After the experience itself, children of divorce face a lot of difficulties. Their lives can change drastically, and given their age, they do not necessarily have a lot of input on the matter. It’s when they start getting older, their opinions on the matters at hand start surfacing, causing emotional reactions and behaviors.
High school can be a trying time for teenagers looking for their place in the world. The amount of changes going on with their bodies and minds can spark emotional reactions at the drop of a hat, but adding divorce into the mix is adding kerosene to a burning fire.
Divorce can cause a wide-spectrum of behaviors in teenagers in high school. Their academics could suffer. They can throw themselves into their academics. They can devote their time to sports or other extra-curricular clubs or activities. For many, however, it also causes them to consider leaving school entirely.
According to collaborative research from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, as well as the Brookings Institute, the rate of high school dropouts among students who have experienced a parental divorce was at 31 percent.
However, that particular data does not necessarily reflect what divorce can entail. For many children, divorce can mean losing a parent entirely and growing up in a single-parent household. While other variables also factor into a teenager’s decision to drop out of school, of which are entirely out of the control of any research, there is a strong impact of divorce on the likelihood of graduating from high school, according to a study at Georgetown University.
Additional research from the Center for Law and Social Policy also found that children of divorce report lower educational expectations on the part of their parents, less monitoring of school work by both parents, and less overall supervision of school and social activities than children whose parents stayed married.
They also found that children whose parents face marital disruption have a higher rate of truancy and a much more negative attitude toward school. Comparatively, marital disruption has more of a lasting impact on behavioral and effective changes, rather than grades or aspirations, according to the study.
The behavioral changes can often result in disciplinary action from the school. According to FamilyFacts, these changes for teenagers, whose parents are divorced, are the same as if the teenagers came from a single parent household, single parent household with a cohabiting partner, or a household with stepparents. According to their research, these teenagers are more likely to have been suspended or expelled from school.
Sometimes, the issue surrounding divorce and dropping out of high school comes from a financial standpoint. When a couple divorces, the income of both parents becomes separate, and this can affect the child, according to research at the University of New Hampshire. This can cause children to feel like not enough money is coming into the household to support the custodial parent and themselves, not to mention if there are siblings involved.
This can cause children to drop out of school, in order to get a job. They feel that it is part of their responsibility to support what is left of their family, and given that those living in poverty are 2.9 times more likely to be dropouts than those living above 150 percent of the poverty threshold, according to studies presented at an American Sociology Association meeting.
Not just Dad
However, the research from Georgetown specifically indicated that a child’s relationship with their father during and after a divorce does not statistically impact the child’s likelihood of graduating from high school. Furthermore, a father’s omission does not bias the impact of the divorce by a substantial margin.
These results indicate that while a single-parent household can significantly lower a teenager’s chances of graduating high school, it’s not always because they lack a father. In fact, the research seems to indicate that losing a parent by whatever means can cause the same effect, which is why co-parenting and communication are so important.
Creating the dialogue between two parents about what is going on in their teenager’s life will give them both the insight on how to approach any given situation. Teenagers are smart, clever, and constantly changing, so staying one step ahead of them, as parents, is important to keeping them on the right path.