Research on the moral and spiritual experience of children of divorce

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Sat, 12/01/2001
End Date: 
Sun, 12/31/2000

Elizabeth Marquardt of the Institute for American Values asserts that contrary to the common assumption that divorce is a temporary crisis in the lives of children, divorce produces childhoods characterized by moral complexity and spiritual loss; divorce also profoundly shapes the ways in which young people hear and respond to stories of faith.

Aiming to address the children of divorce through helping to understand and name their experience, Marquardt organized a series of activities. She held nine regional workshops for clergy and lay religious leaders on the topic of “The Task of Religious Interpretation for Children of Divorce.” Marquardt developed curriculum for these workshops and made it available for others to educate their peers. Additionally, information related to this study was made available on the web sites of the Institute for American Values ( and the Religion, Culture, and Family Project at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

In the first phase focused on researching, and writing a popular market book titled “Divided Selves: The Moral and Spiritual Lives of Children of Divorce” based on qualitative interviews conducted with sixty adults between the ages of 18 and 35; half of these adults had experienced parental divorce before age 18, and the other half grew up in intact families. Additionally, Marquardt held nationally representative quantitative survey involving about a 1000 adults.

The second phase focused on workshops for clergy and lay people. The participants learned about the project findings in the earlier phase and discussed issues addressing preaching, teaching, liturgy, pastoral counseling, and advocacy with reference to the children of divorce.