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Summary: Divorce or Remarriage Increases Teen Sex

Study found that low levels of parental monitoring after a divorce or remarriage are associated with higher levels of externalizing behaviors such as the use of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, carrying a weapon, physical fighting, and more frequent intercourse among teenagers.

  • According to a study reported in the Journal of Marriage and Family, it has been estimated that almost half of all marriages will end in divorce and that almost 1 million children will experience parental divorce each year. Due to these overwhelming statistics, many researchers have sought to examine what kind of impact divorce and/or remarriage has on children. Much research indicates that children who experience divorce fare more poorly on a number of psychological and behavioral measures than their non-divorced peers. This particular study consisted of 2,011 adolescents in grades 7, 9, and 11 who lived with two never-divorced parents, a parent and stepparent, or a divorced single parent. Of this sample, 60% of the adolescents were from an intact two-parent family, 20% were in a blended family, and 20% lived with a divorced single parent. Two different types of behaviors were looked at: externalizing behaviors and internalizing behaviors. Externalizing behaviors included the use of tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana, carrying a weapon, physical fighting, and more frequent sexual intercourse. Low parental monitoring was especially related to these risk behaviors among adolescents in families with a parent who remarried after a divorce. Internalizing behaviors were characterized as depression, suicidal thoughts, and low self-esteem. Teens in divorced single-parent and remarried families were more likely to show externalizing symptoms and internalizing symptoms than teens in an intact two-parent family. Additionally, low parental support was related to higher levels of internalizing behaviors for all types of families (intact, blended, and divorced single-parent). However, the researchers of this study also found that having friends who could be relied upon and trusted was a positive factor in the lives of adolescents in divorced single-parent families. Providing increased opportunities for these adolescents to build and maintain close friendships may be one way to reduce mental health risks. Activities such as youth clubs, youth organizations, or more formalized peer helper groups in schools may be ways for adolescents of divorce to build supportive friendships that can counterbalance perceptions of parents as unsupportive.1

1Risk and Resiliency Factors Among Adolescents Who Experience Marital Transitions, Journal of Marriage and Family, November 2002, Vol. 64, pp. 1024-1037.

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