Resilience and Vulnerability: Adaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities

By Suniya S. Luthar | Go to book overview

8
Risk and Resilience in Children Coping with Their
Parents' Divorce and Remarriage

E. Mavis Hetherington and Anne Mitchell Elmore

In the past 50 years in the United States, marriage has become a more optional, less permanent institution. Marriage is being delayed, rates of marital formation are decreasing, and divorce, births to single mothers, and cohabitation have increased. The divorce rate has more than doubled since 1950, and although in the past two decades it has declined modestly and stabilized, still about 45% of contemporary marriages are expected to fail (Teachman, Tedrow, & Crowder, 2000; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1998). As the divorce rate increased in the 1970s, the remarriage rate for women began to decline. About 65% of women and 75% of men now remarry. However, divorces occur more rapidly and frequently in remarriages, especially in those involving stepchildren (Cherlin & Furstenberg, 1994; Tzeng & Mare, 1995).

The general long-term pattern of a rising divorce rate over the past 50 years and a decreasing remarriage rate starting in the 1980s holds for non-Hispanic whites, African Americans, and Hispanic whites, but the absolute levels differ for the three groups. Compared to non-Hispanic and Hispanic whites, African Americans wait longer and are less likely to marry and also are more likely to separate and divorce, to remain separated without a divorce, and less likely to remarry (Teachman et al., 2000).

As parents move in and out of intimate relationships, their children are exposed to the changes, challenges, and stresses associated with multiple family transitions. It is estimated that about 40% of children will experience their parents' divorce, with about 80% of them placed primarily in the physical custody of their biological mother. This usually is a short-lived situation because half of divorced adults remarry within 4 years. One-third of American children will eventually become members

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