Friday, October 21, 2005
My greatest fear
The book is based on research co-directed by Ms. Marquardt and Prof. Norval Glenn, a family scholar at the University of Texas at Austin. They estimate that one-quarter of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are children of divorce. Their study included face-to-face interviews with 71 young adults and a national telephone survey of 1,500 others--half from divorced families and half from intact ones.
Many of the comparisons are stunning. Even after a "good" divorce, 52% of respondents say that family life was stressful (compared with 6% from happy marriages and 35% from unhappy but low-conflict marriages). Half report that even as children they "always felt like an adult" (compared with 36% and 39% in the intact-family groups).
According to the study, children of divorce feel less protected by their parents, less emotionally secure and less safe at home than do other children. Children of divorce are less likely to look to their parents for comfort and more likely to feel obliged to protect their parents emotionally. They tend to see their parents as polar opposites long after marital conflict ends. Twice as many children of divorce agreed that, while growing up, "I felt like a different person with each of my parents."
It was responses like that which gave rise to the title of Ms. Marquardt's book. "Marriage gives kids one world," she told us, and divorce forces them to inhabit two, compelling many to become "early moral forgers" with a "divided self" as they try to fit into two, separate parental realms.
I am looking forward to being a father and I fear that I will lose contact with my children if my wife divorces me. How is it good for society to put this fear into the hearts of men?
From the Michael J. McManus review of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce" by Elizabeth Marquardt:
First, two-thirds of those who divorce who are in low-conflict marriages, should work
harder to save their marriages, or at least wait until children are grown before divorcing. Only a third of the divorced said that they and ex-spouses tried to save the marriage.
Second, therapists who often recommend divorce and clergy who acquiesce in it - must become voices for the children urging parents to be more responsible.
Finally, this book is must reading for the millions of divorced parents or who are
considering it, for the judges who always grant divorce when only one person asks for it, and by state legislators who should consider replacing "No Fault Divorce" (Unilateral Divorce) with "Mutual Consent Divorce."
Jennifer Roback Morse talks about her experience with foster children:
In my own work as a foster parent, I have seen children of divorce from the opposite extreme. All foster kids are in tough situations. Yet I can honestly say, the most troubled kids and the most difficult situations were the ones that involved divorce.
Take the problem with rules. We have to run a pretty tight ship, and we have lots of little tricks for helping kids follow the rules and learn self-control. Often, the birth parents are upset with us because their kids are upset with us. We eventually convince them we aren’t taking away toys to be mean, or charging their kids fines because we need the money. Most birth parents come to understand and support our efforts.
But divorce creates a whole constellation of adults circling around the child. Besides the parents, there are stepparents or new girlfriends or new boyfriends. Often, there are grandparents in the picture, sometimes more than one set. It is tough to get two quarreling parents to work with us: it is almost impossible to get all these adults on the same page. The child can always find someone who will intervene on behalf of their Precious Little Darling Who Has Never Done Anything Wrong in His Whole Life.