill, Donna Morrison, and Mary Jo Coiro, "Long-term Effects of Parental Divorce on Parent-Child Relationships, Adjustment, and Achievement in Young Adulthood," Journal of Family Psychology, 7:1, pp. 91, 100. Cited in Glenn T. Stanton, M.A., The Social Significance of the Traditional Two-Parent Family: The Impact of Its Breakdown on the Lives of Children, Adults, and Societies (Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family, 1995), p. 13.

"[A] University of Rhode Island study found that boys without fathers at home scored lower on achievement tests even after controlling for IQ and socioeconomic status."
Henry B. Biller and Richard Solomon of the University of Rhode Island, Child Maltreatment and Paternal Deprivation: A Manifesto (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1986). Cited on page95 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"A 1988 University of Illinois study of [2,500] young men and women concluded that, even after adjusting for family income, the absence of a father significantly reduced the educational attainment of boys."
Study by Sheila Krein and Andrea H. Beller of the University of Illinois. "Educational Attainment of Children from Single Families: Differences by Exposure, Gender, and Race," Demography 25 (May 1988): 221-234. Cited on page 95 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"One recent study of [9,000] Swedish families found that, even after controlling for parental education, teenagers living with only their mothers scored lower in educational aptitude and achievement than those with two parents."
The Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher p. 241, citing Asa Murray and Karin Sandovist, "Fathers' Absence and Children's Achievement from Age 13 to 21," Scandinavian Journal of Education Research 34, no. 1 (1990): 3-28.

"More than one in three children of broken families drop out of school."
R.F. Doyle, The Rape of the Male (St. Paul, Minn: Poor Richard's Press, 1976), p. 145, citing Starke Hathaway and Elio Monachesi, Adolescent Personality and Behavior, p. 81. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 253

"Studies show that children in repeat divorces have lower grades and their peers find them less pleasant to be around."
Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), 71. Cited on page77 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"Teens from single-parent homes are twice as likely to drop out of high school [or to] become teen parents, and one-and-one-half times more likely to stay at home has young adults."
McLanahan and Sandefur, Growing Up. Cited on page34 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"Children [who] are close to their stepparents are more likely to be satisfied with their family and do better in school. But children from a family that consists of both biological parents are still more likely to be more satisfied and doing better in school."
Furstenberg and Cherlin, "Divided Families," 14. Cited on page76 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"Stepparents and noncustodial parents are far less willing to lay out cash for college than parents in intact marriages."
Gary D. Sandefur, Sara McLanahan, and Roger A. Wojtkiewicz, "The Effects of Parental Marital Status During Adolescence on High School Graduation," Social Forces 71, no. 1 (1992): 103-121. Cited on page71 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher. See also Barbara Grissis, "Effects of Parental Divorce on Children's Financial Support for college." Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 22, no. 1/2 (1994): 155ff.

'"In Judith Wallerstein's study only one-third of affluent divorced fathers chose to help pay for college. Ten years after their parents' divorce, 60 percent of young adults were on a downward educational course compared with their fathers." p. 156-157. Thus "White, educated, upper-middle-class children - the very class for whom divorce is thought to be least a problem, because the kids are least likely to end up on welfare or in jail-may be among those hardest hit by the collapse of marriage." ... children with chronic emotional disturbance or severe learning disabilities were screened out. At the time of the divorce, the children were all doing well in school and had never been referred for mental health services.' The Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher, page 44

Examining the Effects of Parental Absence on the Academic Achievement of
Adolescents: The Challenge of Controlling for Family Income
By William H. Jeynes (
Journal of Family and Economic Issues Vol. 23, Num. 2, Summer 2002, pp.189-210
Journal website:
Increasingly, researchers are concerned about how to best control for
family income when examining the effects of parental divorce and the death
of a parent on the children's academic achievement. Some researchers have
argued that a predissolution control is preferable over a postdissolution
control for family income, because parental divorce or the death of a
parent nearly always causes family income reduction. Using the National
Educational Longitudinal Study 1988-92 data set, this study has examined
whether using a predissolution control for family income yields a different
pattern of effects from when a postdissolution control is used. The results
indicate that using a predissolution control rather than a postdissolution
control for family income does yield a different pattern of effects.

Fawson, Bosworth, Davidson, "More Than Money: The Influence of Family
Structure on Prosperity and Educational Attainment", 2005 Sutherland J.L.&
Pub. Pol'y L24, at

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