Departmental Papers (Sociology)

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Book Chapter

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Sociological Studies in Child Development



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Divorce has become commonplace in the United States. Most Americans are likely to feel its effects directly either from the dissolution of their parents' marriage, their own marriage, or the marriage of one of their offspring. Two recent studies using data from national surveys have estimated that close to half of all children borne in the late 1970s, when the divorce rate reached its peak, will witness the breakup of their family before they reach the age of 16 (Bumpass, 1984; Furstenberg et al., 1983).

These startling figures have stimulated a tremendous amount of concern about the impact of divorce on the socialization process. The question of how divorce affects children has interested researchers for more than half a century, and hundreds of studies addressing this question have appeared in psychological and sociological journals. At first glance, it appears that the existing literature tells us very little, for it is rife with inconclusive and even contradictory results. Yet, if we go beyond the specific findings reported in any particular study and look at the larger pattern of results, the data assume a more consistent form, indicating some promising directions for future research.

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Date Posted: 19 June 2017