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For her master's thesis in divinity school, Elizabeth Marquardt wrote a paper called "The Moral and Spiritual Experiences of Children of Divorce." At the time, she found almost no data on the topic. "No one had looked," she says, "at how divorce in childhood shapes how children approach the biggest questions of all: Who am I? Where do I belong? What is right and wrong? What is true? Is there a God?"

She suspected, based on her own experience as a child of divorce, that divorce shapes how children answer these questions. So, in a project based at the Institute for American Values, she and Norval Glenn set out to learn more about adults whose parents had parted ways.

The result was a four-year, nationally representative survey of 1,500 young adults between 18 and 35, members of the first generation to grow up with widespread divorce. Senior associate editor Agnieszka Tennant looked up Marquardt recently to chat about her findings published in Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (Crown, 2005).

How many children of divorce are there?

About a million American children each year experience their parents' divorce. Of 18- to 35-year-olds, which is the generation that I studied, one-quarter are children of divorce. The projected divorce rate for first marriages nowadays is 43 percent. For remarriages, it's about 60 percent. For the first marriages of children of divorce, the rate is roughly 60 percent.

What role does faith play in the lives of children of divorce?

They are much less religious overall than their peers who grew up with married parents. They are 14 percent less likely to be a member of a house of worship and also about 14 percent less likely to say that they are very or fairly religious. They're more ...

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March 2006

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