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  • A Generation of Divorce Testifies to the Importance of Marriage

    In a snapshot summary of her memoir released on Tuesday, In Spite of Everything, Susan Gregory Thomas gives a firsthand account of what remains of children and parents after the devastation of divorce. Thomas presents a vivid portrait of the children of divorce in her neighborhood who, with her, wandered as “sad-eyed, bruised nomads.”

    Decades of research underscore the truth of Thomas’ anecdotal account and the plight and trajectories of those lonely children. Adolescents who do not live in intact families are more likely to engage in substance abuse, exhibit behavioral problems, have poor academic performance, and engage in risky behavior, including becoming sexually active at an early age. In addition, children who do not live with both parents are more likely to experience psychological and emotional problems, ranging from low levels of social competence and self-esteem to anxiety and depression.

    Like others who grew up at the peak of the divorce culture, Thomas vowed she would never inflict the same pain on her own children. Yet, regardless of intentions and resolutions, statistics show that children tend to follow the marital trajectory of their parents. Children who have experienced parental divorce tend to experience more problematic and less rewarding marriages and are more likely to divorce. In fact, even the divorce of grandparents has been linked to a greater likelihood of third-generation divorce.

    As Thomas notes, adult children who have experienced the “torture of a split family” often attempt to ensure the stability of their future marriages by testing the waters with a period of cohabitation. She cites that nearly 60 percent of couples who entered a first marriage in the early 2000s had previously cohabited, as she had done. However, statistics reveal that this intended failsafe is in fact a failure: Couples who cohabit before marriage are more likely to separate and less likely to reconcile after a separation, more likely to experience infidelity, and more likely to subsequently divorce, as Thomas did.

    As a last ray of hope, Thomas clings to the notion of post-divorce mediation and joint custody to buffer children from a contentious litigation process. Yet more effective and long-range options are possible. For example, a combination of policy reforms and public education to promote strong marriages may help to save a next generation from the minefields of marital dissolution.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to A Generation of Divorce Testifies to the Importance of Marriage

    1. West Texan says:

      There are no guarantees with first marriages, mainly because these usually begin early in life when young couples are learning about adult responsibilities. In other words, the initial excitement and glamor are quickly dissolved by real expectations. Newly weds can either work to support each other as they had promised or bail for actual survival or personal want. Most happily married middle aged couples I know are in second marriages. After experiencing irreconcilable differences with their first marriage, like spousal abuse or infidelity, second marriages appear to be committed lifelong relationships. This is a personal observation not backed by any quantitative measure. What impacts children more than the sudden confusion of divorce are parents' arguments and/or violent coping mechanisms . Children would rather have content parents and a peaceable home.

      • Pam says:

        "What impacts children more than the sudden confusion of divorce are parents' arguments and/or violent coping mechanisms . Children would rather have content parents and a peaceable home. "

        Maybe these parents need to grow up and stop being so selfish and self-centered and realize how they are impacting their children's lives. You are wrong. Children will bear anything to have intact families. This is just trivial drivel to justify selfish bad behavior on the part of adults who do not honor their commitments and vows.

    2. Bobbie says:

      I don't know why I bother turning on tv. I get a scoop with Whoopi having a fit because Michelle Bachmnann knows slavery existed. My lord what happened to Whoopi Goldberg? Then she defends single parenting when it wasn't really put down it is just an observation that it's difficult for single parents when they don't necessarily have the financial ability to raise a child and will turn to tax paid services instead of other resources. Marriage brings financial stability without government freebies, Poor Whoopi. I hope she has the personal decency to calm down. She, like Joy Behar are so offended by the strength and dignity of women!!! She sounds paranoid and overly sensitive to a calm, mature belief. Very disappointed in Whoopi. Behar is no surprise. SHE is someone I keep my daughter from!!!!! Tasteless example of a woman! I hope Joy Beyhar isnt rubbing off on Whoopi?

    3. Emily says:

      "As a last ray of hope, Thomas clings to the notion of post-divorce mediation and joint custody to buffer children from a contentious litigation process." For anyone considering divorce I would recommend they pick up the book Divorce Vows by Edie Sangiorgio, a divorce mediator (http://www.divorcevows.com/). At best this book may save your marriage but if you do decide to proceed with divorce, it provides rules of engagement for you and your spouse that will help protect your children from the trauma of divorce.

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