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Losing their religion: Kids of divorced parents may leave church

Parents who are going through a divorce are often occupied with many aspects of the split, not least among them child custody. One phrase that is often bandied about when it comes to child custody and visitation schedules is "the best interests of the child." This likely means different things to different parents; however, for many divorcing parents, it means that while a child may not be with them physically all the time, the child will still respect and honor the traditions that are important to his parents.

When it comes to religious traditions, however, that might not always work out. A new study published this week in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion indicates that children whose parents are both religious but divorce are more likely to leave that church when they reach adulthood compared with children of religious parents who stay married.

Researchers say this pattern is not limited to one particular religious group; it was seen among all religions that were studied. The reasons for this are not easily explained; it is difficult for adults to explain their behavior and experiences as children with certainty. However, the study's lead author said that some children may feel like the marriage of their parents is ordained by God, and when that marriage fails, it could be construed as a failure of God to keep the couple together.

What this means for all divorcing parents -- not just those who are religious -- is that events that happen during the course of a divorce now can have impacts on children for years to come, well into their adult lives. This means it is of crucial importance to make sure that children get the attention and love they need when their parents' union is breaking apart.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "Study: Religious Parents' Divorce May Cause Children to Leave the Church," Jason Koebler, March 5, 2013

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