If the Family is the building block of society, then marriage is the foundation of the family. However, as seen from the latest figures released on divorces and marriages in Singapore, this foundation appears to be weakening, with fewer adults entering into marriage and more adults leaving it in divorce (“Marriages down, divorces up”; Jul 30, 2014).
While the article points out that the overall figure is still considered low compared with other developed countries, that should not be any consolation since divorce inevitably affects our children. Each year, 54% of our divorce cases involve approximately 8,000 children, with over 5,400 children under the age of 21. Studies show divorce causes immediate extreme anxiety in a child that can lead to behavioral issues, intensifying a young child’s dependence while accelerating an adolescent’s independence. This can elicit a regressive response in children and greater aggression in adolescents.
In addition, divorce has inter-generational implications that cannot be overlooked. As shared at the 11th Family Research Network (FRN) Forum, in adulthood, children from divorced families have a higher propensity to experience less satisfaction with life, higher rates of depression and lower psychological well-being. Their own relationships and marriage are affected too: they tend to experience lower marital satisfaction, more marital discord and higher divorce rates; and in turn their own children face similar challenges when they grow up. Research reveals that children of divorce risk a 50% higher likelihood of divorce themselves; this risk increases to 200% when both spouses come from a divorced home.
How then, can we help prevent this cycle of broken marriages?
Couples can help their marriages begin on a firm footing by attending marriage preparation lessons. Subsequently, participating in marriage enrichment classes or marriage retreats every 2-3 years during the marital journey will further build a protective hedge around their marriage to withstand the challenges that arise in daily life. Studies show couples who participate in premarital programs experience a 30% increase in marital success over those who do not participate. They report improved communication, better conflict management skills, higher dedication to one’s mate, greater emphasis on the positive aspects of a relationship, and improved overall relationship quality.
Rather than tackling marital challenges only when the threat of divorce looms, keeping a marriage going – and thriving – requires continuous effort and commitment of both husband and wife. It is said that one of the best gifts we can give our children is to love our spouse.
Editor’s note: This letter was published in the Straits Times on Aug 7 in response to the marriage and divorce statistics in SIngapore.