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Recent Study Investigates How Gray Divorce Impacts Familial Landscape


The Journals of Gerontology: Series B recently published a study examining the effects of “gray divorce” on parent-child relationships. Gray divorce is a divorce that occurs in populations aged 50 and over. It is becoming increasingly common across the United States. In fact, gray divorces make up a large cross-section of the overall number of reported divorces in the country.

The recent study provided valuable insights into family dynamics that occur after a gray divorce. According to the study, the findings indicate that gray divorce tends to lead to a decrease in contact and emotional closeness between fathers and their adult children, while it tends to strengthen the bonds between mothers and their adult children.

Gray divorces have seen notable increases over the past three decades. Research indicates that the divorce rate among individuals aged 50 and over more than doubled between 1990 and 2010. The trend has not just been felt here in the United States, either. European countries, such as Germany, have noted increasing divorce rates for those aged 60 and over. This indicates a shift in societal norms and raises questions concerning the impact on family relationships. This study sought to determine the impact that gray divorce has on parents and children.

The study utilized data from the German Family Panel which included 12 waves of information collected from a representative sample of more than 12,000 residents spanning three birth cohorts. The researchers then narrowed their focus to adult children (18 and over) whose biological parents were both alive and married at the time the data was collected. The selection process resulted in a dataset of 9,092 individuals.

The researchers divided “parent-child solidarity” into three main categories: Associational (frequency of contact), functional (provision of support), and affective (emotional closeness). The study sought to determine how gray divorce destabilized these three main categories. According to the study, the impact of gray divorce varies significantly depending on both the gender of the parent and the child involved.

The study indicated that gray divorce generally leads to a notable decrease in the frequency of contact between adult children and their fathers. Meanwhile, the frequency of contact between adult children and their mothers actually increased. The study indicated that relational ties to fathers weaken while relational ties to mothers strengthen.

In addition, the study indicated that emotional closeness between fathers and their adult children slightly declined while it increased for mothers and adult children. This indicates that some emotional distancing can occur after the divorce. Likewise, the category of functional solidarity showed a similar trajectory. Functional support to fathers decreased while support provided to mothers after the divorce was less consistent.

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Westchase Law, P.A. represents the interests of divorcing couples in Tampa, Florida. Call our Tampa family lawyers today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin discussing your next steps right away.



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