Skip to comments.Children of Divorce - New Study Explores the Nasty Effects
Posted on 10/15/2005 6:41:32 PM PDT by madprof98
CHICAGO, OCT. 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A quarter of U.S. adults ages 18 to 35 have grown up in divorced families. The impact of divorce on them is the subject of a new book, "Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce" (Crown Publishers).
Author Elizabeth Marquardt surveyed 1,500 young adults from both divorced and intact families, and conducted in-depth interviews with more than 70 of them. Her conclusion: "While divorce is sometimes necessary, there is no such thing as a good divorce."
Marquardt acknowledges that children in high-conflict marriages, or in situations where there is violence, benefit from divorce. Such cases, however, involve only around one-third of divorces, and the children of the other low-conflict marriages fare worse after divorce. And, while noting that most parents take seriously the decision to divorce, Marquardt urges them to try even harder to preserve their marriages, given the costs involved for their children.
Even if a divorce is amicable, and the couple maintains a good relationship after separating, and even if they continue to love and care for the children, this does not eliminate "the radical restructuring of the child's universe," the author contends.
The moment when parents split is only the start of this restructuring. Around two-thirds of the children of divorce surveyed by Marquardt say they felt they grew up in two families, not one. Growing up in two worlds creates a whole series of problems, starting with the fact that both parents are no longer "insiders," or a part of the family.
In marriage, Marquardt explains, parents often have differences, but they work together to bridge them and they manage to give family life a unity. But a divorce often encourages the former spouses to define themselves in opposition to each other. Hence the beliefs and values of the two parents, instead of achieving an equilibrium, exist in parallel, creating contrasts and conflicts, rather than unity, for the children.
After the split, the conflict between former spouses may no longer be open, but the conflict between their two worlds is still very much alive, Marquardt observes. A child in a united family, by contrast, does not have to spend so much time and effort in reconciling the differences between parents, and can concentrate on enjoying daily life.
Thus, children of divorced couples are forced to enter into an adult world of responsibilities and worries at a young age. Marquardt's survey revealed that even among those children whose parents had managed their divorce well (in terms of reducing the impact on the kids) around half agreed that they always felt like an adult, even when they were young. This proportion reached two-thirds among children whose parents' divorces were more problematic.
Following a divorce, many of the children felt they had a responsibility to protect their mothers, and a substantial number had to take on greater duties in caring for their siblings. This also happens in families where a parent dies or is seriously ill; the difference with divorce is that the children know it comes about as a result of a voluntary choice on the part of at least one parent.
The way in which a divorce comes about also often wounds children, recounts Marquardt. In an ideal situation, the parents would gather the children together and carefully explain everything, and reassure them about the future. Yet, the breakup of a marriage is often messy and chaotic, making it difficult for the parents to organize well the initial announcement to their children, the author reports.
Moreover, the adults are often vulnerable and in grief or shock. It can be hard for children to see their parents in this situation. And it also means that just when the children are in need of comfort they are less able to turn to their parents for support.
Further problems arise in the post-divorce period, when children have to deal with the conflicts and criticisms between the former spouses. The young adults who grew up in divorced families told Marquardt how they felt obliged to be careful what they said to each parent about the other. Such information could lead to hurt feelings or trigger criticisms about the other parent.
Notably, Marquardt's book focuses on the impact of divorce on the moral lives of children. The children feel conflict as they experience different values and ways of life in each parent's separate household. The result is that the children now have to forge their own values and beliefs, the author contends.
Normally, children absorb their parents' values in a natural and gradual process, without having to make a conscious effort. Clearly, there are often differences between parents, but on the whole the children see their parents' values as complementary. And the parents normally work together, backing up each other's authority.
But the young adults studied by Marquardt rarely thought of their parents' values as unified. Differences on small matters such as household routines or disciplinary norms, or more important subjects such as moral values and ambitions for their children, grow wider after divorce. This leaves the children confused, and faced with the task of having to construct their own values in the midst of this conflict.
The differences between the two households means more that just an uncomfortable social situation, where we don't want to offend someone, Marquardt comments. The conflicts are between the two most important people in a child's life -- and these crossed signals go to the heart of a child's identity.
One consequence is that of the children interviewed, 24% of those from divorced families say they do not share the similar moral values with their fathers. And 17% felt the same about their mothers. This compares with children from intact families, where only 6% say they do not share similar values with their parents.
Asked about where they got their sense of right and wrong, children of divorce will name mothers, but rarely fathers. Requiring such children to forge their own values, Marquardt concludes, might help to explain why they have higher rates of problems such as substance abuse, teen pregnancy and delinquency.
Another finding of the study is that today's young adult children of divorce are less religious overall than their peers from intact families. Sometimes the suffering caused by their parents' divorce leads them to question their belief in God. Others are motivated to seek answers to their doubts in religious faith, but the process can be a struggle.
Overall, the young adults from divorced families are less likely to feel religious or to practice their faith as those from intact families. They are also more likely to doubt the sincerity of their parents' faith.
Marquardt concludes by observing that children require strong, lasting marriages in order to have the secure home they need while growing up. They are not like property that can be divided, but need love, stability and moral guidance. This means making changes to our thinking about marriages. Parents, she pleads, must not just love their children but must also love and forgive each other, to sustain families that last a lifetime.
Few reasons for divorce that make sense:
1) Abuse of spouse or children
2) Addictive behavior--drugs, booze, gambling, sex
4) Spouse converts to Islam
That's what the TODAY show psychologists tell us...
Which is only one of MANY reasons I don't watch that show.
5)Irresponsible or impulsive spending of family income.
Money is one of the biggest rifts in many marriages.
Children should be taught to be better money
managers by the time they become adults and not make
materialism a top priority over their
relationship with their spouse and family.
I'll bet that some kids from a divorced family come out better than some in a miserable marriage or over protecting parents.
That thought consoles people, but the evidence really doesn't support it. Kids don't really care how their parents feel about each other. They care how their parents feel about THEM. And the way you show you love them is to stay with them no matter what.
One point that I remember from another books about divorce, was that even when the divorce was for survival reasons - spousal abuse, drug addiction, promiscuous infidelity - it was still very difficult for young children to understand.
You can't explain, "He contracted HIV from sleeping around with trash of mixed gender," to a 7-year-old. All the child understands is that one parent is gone, he's probably had to move away from his school and his friends, his mother has no money, etc.
By the time the child "understands," he or she has already repeated (or worse) the behaviors which led the marriage to collapse to begin with.
That's a good point. An early example of alcoholism or abuse seems to have a very strong influence. In that situation, whether the parents divorce or not, it's a losing proposition for the children.
There are tons of kids who grow up in single family homes.Or divorced homes. They survive, just fine. There are no parents fighting, creating angst.
I doubt many of us had " the perfect childhood".
And if they don't, well, hey, who the hell cares!?!
Unless, of course, mom is a lesbian.
I think it's best for everyone to take responsibility for what he or she does. But there's no denying that it much more LIKELY that a child in a single-parent home will engage in more destructive and self-destructive behavior than a child from an intact family. That's just the plain truth. Evidently it is easier for kids to do well when they have all the resources (not so much financial as emotional) that being raised with two parents in the home provides them.
Well madprof....I don't think I agree.
Loving the children's mother or father is essential for the healthy nurturing of the child. Mostly we learn to love from our parents love for us and their love for each other.
My wife's family had a great deal of criticism of the mother and it really screwed up the kids. Whenever I'd visit the #1 phrase I'd hear was, "Aw Ma!"
The father was always belittling her in front of the kids and they learned to do it too. It affected the whole household's attitude toward each other.
The daughters grew up determined not to let anything like that ever happen to them....and I married one of them...very defensive at any criticism.
I agree with that. But I also think (and I believe the studies confirm this) that kids generally do better in households where the parents self-describe as "unhappily married" than they do in households where the parents have split up. Years ago, people used to "stay together for the sake of the children." More recently, in the age of ME/MYSELF/I, they decided that was too stressful and rationalized their behavior by claiming the kids were badly affected by their own unhappiness. Maybe, maybe not. But almost always, the kids get hurt much, much more badly when their parents divorce.
...or an Episcopal priest turned gay. In that case we "celebrate" his new discovery and feed his newly acquired promiscuity with acceptance. (and of course we'll promote that priest to bishop asap)
I grew up in a home with parents who fought at least every week. Massive scream fests that at time ended up violently. Me and my brother would sleep together those nights. He would wet the bed from all the trauma of listening to these battles.
I was never so happy as when they decided to get a divorce, unfortunately it wasn't early enough for us. Kids aren't alwasy better off with parents that stay together.
I understand Gene Robinson's kids claim they are better off for having been abandoned. Perhaps they are.
Dont know that I agee with you about the way to show children that you love them, is to stay with them no matter what....
I worked for a woman who was married to a very abusive man...she remained married to him, as both parents were Catholic, married in the Catholic Church, and did not believe in divorce, for any reason...
But this man regularly beat my boss up, and when he got tired of smacking her around, he started in on the two boys...Now, ,this was during the mid 1960s and I dont know if even the police would have intervened in this mess...
One nite, he started in beating up this woman...then he physically picked her up, and threw her out of the house, keeping the two boys inside...she ran to her parents, seeking help, and fearing what had happened to the boys...shortly after that, the two boys appeared..apparently they heard their mom being thrown out, and quickly dressed, hoping to try to escape through a window, which they did successfully...but my boss says that when they arrived at her parents house, the younger boy, much shorter and thinner, than the older oby, was dressed in his older brothers clothes, and the older boy had crammed himself into his younger brothers clothes...the sight of her two boys, scared to death, ,crying, and dressed in each others clothing, ,convinced her, that regardless of what the Catholic Church thought, enough was enough, ,and she was going to get a divorce...
Which she did...both she and her boys did have to have intense therapy, but seemed to be managing and making progress...then she met a wonderful man, who loved her and her boys...she married him, and they remained married for decades...and her two boys, were ever thankful, that she took them out of that horrible situation, where she and they were regularly were beaten and abused by a man who thought of them as nothing more than punching bags...I dont think that either the wife of the children ever believed this man loved them, as much as he abused them...
Of course, not all cases of family problems, or dysfunction are as extreme...and I do think that many people do divorce for the most trival and ridiculous of reasons...
But I just dont believe that we can make a blanket statement, that kids always benefit from the parents remaining together..sometimes the parents staying together causes greater harm to the children...
The study doesn't claim that kids are "always" better off. But you wonder: What kind of people bring children into the world and then subject them to the kind of behavior you describe? How could people possibly do that--not only to one another but to innocent human beings whom they themselves chose to create? In my mind, the choices are (a) insanity or (b) pure evil.
I responded to your point in post 25. But I think many people who contemplate divorce aren't even close to anything like you've described. Rather, if pressed, they insist that something more like "emotional abuse" on the part of their spouse is driving them apart. Sometimes (I know from watching it in family members) the so-called abuse consists in the wife/mother of the family getting older and flabbier and shorter-tempered than the hot chick at the office.
Actually they were just ordinary folks living day to day trying to raise children. They each came together with their own problems and together it was explosive. Nothing evil about it. This was during and after the Vietnam war. Times were scary and hard. Lots of changes going on in the world they were having to deal with.
So very true.
The serious studies all show they indeed survive BUT the children are NOT just fine!
That is a fiction carried in the mind of a parent who would rather not bear any guilt over the divorce.
Yep, I get your point.
You sound like a kind and forgiving person. But I refuse to believe there is "nothing evil" about parents engaging in "massive screamfests" that cause their small children to huddle together and pee the bed. And when we shrug off or rationalize the wrong that others do to us, we too often end up repeating the behavior in our own lives. That's what so often happens with many of the children of divorce: (stage one) I'm mad that dad had an affair; (stage two) now that I'm married myself, I understand why dad had that affair; (stage three) I really need to have an affair.
Trying to not be TOO persoal here, However, You would have to meet my childs father.
The best thing that ever has happened in my life is this child.
"at the time" we both wanted to be parents. " at the time" does not always last.
It should have little to know affect on the child.
If, at least one parent cares, Enough to parent.
Not an exact male/female ratio..But some parents DO choose to leave the nest.
Half of marriages end in divorce. You can't describe that many marriages as "abusive" relationships.
I certainly don't shrug off their behavior. I've always let them know how much that tore us up and how wrong it was for them to put us thru it. I've known them all my life, they are not evil and never intentionally hurt us.
We are all flawed humans, their flaws were in dealing with conflicts. They tried to out yell each other to be heard. One day they were teenagers the next they were parents raising kids and fighting wars. It happens, I can accept their failings without putting the devil in them.
I hear them but I don't know them, really. If I knew them and could vouch for their happiness then I'd still be concerned for their well being.
I remain a skeptic, unwilling to adjust my standards of right and wrong to match what these poor people deem as "better off."
I'm not so sure the whole trauma of what they've been involved with has dawned upon them completely yet.
Which is NOT to say that half the people who get married will get divorced.
You do understand the difference don't you?
I personally think that divorce should be avoided but there are times when it is preferable.
You're right. I have no studies on this, but I have the impression that the children of divorce who fare best are those who really do grasp what has happened to them. That's very hard for young adults, though, because most young people really do want to look on their parents (both of them) as role models.
No many of us didn't have an ideal childhood. I came from a single parent family due to my father's death.
I did survive, and am successful. However lack of a father in my life has had some long lasting consequences in the way I deal with people and arrange my life. Now, I can intellectually look at some of these things and choose to let it be an issue - or not.
There are occasions when divorce may be the best of bad options. And how the child compensates has something to do with how old they are when the divorce occurs.
Two united parents are better than one. Sometimes life isn't ideal, and we have to do the best we can, but we shouldn't kid ourselves about it.
Thanks for your response...Why do people bring children into the world, only to subject them to awful situations?....I dont know that anyone has one answer for that...sometimes two people marry, things are ok for a while, and then for whatever reason, things go bad...Insanity and pure evil are two reasonsyou list as your personal choices...but I would just wager there are a whole bunch of reasons...
I was a military wife...I knew, going into my marriage, ,that being in the military, statistically raises the probability of divorcing...many women just cannot handle the rigors of having a husband in the army...its not easy having your husband deployed, or in the field, or gone for days, weeks, or months, never knowing for sure where they are or how they are...its not easy being transfered and uprooted all the time...for some women its just not the married life they envisioned, and they just cannot take it...and the hubby does not want to leave the military...and so they divorce...I dont know that I call that evil or insane...
And parents who have a child with a terminal disease, have a much higher incidence of divorce...its an ultimate stressor to have such a child...there is a lot of tension, guilt, blame, etc, and often it can and does destroy a marriage...My hubby and I were in this situation...and then our child died..and there it goes again, parents who suffer this loss, often wind up divorced...
So statistically, my husband and I, would be prime candidates for divorce...and I will admit, there were times, when being in the military, watching my child suffer, and then watching him die, were more than I thought I could handle...had we divorced, would that have been insane or evil?...
We are still married, and glad to be so...but had we divorced after what we had been through, I just dont see it as being necessarily insane or evil...I dont know what I could call it, but certainly not insane or evil..
I never said that most of the divorces are a result of the situation I described....I am sure that most divorces are not the result of such an extreme situation..my point was, that one cannot and should not make a blanket statement that staying together is always better than getting a divorce...in some cases, such I as describe, I think that people can agree, divorce was the better choice...
And why do divorce people always marry the same type of person. They say the problem was spousal abuse, drug addiction,or promiscuous infidelity and then they are still attracted to that sort. Sometimes the spouse who doesn't do anything wrong is a co-dependent.
I don't know if you can take a general statement, "most kids" , and make it specific to a particular kid. There are miserable kids from intact homes and wonderful kids from miserable non intact homes.
When I was divorced, my kids were 9 and 4. Their mother and I divided the children's time 50-50. Now the kids are grown and on their own. It is my observation that EVERYTHING mentioned in this article is 100% right on. It is amazing to see a study which actually gets it right.
By the way, I remarried, created a moral, Christian home, and had 2 more kids which were also 5 years apart, just like the first two. There was one boy and one girl each time. These two are now 8 and 13. Just like the article said, the results with these two are excellent and reflect consistent rearing by two parents who love and support each other. Once again, based on first hand knowledge, the findings in this article are exactly right.
"More likely" is not 100%, it is actually not even highly likely.
You are acting as if any child from a divorce is worse off. That is simply not true for a particular child.
It may or may not be a fiction. And guilt may or may not play a part in a parent believe his child is better off with a divorce.
Unless of course you just would like for any divorced person to carry perpetual guilt.
Maybe you are a better parent now. Maybe the problem with your children from the first marriage was less the divorce than the kind of parents you and your wife were.
Actually if you look at large sibships in intact families you can see a variety of adjustedness,,some seem better adjusted, happier, more functional than others,,,within the same intact family.
I suspect divorce is harmful for many children. But I also know intact hideous marriages that do not serve children or parents well. I wouldn't suggest divorce be lightly taken, it usually isnt when kids are involved. But I don't think two people are always doing the best thing when they stay "for the sake of the children".
I guess with 3 out of those 4, I don't feel too bad about my divorce. In all honesty, though, even WITH those going on, I still tried to make it work in case I might somehow screw up my kids for life by divorcing their dad. Am only sorry now that I didn't do it sooner.
I came from a solid, loving home but my marriage ended in bitter, quarreling divorce, in which I got out in order to put an end to the fighting in front of the kids.
I have heard only a little from my children of how my divorce was for them, but I imagine it must be, to a helpless and dependent child, like their house being torn apart, shingle-by-shingle and board-by-board.
In response to the person who said his parents had weekly battles in which they screamed so loud that their small children were terrorized, I said that such behavior was either insane or evil. The person responded that his parents were not evil, though what they did was "wrong." It's amazing to me that we cheer so loudly when our President finally gets up the nerve to call the hurtful behavior of foreign enemies by its right name, but we insist on using milder terms for hurtful behavior that is closer to home. I suppose that is because few of us would become suicide bombers, but many of us--sadly--have subjected our own children to the horrors of a broken family.