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Divorce: Trends and Consequences

The Career Divorced

Divorce early in adulthood has been linked to both advantages and disadvantages in later life. Some outcomes associated with divorce have cumulative, negative effects, so that, as time passes, the disadvantages precipitated by the divorce actually increase—or at least are not relieved. For example, the economic setback many women experience with divorce may not be dramatically reversed unless they remarry.

Similarly, the effects of earlier divorce on family relations can be especially enduring. As with recent divorce, both career divorce and earlier divorce followed by remarriage result in poorer quality relations between older parents and their adult offspring. Previously divorced parents, especially fathers, have less contact with their adult offspring than married parents, with reductions in interaction being particularly strong for those who divorced when their children were very young. Regarding affective relations, adults whose parents have divorced feel less loved and listened to by their older fathers than those with continuously married parents. Reduced contact and affection also translate into reduced support for aging parents who have divorced at some point in adulthood, as older men who have been divorced perceived significantly less potential support from their adult offspring than do continuously married men. Adults in general, however, believe offspring bear some responsibility for the care of their aging parents, even when parents have divorced. But most people consider the level of responsibility to be highly contingent on the parents' contact and commitment to their children over the preceding years. Support to aging parents, therefore, may be seriously jeopardized by divorce, especially when marital disruption occurred relatively early and substantially altered the ongoing relationship between parent and child.

Divorcing in earlier adulthood has been shown to have some long-term positive consequences for older adults. By coping with the divorce transition during one's earlier years, some individuals appear to gain important survival skills and character strengths that pay off in late life. One study found that women who had experienced divorce early in their life course demonstrated better adjustment to widowhood after age sixty. These previously divorced older women were more self-sufficient, and they adapted to the widowhood transition more effectively than did continuously married women.

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Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1Divorce: Trends and Consequences - Divorcing In Middle And Late Life, The Career Divorced, Effects Of Divorce In The Family System