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Amicable Splits Can Cause Less Church Attendance In Children Of Divorce [Study]

children of divorceA new study, reported this week in the Chicago Tribune, revealed that divorce — even amicable divorces that are often part of the do-it-yourself divorce process — can result in lower church attendance among the children in a dissolved marriage.

Researchers from Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church analyzed existing data sets from the General Social Survey, National Survey on the Moral and Spiritual Lives of Children of Divorce, National Study of Youth and Religion and National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, to reveal that children from amicable divorces were twice as likely as children from intact homes to cease church attendance later in life.

According to the study’s lead author, Lake Forest College American studies professor Elizabeth Marquardt, “Mainline (Protestant Christianity) has done very little and has largely trusted that as long as everybody gets along and keeps their conflicts down, things will be okay. … We’re really trying to upend that view.”

Marquardt continued: “Children of divorce are on the leading edge of the well-documented spiritual-but-not-religious movement … These are potential leaders. As we grapple with more and more people growing up without a married mom and dad, the church can make more sense of that.”

The Difficulties Divorce Can Affect On Religion

We’ve talked in the past on this blog about religion and divorce, and the subject continues to be a controversial one. (Just Google “faith and divorce” if you don’t believe us.) While it’s been well-documented that devout followers of a particular faith have more successful marriages than people who identify with a faith but do not attend services regularly, this is the first study we’ve seen that highlights a growing problem for religious parents, who have decided to file for divorce.

(And if this analysis is to be believed, DIY divorce participants are not immune.)

Parents have a right to bring their children up with a beliefs system of their choosing. But often when a marriage breaks down, it does so because the spouses want different things. Inevitably divorce changes a person, for better or worse, and it usually happens because the unified principles of the marriage have broken down.

The question many religious parents are left with: how do you continue to bring a child up in your faith when the other parent may be, at-minimum, instilling a different set of principles in the child’s upbringing?

The Only Thing Either Parent Can Do

Realize that the divorce will have a permanent effect on the child’s life. It will, for a time, upset the stability that the child feels until he or she can come to know a new norm.

Inevitably, they will go through a metamorphosis in which their own core beliefs will form. They will be colored by it. Nothing is stopping you from continuing to nurture a child in the beliefs system you feel is best for him. But at day’s end, the child will emerge into adulthood, and the best thing both parents can do is respect the adult that child becomes.

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