An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Adult Children of Divorce

The conversation about divorce often discusses its impact on children in various ways, but doesn’t always take up the question of how divorce affects those children when they become adults.

Since many adults today are facing struggles and difficulties because their parents divorced, it may be time to face the fact that divorce is not a one-time event. It comes up at every holiday, every family celebration, every family tragedy.

In Amoris Laetitia, quoting the Relatio from the 2015 Synod, Pope Francis offers a kind of examination of conscience for people who have divorced: “how did they act towards their children when the conjugal union entered into crisis; whether or not they made attempts at reconciliation; what has become of the abandoned party; what consequences the new relationship has on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; and what example is being set for young people who are preparing for marriage.”

This last point is perhaps the biggest question for those adult children whose parents have separated. How do they learn to trust that love will not “fail,” in their case? Knowing that they have a higher chance of divorce because of this family history,[1] how do they face the future with hope?

How can the Church do more to reach out to adult children of divorce and help them to heal from this experience?

[1] Here is a link to one study that shows this, though there are many that corroborate it: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2704052/

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