Each year, over 1 million American children suffer the divorce of their parents; moreover, half of the children born this year to parents who are married will see their parents divorce before they turn 18. Mounting evidence in social science journals demonstrates that the devastating physical, emotional, and financial effects that divorce is having on these children will last well into adulthood and affect future generations. Among these broad and damaging effects are the following: o Children whose parents have divorced are increasingly the victims of abuse. They exhibit more health, behavioral, and emotional problems, are involved more frequently in crime and drug abuse, and have higher rates of suicide.

o Children of divorced parents perform more poorly in reading, spelling, and math. They also are more likely to repeat a grade and to have higher drop-out rates and lower rates of college graduation. o Families with children that were not poor before the divorce see their income drop as much as 50 percent. Almost 50 percent of the parents with children that are going through a divorce move into poverty after the divorce.

o Religious worship, which has been linked to better health, longer marriages, and better family life, drops after the parents divorce. The divorce of parents, even if it is amicable, tears apart the fundamental unit of American society. Today, according to the Federal Reserve Board's 1995 Survey of Consumer Finance, only 42 percent of children aged 14 to 18 live in a 'first marriage' family -- an intact two-parent married family. It should be no surprise to find that divorce is having such profound effects on society. Restoring the importance of marriage to society and the welfare of children will require politicians and civic leaders to make this one of their most important tasks.

It also will require a modest commitment of resources to pro-marriage programs. Fiscal conservatives should realize that federal and state governments spend $150 billion per year to subsidize and sustain single-parent families. By contrast, only $150 million is spent to strengthen marriage. Thus, for every $1, 000 spent to deal with the effects of family disintegration, only $1 is spent to prevent that disintegration.

Refocusing funds to preserve marriage by reducing divorce and illegitimacy not only will be good for children and society, but in the long run will save money.