Divorce rates rise, but its impact remains unchanged

Parental separation can alter a child’s views on family, love and relationships


Creative commons photo courtesy of Tony Guyton via Flickr

Every 36 seconds, a divorce is finalized in an American home. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Zoe Conner-Bennett

Every 36 seconds, a divorce is finalized in an American home. 

“I think having my parents divorced has made me more aware of what relationships are doomed to fail and what a healthy relationship should look like,” senior Jack McHugh of Manasquan said. 

Though divorce has become more commonplace in the eyes of society, its newfound acceptance does not minimize the impact that it can have on the household it divides. Witnessing the end of a marriage, especially at a young age, can affect a child’s views on love, personal relationships and the importance of family as they grow into adolescence and, eventually, adulthood.

Similarly to McHugh, junior Bella Carmona-Ramirez of Long Branch learned to quickly notice relationship red flags after experiencing a fracturing family from a young age.

“I definitely don’t want [my relationships] to end the way that my parents’ did,” she said. “With a significant other, I try to avoid any signs that I see or anything that puts me on edge because I feel like I kind of know them now.”

Junior Francesca McCaffrey of West Long Branch remembers her father moving permanently out of the house when she was around six years old. For her, the separation was the driving force behind the close bonds she has with her mother and sister.

“The hardest part at the beginning was definitely growing apart from my dad, but I now know that ending that relationship was extremely important,” McCaffrey said. “It’s now one of the more positive things to have come from the divorce.” 

With the percentage of marriages ending in divorce at 42-45%, some find comfort in knowing that many of their friends have been involved in similar situations.   

“I feel like it is a lot easier to talk about your emotions about divorce in today’s world since a lot of people have gone through it,” said McHugh. “For me personally I’m starting to find it more normal for parents to be divorced than still together.”

For others like Carmona-Ramirez, however, the normalcy of separated parents creates a toxic culture of suppressed feelings, “jokes, and basically memes.”

“People don’t know any other ways to cope. And it’s difficult being vulnerable and sensitive, especially at this age where teenagers are being criticized for always being dramatic,” she said. “But sometimes it’s not being dramatic: it’s completely valid.” 

Yet, health and science teacher Leah Morgan believes that, in some cases, divorce is the best option to preserve the physical and mental well-being of a family.

“When the family dynamic is dysfunctional I think it may be more healthy in the long run for children to deal with a divorce than deal with living in a dysfunctional family,” she said. 

For the McCaffreys, their way of coping is acknowledging that their family is healthier and happier than it was previously. McCaffrey’s mother Trish recently decided to resume the use of her maiden name as an attestation of her independence. 

“After being divorced for many years, the only connection I had left to my married name was my kids,” she said. “We don’t have to share the same last name for them to know I love them.”

“I’m honestly really happy my mom decided to change her name,” McCaffrey said. “It’s very symbolic of letting go, not just for her but for me and my sister too. I think it’s one of the best ways that we can all move on.”