Evidence of how divorce affects families is apparent in the prevalence of single parent homes, an increase in teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and an increasingly high number of school dropouts. Statistics indicate that single parent homes broken by divorce are less likely to produce stable children. A single mother struggling to raise several kids without a father in the home may be forced to seek low-paying employment or live on government subsistence. A lack of income or the necessity to work long hours outside of the home produces what is known as an "open child" syndrome. Latch-key kids with little adult supervision are left to their own devices. With mother away at work most of the day or evening, a latch-key kid wakes up in the morning, dresses for school, grabs a bowl of cold cereal or goes to class hungry, and tries to stay awake all day. Once home in the evening, an unsupervised child is on his own until the single mother walks through the door-- too tired to ask how Johnny is doing, too tired to check homework, too tired to fix dinner, too tired to be an effective parent, and too tired to play the role of both mother and father.
While not all single mothers and fathers fail at child rearing, the odds are stacked against them. Increasingly how divorce affects families can be seen in juvenile court, detention centers, or on the city streets. Children are being forced to fend for themselves in an unkind world riddled with drugs, saturated by satanic influences, and fraught with almost certain failure. A rampant divorce rate of almost 50 percent of first time marriages in the United States and abroad is wreaking havoc with the nation's youth. Children of broken homes are less likely to graduate from high school, more likely to get pregnant, and more likely to try drugs. Short term effects of how divorce affects families can be seen in the jail houses and dope houses of America and Europe, or in the streets of big city housing projects. The nation's children are deplorably neglected by deadbeat dads who think that paying child support is an adequate substitute for hands-on fathering. "And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:16-17).
The tragic consequences of how divorce affects families can be seen in teen pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, or welfare lines. America and the world are steadily producing kids that have little hope of thriving in a digital age where knowledge is power and education is the key. Far too many fatherless girls wind up in the streets or with a live-in boyfriend pregnant with a child they cannot raise. A soaring teen pregnancy rate can cripple a state's welfare system and push an overloaded food distribution program to its limits. Babies having babies just to collect welfare checks sends healthcare costs skyrocketing and breaks the back of taxpayers who pick up the tab for unwanted pregnancies. Single teen moms can easily become caught up in the snare of welfare, perpetuating a vicious cycle of living hand to mouth, month to month until the child support check comes.
Even in affluent societies, how divorce affects families has a similar impact. Children who wear designer jeans or drive expensive foreign cars still need fathers. A weekend dad cannot possibly guide a kid down the right pathway like a 24/7 father. Twenty-first century parenting has changed all the rules about child rearing, substituting material wealth for spiritual and moral dearth. But a $500 allowance cannot take the place of a father's arms; nor can a piece of crack ease the pain of poverty and rejection. Adverse impacts of marital failure on families is just as devastating on Rodeo Drive as it is on skid row: single mothers struggle, fatherless children fail to thrive, and an entire society is robbed of a future productive generation.
Anyone who wonders how divorce affects families can plainly see that the traditional family unit is on life support with the devil standing by to pull the plug. If mothers and fathers want to see a nation's children thrive and survive and reverse the negative impact of how divorce affects families, there must be a greater commitment to marriage. Husbands and wives must learn to love again, to forgive and to allow God to heal relationships broken by distrust and devastated by divorce. Twenty-first century parents must resolve, just as the grandparents and great grandparents did, to "stay married for the sake of the children."
Generations ago, marital relationships were not so much different than they are today; but divorce was taboo. Mothers and fathers stayed together to raise the kids even though the love had long gone. It was the "right thing to do." And in daring to stay, even when the thrill was gone, yesterdays parents were able to raise upstanding citizens, educated in the nation's institutions of higher learning. Men and women, proud though poor, wealthy but willing to sacrifice to fill the ranks of teachers, doctors, and lawyers and make an investment in the lives of those who were yet to be born. In the future, how divorce affects families will rest in the hands of today's parents. If it takes a village to raise a child, then the village must be willing to pay the price to love, educate, nurture, and sacrifice for tomorrows leaders.