Divorce is, unfortunately, a common reality for many families. Today, celebrities are acknowledging the degree to which their parents’ divorce affected them.
If you have children struggling with your divorce, they are not alone; according to the Office of National Statistics, 101,669 opposite-sex couples and 338 same-sex couples divorced in 2017 in England and Wales.
In the USA, divorce rates fluctuate between 11% and 17%, according to research by Betsey Stevenson and Mr. Wolfers. Amongst the millions of children of divorce around the world, there are some familiar faces who have chosen to speak up about the effects their parents’ separation has had on them as children and as adults. These celebrities are helping to remove the social stigma of divorce and invite both adults and children to the conversation.
Emma Watson’s parents divorced when the movie star and U.N. Women’s goodwill ambassador was 5, leaving her with a fascination with making relationships work. Her advice is there are no rules to love: you have to “Sit with the discomfort. Don’t run away from it. Lean into it, take your time with it. So many people jump into things just because they can’t stand… not knowing.”
Johnny Depp struggled with family problems throughout childhood, resulting in self-harm and substance abuse. After his parents divorced when he was 15, he experimented with drugs and was expelled from school. Leaving education behind, young Johnny took his guitar to perform in bands.
Justin Timberlake’s parents separated when he was 3 but remained friendly even when remarried. Justin struggled with the effects his parents’ divorce had on him and worried that he wouldn’t be able to “break the chain” because divorce is “in [his] blood.” Justin’s mum remarried when he was 5, teaching Justin “the value of… being a father.”
After going public with regard to her bipolar disorder in 2001, Mariah Carey admitted to struggling with childhood traumas; she has commented that the “combination of being biracial and experiencing the darker side of life” caused an identity crisis. Mariah’s parents divorced when she was 3 and she and her brother lived with their mother while her sister remained with their father. Both parents struggled financially but things went wrong for her sister. To distract herself, Mariah sang and wrote songs, eventually landing a record deal – and the rest is history.
The Olsen Twins
Mary-Kate and Ashley became famous at 9 months old after their mother sent photographs to a casting agent. Unfortunately, their young success and millionaire status contributed to their parents’ divorce in 1995. As with many child stars, the twins struggled with fame and Mary-Kate has since spoken out, claiming “Everybody is going to go through hard times. It’s a part of life. I think the hardest part to get to is that point of asking for help or reaching out to other people and being honest with yourself.”
Jennifer Aniston became one of many celebrity children of divorced parents after her father left when Jennifer was 9. Although it took time for Jennifer to accept, she is now close with both parents, recommending adult children of divorce forgive their parents although “there’s still parts that are hard.” More positively, Jennifer credits this time for developing her sense of humour, telling the press “I’d try to bring joy into the house as much as possible.”
Leonardo’s parents split when he was 1, leaving baby Leo living with his mother while maintaining regular contact with his father. Leonardo says he is “completely indebted to [both his parents]” and accredits his success to them. His parents encouraged his dreams, with his father telling him, “I don’t care if you’re successful or not, just have an interesting life. Just be happy.” This shows parents don’t need to be together to support their children.
After 30 years of marriage, Britney called her parents’ divorce “the best thing.” Her mother had filed for divorce and a restraining order before Britney was born but withdrew these applications. The relationship between Britney’s parents was toxic, regularly erupting into violence. As alcoholism and addiction are inheritable traits, Britney’s infamous breakdown can be traced back to family pressure and stress. Today, Britney and her father have both received help, recovering from the substance abuse that scarred Britney’s younger days. Britney’s childhood shows the impact of divorce on children goes beyond formative years and ending toxic relationships can be in the family’s best interests.
Eva Mendes tends to keep her life private where possible, perhaps stemming from parents who divorced when she was in school. Although Eva’s father was absent for part of her life, they are now inseparable and he is heavily involved in the lives of his grandchildren.
Harry’s parents separated when he was seven. Claiming “feeling supported and loved by my parents never changed,” he remained close to both parents. His mother remarried in 2013 with Harry as best man. Sadly, his stepfather passed away in 2017.
After 35 years of marriage, Jessica’s parents divorced in 2012. Sources told the press it was “an amicable split,” although Jessica had a strained relationship with her father and wasn’t supportive of the 50/50 split of assets. Thankfully, there was a happy ending as Jessica married Eric Johnson in 2014 and her mother became engaged the following year.
Martin and his five siblings became children of divorce when Martin was 8 years old. Remaining with his mother, who worked several jobs to support her family, Martin rarely saw his father and developed an ability to make people laugh as a coping method. After announcing his own divorce in 2012, Martin is determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps, stating “out of love and respect … we will continue to remain friends and raise our two beautiful daughters together.”
Nicole Richie was adopted by Lionel and Brenda Richie when she was 9. Unfortunately, Lionel and Brenda divorced shortly after, following a messy separation. Despite this, Nicole remains close to her parents and regularly shares family photographs online. Now married with her own children, Nicole doesn’t want to repeat her parents’ mistakes and is determined to work with her husband to create a “healthy family life.”
Selena was 5 when her parents divorced. Not understanding why, she blamed her mother for the break-up of the family. She has since apologised to her mother and now defends young, single parents, appreciating the sacrifices her mother made for her.