Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Divorce Divides Children

Elizabeth Marquardt’s main point in Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce is, as the title suggests, that children of divorce grow up divided because they are never fully at home. She reports with great subtlety about the routine ways in which divorced kids learn to keep secrets from their parents, and even to lie to one parent so as not to betray the other. She makes clear that joint custody is not the happy solution that some divorced parent activists promote, because it keeps the child perpetually uprooted. Divorce takes children from being the center of one nuclear family, to a perpetual guest in two new families,

The core problem of divorce for children is that even in the best divorce, the child can never have a full life with both mother and father. All of Marquardt’s subjects were chosen because they had kept contact with both parents. We know from other research that a quarter to a half of all divorced children lose all contact with their fathers after a few years. The luckier ones who keep ties to both parents are still divided in their lives, loyalties, and longings. The divorced kids who lose a parent altogether are like emotional amputees.

I have known a number of children of divorce, some of whom have gone on, like Marquardt, to be successful in their education, their careers, their civic lives, and, most impressively, in their own marriages and childrearing. Yet, as Marquardt would be the first to acknowledge, the divorce always leaves scars. Divorced kids are more prone to become anxious over difficulties in their marriages. One of the reasons that children of divorce are more likely to divorce themselves, despite their deathly fear of divorce, is because they either marry impulsively, or throw in the towel too soon. It is hard for children of divorce to believe that they really know how to make a successful marriage, even if other people do.

I find that I can usually tell after knowing a student for a little while whether his or her parents are still together.

Divorce is one of many experiences that scar children. Compared to growing up with violence, or drunkenness, or drug addiction, divorce leaves relatively mild scars. But it always does. Marquardt says that she is not trying to condemn divorced parents, like her own mother and father. Rather, she wants everyone to see that “divorce happy talk” is a self-serving lie that parents tell when they want to convince kids that what is good for the parents is also good for the children.

15 comments:

Denis Hancock said...

I see what you mean by some topics attracting more comments than others...

You raise some very disturbing points (as does Marquardt) about the effects of divorce on children. Joint custody is awkward enough when both new families live in the same city. When one parent moves away it can really play havoc with children's lives. Not only is travel an issue, but all hope of a stable school experience goes out the window, unless joint custody is modified. I suppose that in this case, it becomes de facto single custody.

Gruntled said...

Actually, Marquardt quotes a number of divorced kids who regularly flew across the country when they were as young at 5! She did, herself, to a number of years, too.

Annie Maggard said...

can't agree with you more on this one.

another difficulty i've encountered is that of a child of non-divorcees (such as myself) trying to date (or marry!) someone whose parents are divorced. not only is the family dynamic completely different, but hard to overcome since parents create the model by which an individual manages his/her own relationships. a burden is placed not only upon the child of divorce, who is struggling with sorting out his/her own past issues, but upon the other partner who must attempt to identify with a divorcee child, working from a completely different example of normal family life.

Gruntled said...

I have read, and found by experience, that divorced kids are more adamant that they never want to inflict divorce on their own children. They may find divorce "normal," but they do not embrace it as an equally good norm.

Anonymous said...

2/3 of divorces are initiated by women, and of those, only 5-10% are due to abusive behavior.

Brinig has shown that women have an incentive to divorce in states where mothers are awarded sole custody, as divorce rates plummet when joint custody legislation is instituted in those states.

If you want to address divorce rates, you should address the issue to women primarily, about 40% of whome, when divorced, admit to interfering with their children's fathers' visitation.

Gruntled said...

Joint custody may prevent some divorces, but may make the child's situation worse where divorce is not prevented.

WICatholic said...

"I have read, and found by experience, that divorced kids are more adamant that they never want to inflict divorce on their own children. They may find divorce "normal," but they do not embrace it as an equally good norm."

That is my son, though he does not think divorce is 'normal'. My prayer is that he is successful til death do they part. He admits the hurt we caused him has affected his life, and is bound and determined that he will never do this to his own children when they are married and have them.

Gruntled said...

Divorced kids often have a fierce determination never to divorce -- and yet they also have a deep fear that they don't know how to deal with conflict.

abby said...

i think the parents of divorce need to show love for all the children involved. They should always show that they can be there for them no matter what the problem is. The kids of divorce find it hard to fit in with others and r going to turn to the parents for help, so the two parents need to be able to work together to help their child/children. They should all go out and do some family things like picnics, so the children know that both the parents love them equally and can be in the same place and still be civilized. The parents need to take responsibility and not change the way they acted towards the children before the divorce and try to keep the chidrens' lives as normal as possible.

Anonymous said...

HMMMM....disheartening it is..but truths sometimes are...Divorces..mutual or ugly undoubtedly leave indelible scars in the minds of young ones.Being the product of such a home myself..i totally admit that i fear getting into relationships..the mere prospect of ending in the same situation is enough to scare me and thus shy away from a relationship.Also there exists a deep sadness that i never encounterd or saw true love b/w my parents.It was a very bad relationship it was..so i feel distraught at times when i hear my friends discussing how loving their parents are towards each other..or how their dad loves them.But yes..that kids from broken homes are low on self esteem..get low grades at schools or universities is entirely wrong..
i managed to get good scores and was quite a good student at ma school n college..an introvert though but outstanding.The only front at which we probably are nervous is the fear of getting into relationships..n the fear of marriage..what if it ends in divorce?..n ofcourse there is the damned society ..in countries like india where divorces are a biiiig taboo..n divorcees are often looked upon..as a rare breed of species..it indeed aint a normal life.
HOWEVER.. with faith on oneself..n deep love showered by ur parent..u can rise above all odds.
Inshallah!!

Anonymous said...

true..if the kid is in contact with both the parents..he/she may have his loyalties bound to one of his parents..and it may not seem entirely wrong cuz as often happens..the child views the divorce the result of the wrongdoing of one of the parent..father or mother...so it comes quite naturally for him /her to defend one parent..

Me said...

I believe that children were not meant to be raised by 1 parent. I don't feel like I am able to give my daughters everything that they need, but I am doing the best that I can.

jaypee | enjayneer.com said...
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Robert said...

Divorce its just so hard for the kids. when my parents separated, I was so doomed and very disappointed. But I just have to accept things as they are meant to happen. Good thing I got this planner/organizer from co-Parenting-Manager (http://4help.to/plan) which really helped me cope up with the situation. Their website is also perfect for parents and kids who are experiencing the dilemma of divorce.

blog.m11.in said...
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