The Family Crisis

The number of married couples that divorce in Israel has been rising steadily since the 1970s and has turned into a meaningful social problem.

The Jewish divorce rate rose by a full 5% in 2012, according to statistics from the Rabbinical Courts, while the number of divorce files opened rose by an astounding 9%.

A total of 10,694 couples divorced through the Rabbinical Courts in 2012, up from 10,210 in 2011. Various statistical measures indicate that there has been a steady rise in the divorce rate in Israel since the 1970s, from about 10% to over 40%.

A total of 88,055 divorce files were opened in the Rabbinical Courts in 2012, compared with 80,636 in 2011. This is a huge 9% rise.

Between 1986 and 1995, the number of divorces rose by 86%. Between 1990 and 2000, it rose by 61%.

New marriages are on the decline. In the course of just one year (2004-5), the marriage numbers sank dramatically from 40,500 to about 26,500. This is probably related to the emotional drain caused by terrorism at that time.

According to information from the Knesset's Information and Research Department (received by MK Feiglin on 28.4.13), there were about 1.83 million families in Israel in 2011, made up on average of 3.73 people per family.

About 107,000 are known as "single parent" households with children aged up to 17, and these make up 6% of the total number of families. This number is up from 89,000 in 2000. The average number of children in the single parent households is 18, compared with 2.5 in two parent households.

About 73% of the single parent households are headed by a parent who is divorced or separated. Ninety two percent of the single parent homes with a child up to age 17 are headed by women.

National Insurance Institute statistics show that 149,347 children lived in single parent homes headed by a divorced parent in 2011, compared with 81,931 in 1995. This is an 82% rise over 16 years.

Greater risk to Children

In about 38% of the single parent homes, the parent is unemployed (according to New Family, 2005). About half of these homes depend on the NII for a monthly welfare stipend.

The risk that children who grow up in single-paent households will drop out of school, abuse alcohol and/or drugs, become pregnant with an unwanted child at an early age, run away from home and/or commit criminal acts  is much higher than with children who grow up in two-parent households.

Children who grow up without their father's permanent presence are at greater risk of sexual abuse and other forms of abuse (violence, neglect, emotional abuse).[1]

A U.S. study showed that 49% of child abuse took place in single parent homes[2].

Children from single-parent households are at 2 to 3 times greater risk of suffering from mental illness[3] and emotional or behavioral disorders than children from two-parent households.[4]

The relative number of children who grew up in single parent homes among children who behave violently in school is 11 times their relative number among children who are not violent.[5]

On average, young women who had close relationships with their fathers do better in school, are better at math and science and are better able to develop a long term intimate relationship with a partner. A Harvard study found that girls who were emotionally distant from their fathers began having sex at an earlier age.[6]

Other studies show that girls who grow up without the presence of a father develop sexually earlier (see the BBC documentary "The Biology of Dads" for more on this).

Risk to Fathers and Mothers

Unmarried mothers suffer from more physical and mental problems than married ones, on average. Mortality rates are 21% higher among divorced women, compared to married ones.[7]

Mortality rates among divorced men aged 20 to 60 are 70-100% higher than among married men. In Israel, suicide rates of divorced (and widowed) men aged 25 to 45 are eight times those of married men in that age group.


[1] Beverly Gomes-Schwartz, Jonathan Horowitz, and Albert P. Cardarelli, "Child Sexual Abuse Victims and Their Treatment," U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

[2]           Joan Ditson and Sharon Shay, "A Study of Child Abuse in Lansing, Michigan," Child Abuse and Neglect, 8 (1984).

[3]           The Fatherless Family, Rebecca O'Neill, Civitas – the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, UK, 2002: In Britain, the rate of mental illness among children aged 5-15 in single parent homes is twice that of children in two parent homes.

[4]           U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Center for Health . Statistics."National Health Interview Survey." Hyattsville, MD, 1988.

[5]           J.L. Sheline (et al.), "Risk Factors…", American Journal of Public Health, No. 84. 1994.

[6]           Study by Susan Wells, published in Psychology and cited in Ynet, 18.11.06:,7340,L-3327243,00.html (Hebrew)

[7]           The Fatherless Family, Rebecca O'Neill, Civitas