“Broken Homes Damage the Environment,” the National Science Foundation titled a report it published in 2007, which also announced: “A really inconvenient truth: divorce increases the environmental footprint of families.” We may recycle and car pool, but we'd probably never think that keeping our marriages strong is ecologically friendly. Yet there is a growing body of data showing that divorce is hard on the environment.
In “Psychology Today” author Rachel Clark compares our view of divorce to how we once saw secondhand cigarette smoke. She explains that we're learning that “like secondhand smoke from cigarettes, the impacts of divorce now weigh on the health and well-being of others.” Over the last 10 years science has begun to show “that divorce has a disproportionate impact on Earth's finite resources when compared to marriage.”
In 2007 Eunice Yu and Jiango Liu, PhDs, published a study, the “Environmental Impact of Divorce,” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They reported that “Divorced households in the U.S. could have saved more than 38 million rooms, 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, and 627 billion gallons of water in 2005 alone if their resource-use efficiency had been comparable to married households.” They also found that households in the United States “that experienced divorce used 42-61 percent more resources per person than before their dissolution.”
The National Science Foundation explains that divorce creates extra household units, and each one has its own furnace, air conditioner and set of appliances. However, “a refrigerator uses roughly the same amount of energy whether it belongs to a family of four or a family of two.” Liu added in a later interview, “Whether you have four or two people, you still use the same amount of heat, and whether you have two people or 10 people, the light is on.”
Our social environment also suffers from divorce. Studies published by Linda Waite, PhD, report that:
•Children from intact marriages do better and go father in school than children from divorced couples.
•Both men and women reduce the amount of alcohol they consume during the months preceding marriage, and greatly increase the amount after divorce.
•The incidence of child neglect double as couples move from married to separated or divorced.
•The majority of children, growing up outside of intact married families, experience at least one year of dire poverty.
•Between one-fifth and one-third of divorcing women end up in poverty after the divorce.
In 1921 a long-term research study by Lewis Terman, PhD, began tracking 1,528 American children from early childhood to death. Howard Friedman, PhD, studied the resulting data and found that a disproportionately high percentage of “children from divorced homes grew up to smoke and drink heavily,” and that women whose parents divorced “were more than twice as likely to be heavy smokers.”
But, these numbers often seem to be simply that: numbers. Clark, who is divorced, explains the significance. She states that if she and her husband “understood the risks of divorce,” and that tools were available to help couples restore their love, “we would most likely have skipped our divorce altogether.” She regrets that like so many other couples she and her husband “fell into the so-called divorce trap because we didn't have all the information.”
Don't make the same mistake. Whether you want to save the world or just save you and your children, or you'd simply like a marriage that's fun, there are resources and tools available that you can use to have the marriage you want. Look around; there are alternatives to falling in a trap that you don't want to be in.