Adults from broken families have less money than others


European Union


The problem with divorce is that it keeps you in debt, a German research suggests. Photo EPA, Armando Babani

Compared to people with an intact family of origin, adults who grew up in a divorced family keep having fewer resources than others.

It is not new that children of divorce do not have it easy in different areas of life. But now, German research from the University of Bamberg shows that this remains to be the case later in life. The Austrian Institute for Marriage and Family (IEF) asked attention to this research on Valentine’s Day.

Divorce rates are high everywhere in Europe. IEF refers to Statistics Austria and states that the overall divorce rate in Austria in 2021 was between 40.1 per cent in Vienna and 33.6 per cent in Tyrol. 17,111 children were affected by the parents’ divorce, including 11,834 minors (69.2 per cent).

Numerous studies deal with the situation of underage children of divorce. Scientists rarely look at the life situation of children of divorce in adulthood. This group of people affected now took the team around the sociologist Anna Manzonifrom at North Carolina State University. It examined the data of a long-term German study. The data was collected between 2009 and 2016. The persons concerned were at least 18 years old.

General support

The scientists found that adults whose parents lived apart received significantly less financial, emotional, or general support than children from intact families with a mother and a father. Compared to people with intact families of origin, children of divorce would have significantly fewer resources at their disposal, even as adults. “Many studies show that children of divorce do worse at school or are more likely to have psychological problems. Our study shows that these children still have disadvantages as adults,” says Manzoni.

Conversely, children of divorce support their parents less than children from intact families. Interestingly, this does not apply to material support for the mother. Children of divorce do this to the same extent as adult children of intact families.

Support to parents

The time of separation is decisive for the mutual support of children and fathers, since most of the children live with the mother after the breakup. Suppose the parents only separate or divorce when the children are already grown up. In that case, there are hardly any differences in the father-child relationship in intact families. In addition, the higher the mother’s level of education, the fewer negative consequences the separation has in terms of material support for the children.

Overall, the research team said that the lower intergenerational support of families affected by separation indicates an increasing disadvantage for those already disadvantaged. Manzoni believes that more help is needed for families living apart.


IEF concludes from the research that married couples and families must receive support in our society. Family structures have had an effect over decades, affecting not only the growing up of children and their adulthood, but also the parents’ ageing. Though unsurprising but seldom noticed, the mutuality of care that the study recognizes is that children of divorce are less supportive of their parents. Support towards parents is vital in illness and old age.

The Austrian institute even makes a connection with euthanasia. Surveys show those old and sick people often no longer want to continue living because they do not want to be a burden and are afraid of being lonely and unable to participate in life actively. This would suggest that there can be a relationship between divorce and euthanasia.



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