The divorce statistics in the United States are alarming, with about 50 percent of all marriages ending in divorce. As a result of such divorce, about half of the children of divorced families will have to deal with the significant changes to their family dynamic before they even reach the age of 18. However, a relatively new trend in divorce has been discovered that was previously unnoticed by sociologists and researchers. This trend is known as “grey divorces,” which are the dissolution of marriages of older couples in their 50s and older. The concept of the grey divorce illustrates the fact that all couples, regardless of their age, can be at risk for divorce. In studying the causes and effects of grey divorces, it has been shown that the adult children of grey divorces face significant emotional obstacles as they attempt to come to terms with their elderly parents’ separation.
Grey divorce encompasses both the dissolution of marriage and the permanent separation that occur between married adult couples over the age of 50. Sociologists discovered that from 1990 to 2012, the number of grey divorces doubled. While at one point only one out of 10 elderly couples divorced, the elderly community now makes up at least one quarter of all U.S. divorces. Such an alarming increase in grey divorces has required people to rethink the idea that older couples will stick with a relationship to the end, even when they are unhappy and staying in the relationship until death would be more convenient. It has also been discovered that adults whose parents divorce face a unique set of issues not faced by the children and young adults whose parents also separate.
Grey Divorce and Adult Children
When the elderly decide to divorce, they often underestimate, or do not even consider, the effect that their divorce will have on their adult children. These parents often assume that their children have their own families, and are otherwise able to cope with the divorce. However, this belief is not necessarily true. Adult children have had their entire childhood and adult life to establish memories and rituals with their parents, unlike young adults. For example, while a child who is 10 years old when his or her parents divorce would have additional years of their childhood and adult life to get used to separate holidays, an adult in their 30s may have had over three decades of being used to sharing their holidays with both parents, and is more likely to be attached to these emotional memories.
In addition to attachment to emotional memories of their pre-divorce family, adult children are expected to be able to to cope with their parents’ divorce, while it is assumed that a child/young adult will have more difficulties adjusting. As a result, the friends and family of these adults often do not feel that is necessary to extend the same amount of emotional support that is extended to young adults whose parents are divorcing. When these adults lack the emotional support they require to cope with their parents’ divorce, they begin to blame themselves for their parents’ issues and wonder if something is wrong with them. This lack of emotional support and memory attachment is made worse by the fact that those spouses going through grey divorces often reach out to their adult children for emotional support, thus putting the adult children in an additionally difficult situation of having to choose sides.
As the rate of grey divorces increases, society must realize that there is apparently no expiration date for the risk of divorce. Instead of assuming that adult children are more equipped to cope with their parents’ divorce than children, friends and family must realize that adult children may be facing just as many problems. If you need assistance from a family law attorney, contact an experienced Connecticut family law attorney at our law firm in Fairfield County.