By guest bloggers Will Adams and Ellie Guy from the Family Life class.
(Part two of two)
A recent study conducted by Norval Glenn at the University of Texas at Austin has some surprising things to say about the effects of divorce on children relative to the quality of divorce. Glenn says that children of good divorces are caught off guard by the divorce and have long-term damage to their views of marriage as an institution. Children of a bad divorce see the conflict leading up to the divorce and can justify the divorce in their minds and, while they may blame one or both parents for their actions, their faith in the institution of marriage is maintained. The children of bad divorce, however, experience a much greater psychological trauma as they are often “torn between two worlds” worse than children of good divorce are.
What Glenn’s research shows is that both good and bad divorces have detrimental effects on the children involved. He, like most researchers in the field, concedes that there are examples of abusive marriages where the parents and children are better off with a divorce, but that this population is a small minority. Save those few situations, most divorces have an overwhelmingly negative effect on children. What we see is that divorced children, having either been disillusioned by marriage or made to fear divorce in their own relationships, will have a greater likelihood of themselves either never getting married or ending a marriage in divorce.
This trend seems to indicate that we may begin to see a cyclical pattern in families that have experienced divorce. Because of this, we believe it would be interesting to conduct a study that looks at marital happiness and success based on the family history of the two people in the marriage: whether both come from intact or divorced families or if one comes from each. Our belief is that the findings would show that both spouses from intact families would be the happiest and successful, both from divorced families second, and mixed spouses the least happy. Our reasoning for listing two children-of-divorce spouses as the next happiest behind the dual-intact spouses is that we believe a percentage of dual-divorced marriages would be both so turned off by their parents’ experiences that they would be willing to do anything to make their own marriages work. Furthermore, if they both came from this background they would understand each other’s mentalities. Our reasoning for placing a mixed family history marriage as the least likely to be happy/successful is that we feel the intact-family spouse would not fully understand where the divorced-family spouse had grown up with. Furthermore, one spouse would have experienced his or her parents dealing with situations while the other one would not have that knowledge. The result would be that the two come to the marriage with unequal marital skills and knowledge.
This is all obviously theoretical. We would like to see the results of such a study and believe that it will be conducted someday and anticipate its results.