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Posted on: Wednesday, April 25, 2018
When family life fails, so too do students
Nicole M. King and Bryce J. Christensen
This article was published April 18, 2018, at Mercatornet.com.
Educationhas established itself as a god term in progressive circles. Name any problem whatever—from global warming to grade-school bullying—and progressives will begin to genuflect and burn incense before the shrines of education, certain that academe can save us. Their solo fide progressive credo blocks from view the way that educational attainment actually depends on family life. After all, progressive ideology typically rests on a secularized individualism that defines family life as little more than an unfortunate constraint on individual liberty.
Still, from time to time social science unsettles progressives’ faith in education by adducing evidence that when family life fails, so too do students. The latest evidence that academic success depends on strong family life comes from Dutch researchers trying to explain why some students fall short of the educational potential predicted for them by standardized tests. These researchers begin their inquiry supposing that when students do not realize their academic potential, perhaps health problems are to blame. But their study uncovers no evidence implicating health issues as the reason students tumble short of their educational potential. Instead, evidence surfaces clearly identifying parental divorce as a significant reason that students do not realize their potential.
Affiliated with the University of Groningen, Utrecht University, and the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, the authors of the new study “recogniz[e] that educational achievement has far-reaching consequences for health later in life,” consequences reflected in data indicating that “in the Netherlands, as in other countries, life expectancy increases with attained level of education.” The researchers accordingly regard it as a matter of “great importance, both for their future socio-economic position and for their later health, that children complete the level of education that matches their abilities (their educational potential).”
But a significant number of Dutch students do not reach their educational potential. Suspecting that “health-related factors” may be a prime reason for such educational shortfalls, the researchers set out hoping to illuminate these factors. By helping public-health officials to identify these findings, the researchers hope that they “may facilitate the development of interventions that create a breakthrough in the vicious circle of poorer health status affecting educational achievement affecting health status later in life.”
To identify the factors preventing students from reaching their potential, the Dutch scholars parse data collected for 1,519 children born in various parts of the Netherlands in 1996-1997 and tracked since then. Naturally, the researchers focus especially on the approximately one in seven (13.6%) of students who have come up short of their academic potential, as measured through standardized testing.
Not surprisingly, the researchers conclude that students manifesting attention disorders and those using alcohol, tobacco, and drugs appear significantly less successful in reaching their educational potential than do peers without such issues. But the researchers themselves may have been surprised that they detect “no evidence that physical health contributes to discrepancies between the potential and attained level of secondary education.” Elaborating, the researchers remark, “None of the indicators of physical health included in the study (general health, number of illness-days in the last 2 months, asthma, regular headaches or migraine, and fatigue) were associated with discrepancies between the [standardized test] score [assessing educational potential] and the level of secondary education actually attended 3 years later.”
Given the amount of attention that bullying has received as a problem in schools, the research findings on this matter likewise may have surprised the
researchers. For although the researchers do establish a linkage between students’ being bullied and their falling short of educational potential in
their simple two-variable analysis, that linkage falls below the threshold of statistical significance in their multivariable analysis accounting for
background variables such as parental education, students’ gender, and students’ substance use.
Posted on: Wednesday, March 29, 2017
by Doug Mainwaring at publicdiscourse.com on March 2017.
This world does not need men to selfishly take whatever we want, especially if the price is the welfare of our children. Our children don’t need superheroes—just quiet, unsung, ordinary, everyday heroes who answer to the name “Daddy.”
When I was taking my first few steps out of the closet in the late 1990s, a guy who called himself Tex offered me a short version of his life story over drinks at a Dupont Circle bar. The conversation took an unanticipated turn: he explained that his current partner had moved halfway across the country, leaving behind an ex-wife and kids. Tex would sometimes answer the house phone (this was before cell phones) and would hear a small voice cautiously ask, “May I please speak to my Daddy?” This was his partner’s eight-year-old daughter calling from somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Tex said that it troubled him deeply that his partner’s daughter had to ask permission of a stranger in order to speak with her daddy.
When I think of this little girl, my thoughts drift to folks like Alana Newman and others who have anonymous sperm donors for fathers, many of whom have daily asked that same question in their hearts. May I please speak to my Daddy?
When I started speaking out about the dangers of same-sex marriage for children, I found it difficult to get proponents of genderless marriage to engage in intellectually honest one-on-one discussions. Then I realized: at least half the people who wanted to clobber me with bumper sticker slogans were products of broken marriages.
In early 2013, following my participation in a panel discussion, a young man accused me of being unfair to gays, lesbians, and their children. So I took a chance and asked him point blank: “Did your parents divorce when you were a child?”
He was a little stunned by the personal question, but he answered, “Yes.” The smugness left his face.
“Did you live with your mother?”
“Did you see much of your father?”
“No. I almost never saw him.”
“Did you miss him? Did you wish you could be around him more?”
“Yes. Of course,” he answered, with a bit of wistfulness.
“Did your parents’ divorce increase your happiness—or your sadness?”
“So your parents dismantled your home and set up two new structures that put their needs first, not yours. In fact, they were structures guaranteeing your continued unhappiness. You learned to live with it, because as a child you had no control whatsoever over their actions, but these new structures weren’t necessarily built with your best interest in mind.”
“Well, no. I didn’t get to vote on the matter. I was a kid.”
“Exactly. So why would it be different for children of gays and lesbians who are denied either their father or mother? Do you really think two moms or two dads is exactly the same as having both mom and dad around to love and care for you? Seriously? Would having an extra mom around the house really have satisfied you, or would you still have an unanswered yearning in your heart for your Dad?”
“Then why would you want to condemn other children to be fatherless? Or motherless?”
He got it. He didn’t like it, but he got it—and then he walked away. I have no idea if he changed his mind, but at least he had finally actually heard and listened to an opposing point of view—one that resonated with him.
As I walked away, I thought to myself, “To be intellectually honest, I can’t keep speaking publicly against the dangers of genderless marriage without also simultaneously speaking about the objective evil of divorce for kids.” Divorce is an exponentially larger, far more pervasive threat to children than the prospect of gays raising children without moms and lesbians raising children without dads. I sighed. There is a lot to undo and set straight.
The Prodigal Dad
After my wife and I had been divorced for a few years, it was not unusual for her to call and ask me to drive to her house because our youngest son was out of control. When I would arrive, I found turmoil. He had gotten angry about something, and that had triggered a rage completely disproportionate to the issue. He would yell and scream and kick, then isolate himself in his bedroom. No trespassers allowed. It was gut-wrenching to witness this. Thankfully, he would calm down after a while and return to normal.
His rage would, in turn, trigger discussions with my ex-wife. What were we going to do about his behavioral problem? Did he require medication? Did he need to be spanked? Did he need psychological help?
After this happened a few times it became abundantly clear to me exactly what he needed. Our son did not have a behavioral problem. He needed just one thing: he needed his parents to get back together and to love each other. The slicing and dicing of our family had thrust unbearable stress on this four-year-old’s tender psyche. His Dad and Mom were the culprits responsible for this, yet we were approaching this as if it were his problem.
Our little boy bore no blame, but I sure did.
Posted on: Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Research shows that “Parental separation was significantly associated with almost all disorders.”
by Nicole M. King
This article was first published April 20, 2016, at Mercatornet.com.
The News Story - MPs to look into Cyprus divorce problems
Divorce in Cyprus has been on the rise, and the resulting “negative impact on children caught in bitter custody battles” has that nation’s House Human Rights Committee looking into the creation of a pre-divorce mediation service.
According to The Cyprus Weekly, the committee “heard about how divorces are often
followed by increased ill-feeling between the former couples, financial disputes and custody and alimony issues with negative consequences for
any children involved, particularly if they become estranged from one of their parents.” “We believe the situation will benefit if more can be
done through mediation,” said committee chairman Sophocles Fyttis. The Office for the Protection of Children’s Rights told the committee that “it
was time for society to become more child-oriented.”
And while these goals may be laudable, they are unlikely to accomplish much if smoothing out couples’ disagreements before divorce is their only aim. A real “child-oriented” society, research shows, would encourage such couples to seek more marriage counseling instead.
The New Research - Parental divorce is worse than parental death
Everyone recognizes that children suffer when they lose a parent through death. But in recent decades, some progressives have asserted that children suffer relatively little when they lose a parent (usually their father) through divorce. The progressive line, however, is fast losing credibility. The latest piece of evidence comes in the findings of a study recently completed by researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University and from the University of Tokyo, a study concluding that parental separation is a decidedly stronger predictor of various forms of mental illness than is parental death.
To compare the psychological effects of parental death with those of parental separation, the researchers parse data collected between 1993 and 1998 from 2,605 male twins from the Virginia population-based twin registry, looking for statistical linkages between parental loss (any loss, death, and separation) during childhood and subsequent lifetime risk for seven common psychiatric and substance-use disorders. The seven disorders of interest to the researchers are Major Depression, General Anxiety Disorder, Phobia, Panic Disorder, Alcohol Dependence, Drug Abuse, and Drug Dependence.
Painstakingly assessing their data, the authors of the new study see an unmistakable pattern emerging: “Parental separation has stronger and wider effects on mental illness than death.” Specifically, the researchers conclude that parental separation “significantly predicted risk for all disorders except phobia (O[dds]R[atio]s ranged between 1.45 and 2.03).” Looking closer at their data, the researchers conclude that “parental separation had the strongest impacts on risk for depression and drug abuse/dependence.” “By contrast [with the effects of parental separation],” the researchers remark, “parental death was marginally significantly associated with only risk for phobia and alcohol dependence (both of p < 0.05).”
Having shown that “parental separation was significantly associated with almost all disorders,” the Virginia Commonwealth and Tokyo scholars see in their findings strong evidence that “the effect of parental death persists a relatively short time and has weaker impact on adult psychopathology than that of parental separation.” This conclusion, they acknowledge, is “in accordance with previous studies” that have found “no or weak associations between parental death and psychiatric disorders.” The authors of this study indeed interpret the findings of this 2014 study against the backdrop of their own 2002 study in which they “demonstrated that the risk for depressive onsets due to parental death returned to baseline within a limited time whereas a much longer time period was required for the risk due to parental separation to return to baseline.”
The authors may be justified when they conclude by calling for “further research . . . in larger prospective cohorts to confirm [their] findings and elucidate the mechanisms by which parental loss impacts risk.” But Americans surely know enough already to realize that children face greater risks when a parent employs a divorce lawyer.
(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, “New Research,” The Family in America 30.1 [Winter 2016]. Study: Takeshi Otowa et al., “The Impact of Childhood Parental Loss on Risk for Mood, Anxiety and Substance-Use Disorders in a Population-Based Sample of Male Twins,” Psychiatry Research 220 : 404-9.)
Posted on: Saturday, April 02, 2016
The headline over at LifeSiteNews says this is a story out of the gay lifestyle. And so it it. But it is first and foremost an inspiring story of forgiveness and repentance. Any Survivor of the Sexual Revolution, any person seeking peace, can benefit from this article.
I embarked upon an incredible journey of forgiveness, having many people from my past, and especially men, that I needed to forgive. The therapy and prayer sessions I now regularly engaged in never focused solely on my being sexually attracted to men, but I was encouraged to look every aspect of my present and past in the eye. This included the painful process of accepting that I had been consistently sexually abused by a number of men as a child over a three-year period.
Much of my spiritual journey became concerned with recognizing where, during my infancy and childhood, my little soul had chosen to build walls within myself against significant others in my life, especially against my parents, siblings and other prominent people from my past.
He faced the wrong that was done to him (child sexual abuse) and at the same time took responsibility for the ways he had built walls around himself. Eventually, he became able to forgive those who had wronged him.
Survivors of all sorts: please study this!
Posted on: Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Why? Because it changes family involvement in children’s educational activities
The News Story - Free community college education bill a potential “game changer” for state
A new bill proposing that Kentucky cover the costs of community and technical college education for qualified students has just passed through
committee in the state legislature.
The Work Ready Kentucky Program “can be a game changer for a lot of families,” according to Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College President Phillip Neal. "This opens the door to higher education to people across the state who for financial reasons can't access college.” The bill now faces difficult hurdles on its road to law—most particularly Kentucky’s already severe budget difficulties.
But while free community college may sound like a perfect solution for workplace shortages, for example—the problem that Kentucky lawmakers cite as incentive for the bill—it will go only so far in encouraging students to graduate. Research reveals that far more powerful factors may be at play in students’ decisions whether to attend college.
The New Research - Losing Dad, losing ambition
Sociologists have known for some time that children of divorced parents fall short in their educational attainments, when compared to peers from
intact families. A prime reason for this deficiency comes to light in a study recently completed at the University of Oslo in Norway: children
who lose a parent (usually their father) through divorce also often lose their educational ambition.
In beginning their inquiry into how parental divorce affects educational ambitions, the Oslo scholars fully anticipate that family breakup might cool young people’s ardor for pursuing a college degree. After all, they remark, “A family composed of two biological parents is considered to have an optimal family environment for children.” Elaborating, the researchers stress that “each of the biological parents is an important resource of emotional support, practical assistance, information and guidance.” But when parents part through divorce, children lose some of these critical resources. Typically, such parental divorce “deprives children . . . of the opportunity to get a male role model, because usually the father leaves the household.” The father’s absence, the researchers explain, “strongly contributes to the change in parent practices and family involvement in children’s educational activities” experienced after the divorce.
But in this new study, the researchers focus not on how parental divorce affects educational attainment but rather on how it affects educational ambition. To gauge the impact of parental divorce on educational ambition, the researchers pore over data collected from two samples of 18- and-19-year-old Norwegian adolescents, the first (from a prospective study) comprising 1,861 young men and women and the second (from a cross-sectional study) comprising 2,391.
The data from both samples provide clear evidence that parental divorce dampens educational drive. Among the young people surveyed in the prospective study, those who had experienced a late parental divorce were almost twice as likely as peers from intact families to drop plans for college or university education, becoming “undecided” as to their educational future (Odds Ratio of 1.8). The statistical linkage between parental divorce and diminished educational ambitions likewise shows up in the cross-sectional data, which establish that “adolescents who experienced parental divorce during childhood or adolescence were more likely to have undecided educational ambition, compared to their peers from continuously married parents (O[dds]R[atio] 1.3).”
“In conclusion,” the Oslo scholars write, “experience of parental divorce seems to be associated with undecided educational ambition among 18/19 year-old adolescents.”
Though their data all come from Norway, the researchers’ findings align with those of a 2007 study involving “a large sample of Canadian adolescents . . . report[ing] that adolescents from single-parent families had lower educational ambitions than those from two-parent families.” The results of this new Norwegian study also parallel those of a 2007 study finding that “non-intact family structure variables were negatively associated with the decision to continue education” among children and adolescents in Sweden and the United States.
Seeking to translate their findings into public-policy implications, the researchers reason that “mechanisms that reduce the adverse influence of parental divorce on educational ambitions need to be in place.”
Isn’t it past time to stop looking for mechanisms reducing the adverse influence of parental divorce and to start looking for reforms actually preventing parental divorce from happening in the first place? It is such reforms—legal and cultural—that will most help to ensure that young people do not give up on their educational dreams.
(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, “New Research,” The Family in America 30.1 [Winter 2016]. Study: Henok Zeratsion et al., “The Influence of Parental Divorce on Educational Ambitions of 18/19 Year-Old Adolescents from Oslo, Norway,”Journal of Child and Family Studies 24.10 : 2,865-73.)
Posted on: Friday, February 26, 2016
By Nicole M. King
This article was first published February 24, 2016 at Mercatornet.com.
The News Story - Coping with a new home life
In Part I of a series called “Children of Divorce,”
provided by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the Lohud Journal News outlines some “strategies to help your child cope” with a parental divorce.
Among these strategies are “validate your child’s feelings,” “respect your partner’s rules,” and “make decisions based on what’s best for the child.” “Concerned parents,” according to the story, “have more power than they think when it comes to promoting their child’s resilience and facilitating the transition.”
But research suggests that, in spite of such parental palliatives, children’s “resilience” can only go so far, and a true decision “based on what’s best for the child” would be to stay married.
The New Research - The children of divorce: anything but resilient
When pressed to admit that the divorce revolution they led has hurt children, progressives invoke the myth of children’s resilience. Yes, they say, parental divorce does hurt children, but—not to worry—children are resilient: they bounce back in a year or two. The latest empirical insult to this myth comes from a study recently completed at Vanderbilt University, a study showing that more than four decades after parental divorce, the children affected still manifest the malign effects of that divorce upon their health.
This damning new evidence comes out of a sophisticated analysis of how “adverse social environments . . . become biologically embedded during the first years of life with potentially far-reaching implications for health across the life course.” As these researchers press their analysis of the linkages between social disadvantage in childhood and chronic health problems in adulthood, family disintegration emerges as a particularly important component of that social disadvantage—more important, in fact, than even low household income.
To analyze the relationship between social disadvantage in childhood and chronic health problems in adulthood, the researchers carefully examine data for 566 men and women born between 1959 and 1966, individuals for whom they have the social data necessary to formulate “an index that combine[s] information on adverse socioeconomic and family stability factors experienced between birth and age 7 years.” Drawing from data collected in 2005-2007 from these same individuals as adults, the researchers look for correlations between their index of childhood social disadvantage and adult health problems as measured in two ways: first, in cardiometabolic risk (CMR), determined by combining data from eight CMR biomarkers (including waist circumference, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels); second, in a composite index derived by assessing eight chronic diseases (including diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis).
And the correlations do stand out. Using a statistical model that accounts for differences in adult variables, such as adult social disadvantage and race, the researchers still find that “a high level of social disadvantage [in childhood] was significantly associated with both higher CMR (incident rate ratio = 1.69) and with a higher number of chronic diseases (incident rate ratio = 1.39) [in adults].” In other words, the data show that “children who experience high levels of childhood social disadvantage are more likely to have cardiometabolic dysregulation across multiple biological systems and also to be diagnosed with a higher number of chronic diseasesmore than 4 decades later.”
The findings most lethal to the myth of childhood resilience after parental divorce emerge when the Vanderbilt scholars carry out “analyses considering the 2 components of the social disadvantage score separately.” These analyses establish that “both family stability and childhood SES were significantly [and separately] associated with chronic disease,” while “family stability, but not childhood SES, was significantly associated with CMR.” Overall, the researchers therefore conclude that “the measure of family stability alone accounted for more variation in CMR and chronic disease than the childhood SES measures.”
As they reflect on their findings, the authors of the new study stress that the linkage they have limned between childhood social disadvantage and both cardiometabolic dysregulation and chronic disease in middle-aged adults is likely to “grow stronger over time as individuals begin to exhibit more age-related diseases.” But recognizing that one particular form of social disadvantage entails particularly pronounced long-term health risks, the researchers emphasize that “stability in the family environment is critical to setting children on a healthy trajectory early in life.”
(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, forthcoming in “New Research,”The Family in America Vol. 30 Number 1, Winter 2016. Study: Amy L. Non et al., “Childhood Social Disadvantage, Cardiometabolic Risk, and Chronic Disease in Adulthood,” American Journal of Epidemiology 180.3 : 263-71.)
Posted on: Monday, February 22, 2016
This article was first published at Focus on the Family.
Many years ago, the myth began to circulate that if parents are unhappy, the kids are unhappy, too. So divorce could help both parent and child. "What's good for mom or dad is good for the children," it was assumed. But we now have an enormous amount of research on divorce and children, all pointing to the same stubborn truth: Kids suffer when moms and dads split up. (And divorce doesn't make mom and dad happier, either.)
The reasons behind the troubling statistics and the always-present emotional trauma are simple but profound. As licensed counselor and therapist Steven Earll writes:
Children (and adult children) have the attitude that their parents should be able to work through and solve any issue. Parents, who have given the children life, are perceived by the children as very competent people with supernatural abilities to meet the needs of the children. No problem should be too great for their parents to handle. For a child, divorce shatters this basic safety and belief concerning the parents' abilities to care for them and to make decisions that truly consider their well-being.
Children have the strong belief that there is only one right family relationship, and that is Mom and Dad being together. Any other relationship configuration presents a conflict or betrayal of their basic understanding of life. In divorce, children [tend to] resent both the custodial and absent parent."1
While virtually every child suffers the lost relationship and lost security described above, for many, the emotional scars have additional, more visible consequences. More than 30 years of research continues to reveal the negative effects of divorce on children. Most of these measurable effects are calculated in increased risks. In other words, while divorce does not mean these effects will definitely occur in your child, it does greatly increase the risks. The odds are simply against your kids if you divorce.
Research comparing children of divorced parents to children with married parents shows:
Before you say, "Not my kid," remember that the children and teens represented in these statistics are normal kids, probably not much different from yours. Their parents didn't think they would get involved in these things, either. Again, we're looking at increased risks.
A few more statistics to consider:
The scope of this last finding — children suffer emotionally from their parents' divorce — has been largely underestimated. Obviously, not every child of divorce commits crime or drops out of school. Some do well in school and even become high achievers. However, we now know that even these children experience deep and lasting emotional trauma.
For all children, their parents' divorce colors their view of the world and relationships for the rest of their lives.
Psychologist Judith Wallerstein followed a group of children of divorce from the 1970s into the 1990s. Interviewing them at 18 months and then 5, 10, 15 and 25 years after the divorce, she expected to find that they had bounced back. But what she found was dismaying: Even 25 years after the divorce, these children continued to experience substantial expectations of failure, fear of loss, fear of change and fear of conflict.10 Twenty-five years!
The children in Wallerstein's study were especially challenged when they began to form their own romantic relationships. As Wallerstein explains, "Contrary to what we have long thought, the major impact of divorce does not occur during childhood or adolescence. Rather, it rises in adulthood as serious romantic relationships move center stage . . . Anxiety leads many [adult children of divorce] into making bad choices in relationships, giving up hastily when problems arise, or avoiding relationships altogether." 11
Other researchers confirm Wallerstein's findings.12 Specifically, compared to kids from intact homes, children who experienced their parents' divorce view premarital sex and cohabitation more favorably.13 (This is disturbing news given that cohabiting couples have more breakups, greater risk of domestic violence14 and are more likely to experience divorce.15)
Behind each of these statistics is a life — a child, now an adult, still coping with the emotions brought on by the divorce.
As Wallerstein put it, "The kids [in my study] had a hard time remembering the pre-divorce family . . . but what they remembered about the post-divorce years was their sense that they had indeed been abandoned by both parents, that their nightmare [of abandonment] had come true."16
Parents tend to want to have their own needs met after a divorce – to find happiness again with someone new. But not only do the old problems often resurface for the adults, new problems are added for the children. As Wallerstein observed, "It's not that parents love their children less or worry less about them. It's that they are fully engaged in rebuilding their own lives — economically, socially and sexually. Parents' and children's needs are often out of sync for many years after the breakup."17 Children again feel abandoned as parents pursue better relationships after the breakup."
Feelings of abandonment and confusion are only compounded when one or both parents find a new spouse. A second marriage brings complications and new emotions for children — not to mention new stepsiblings, stepparents and stepgrandparents, who often are in competition for the parent's attention. (And the adjustment can be even more difficult — because it is the adults who choose new families, not the children.)
Lilly expressed it this way: "My loss was magnified as my father remarried and adopted a new 'family.' Despite attempts on my part to keep in touch, we live in different cities, and his life now revolves around his new family with infrequent contact with me. This has only increased the feelings of abandonment and alienation from the divorce."
And the high rate of second-marriage divorces can leave children reeling from yet another loss.
Full "recovery" is nearly impossible for children because of the dynamic nature of family life. While you and your ex-spouse's lives may go on separately with relatively little thought, your children will think about their loss almost every day. And 25 years after the fact, they will certainly be influenced by it. Life itself will remind them of the loss at even the happiest moments. As Earll explains: "Children never get over divorce. It is a great loss that is in their lives forever. It is like a grief that is never over. All special events, such as holidays, plays, sports, graduations, marriages, births of children, etc., bring up the loss created by divorce as well as the family relationship conflicts that result from the 'extended family' celebrating any event."18
What parents see as a quick way out often results in emotional damage that the children will carry for 30 years or more. Divorce is no small thing to children. It is the violent ripping apart of their parents, a loss of stability and often a complete shock. While we often think of children as resilient, going through such trauma is a lot to ask of our kids.
In light of the fact that most marriages heading for divorce can be salvaged and turned into great marriages, parents should take a long pause before choosing divorce. While it may seem like a solution to you, it's not an easy out for you or your kids.
Posted on: Monday, February 22, 2016
Don't buy into popularity of unhitched culture.
by Diane Medved
This article was posted on usatoday.com on October 23, 2013.
The books just keep coming: Collaborative Divorce, Happy Divorce ,The Good Karma Divorce, The Creative Divorce . Reading the articles and books, you might get the idea that The Good Divorce is a sacrament, not a disaster.
One typical story featured a family gathered together comfortably: the ex-husband with his new wife, his old wife with her new husband, their son and his new baby. Now they're just peachy, they insist, and experts agree.
Constance Ahrons, who coined the phrase "good divorce," thinks split families should meld seamlessly, without stigma, into our social fabric. The message seems simple: With the right attitude, divorce can lead to a relatively pleasant mélange of happily combined relatives. But that wasn't what I saw in my years counseling divorcing couples.
A year later, most divorced couples claim they're stronger, better and smarter. So why not "good divorce"?
Heartache, financial loss and time detangling bring irreparable setbacks. Lots of spouses get dumped. Eighty percent of U.S. divorces "are unilateral, rather than truly mutual decisions," notes researcher Maggie Gallagher. Still, healthy people can wade through the hurt and make the best of the situation.
That doesn't ameliorate the damage. Children, who never have a say in their parents' parting, become collateral damage and dismissed with the dubious phrase "kids are resilient." Judith Wallerstein, whose landmark 25-year study of divorced families convinced her of its ongoing harm, found that "many of these ... children forfeited their own childhoods as they took responsibility for themselves, their troubled, overworked parents; and their siblings." The trauma peaks in adulthood, she cautions, undermining love, sexual intimacy and commitment.
Divorce mars the lives of in-laws and unsettles otherwise contented bystanders; it unsteadies society, destabilizes neighborhoods and brings awkwardness in social encounters.
Yet a "culture of divorce" has grown as new technologies gave us feel-good instant gratification, demoting the virtues of duty and obligation. Americans' attention span shrank from reading tomes to watching TV shows to three-minute YouTube videos to six seconds of a Vine.
Our notion of commitment became shorter, too. Marriage pledges are now really "hopes," easily revised by a Facebook status change. The New York Times' "Vows" page recently began a new column called "Unhitched," each week highlighting one couple's divorce.
Stripped of connection to paternity, marriage has become optional. The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that 48% of women cohabited with a partner as a first union, The overall out-of-wedlock birth rate topped 40% in 2011.
Years ago, tempted cartoon characters paused to consider the coaxing of an angel perched on their right shoulder and a devil on their left. The conscience angel urged, "Do your duty! Do what is moral and right! Defer gratification!" The self-centered devil whispered, "Do what feels good! Follow your heart! Get what you want, right now!"
Granted, not all marriages can survive, like the hopeless cases where an abusive or addicted spouse won't get help. To overcome problems, both partners must want to stay married; the hitch is that our non-judgmental culture greases their paths out the door instead of encouraging deep introspection.
I learned two lessons counseling divorcing couples. First, a rejected mate usually requires at least half as long as the marriage to recover. Second, recovery occurs not when a spouse "feels good" about the former mate, but when she's indifferent.
Our accept-it-all milieu grants so much leeway for individual happiness that relationships have no backbone with which to stand. The little devil perched on society's slumping shoulder gloats, "You can have a good divorce! Do what you want, and do it now!" That angel guy is so old-school, he can't even text his apologies to the kids whose lives turn upside down.
Diane Medved, a clinical psychologist, is author of The Case Against Divorce.
Posted on: Monday, February 22, 2016
By Nicole M. King
The News Story - Time running out on mental health bills
Wisconsin is one of many states considering legislation that would amend how mental-health issues are treated, but several of the proposed bills will expire soon if not acted upon.
According to the Post Crescent of the Fox Cities, these proposed bills are primarily directed at children, and “involve a range of issues, including clinical work provided in
schools, tax credits for new psychiatrists, zoning rules for peer-run respites and new stipends for the mental health advisory board . . . ” State
Representative Paul Tittl identifies two bills in particular that he believes are particularly important. One “would allow contracted mental health
professionals to provide care at schools without a state-certified, on-site clinic,” and the second “would provide an income tax credit to new
psychiatrists who commit to practicing in the state for at least 10 years.”
Laudable efforts, to be sure, but research indicates that such expensive legislation is a mere palliative to a problem that runs much deeper, and that perhaps state legislatures would do better taking a look at the family circumstances that put children and young people in need of such services in the first place.
The New Research – Young adult minds coming unglued
|America’s permissive divorce laws give children no voice when parents choose to part. But evidence continues to mount that those children
suffer tremendously when parents fail to make an enduring marriage. That suffering takes a number of forms. In a study recently completed
at Charles University in Prague, researchers identify serious mental disorders as symptoms of the suffering occasioned by family disintegration.
Intent on identifying the “potential mental health risks related to stress influences associated with a mother’s marital status,” the authors of the new study parse data collected from 364 19-year-old Czechs participating in the European Longitudinal Study of Parenthood and Childhood. With these data, the researchers can diagnose the mental distress occasioned when parental marriages fission—or never form in the first place. These data indicate that living without a father disorders the minds of young men, and that living with a stepfather entails similarly malign consequences for young women.
As they examine the data for the young men in their study, the Czech scholars detect psychopathology in significantly elevated dissociative symptoms—including “feelings of depersonalization, derealization, [and] psychogenic amnesia”—among those living with never-married and divorced mothers (p < 0.01 with young men living in intact two-parent homes as the baseline). The researchers speculate that psychological dissociation develops among fatherless boys because “boys need a specific kind of separateness from mothers to find male identity, for which they need a father or father figure.” What is more, they suggest, a fatherless home may foster a “pathologically dependent attachment between mother and son.”
When they shift their focus to the young women in the study, the researchers find the disturbing incidence of dissociation not among those living without fathers but rather among those living with stepfathers. Compared to peers living in intact two-parent families, young women from stepfamilies are significantly more likely to manifest symptoms of psychological dissociation (p < 0.01). The Czech scholars see in this pattern evidence that “girls had more difficulties interacting with stepfathers than [did] sons.” Noting an even more disturbing but plausible reason for the high levels of dissociation among girls in stepfamilies, the researchers note “that stepfather–daughter erotic attachment and sexual abuse is more prevalent than [such] abuse by biological fathers.”
The researchers interpret their findings against the backdrop of earlier studies establishing a clear “relationship between fatherlessness and children’s emotional and behavioral problems” and showing that “divorce and destructive couple conflict represent major risk factors for many forms of dysfunction and psychopathological manifestations in children.” The authors of this new study also find relevant context for their conclusions in earlier studies indicating that “children from single parent or blended families have increased vulnerability to traumatic and other stressful life events.”
The Czech scholars call for “further research . . . to explain to what extent psychodynamic factors play significant roles in these family processes associated with dissociation.” But Americans already have enough research on hand to know that the minds of many young people have been scrambled by parental breakups, facilitated by our swinging-door divorce laws.
(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, forthcoming in “New Research,”The Family in America Vol. 30 Number 1, Winter 2016. Study: Petr Bob et al., “Dissociative Symptoms and Mother’s Marital Status in a Young Adult Population,”Medicine 94.2 : e408, Web.)
Posted on: Saturday, October 10, 2015Check out this video of adult children of divorce speaking out about their experiences. How many of you can relate?
“Everything thinks that divorce is so common and not a big deal. And yeah it is common, and it is a big deal, and it can completely affect your life…”
That’s one line from this BuzzFeed-produced video and it pretty much sums up what I wanted to say. Divorce may be common, but that doesn’t mean that it should be, or that it has less impact on the people affected.
In this video, I appreciate the raw, real feelings of those affected by divorce, rather than the “yay for divorce parties” or “new relationship time!”
angles that we more commonly come across. Have a watch!