Children of Divorce Committed to Breaking the Chain
- Rebecca Grace <i>Agape Press</i>
- 2005 1 Jan
Like clockwork, the screaming resounds. The bedroom door slams. The shelves rattle. A sleepy-eyed boy burrows deeper into his pillow trying to drown out the noise. Statistically, it's only a matter of time before this noisy home is silenced by divorce.
But is divorce really the solution to the child's nighttime terrors, or is it the hidden cause of them? In other words, is divorce curative or causative? This is a question researchers have attempted to answer for years.
According to an article by Walter Kirn in the September 25, 2000, issue of Time magazine, "For adults, divorce is a conclusion, but for children it's the beginning of uncertainty."
Glenn T. Stanton, director of social research and cultural affairs and senior analyst for marriage and sexuality at Focus on the Family, has explained a notion in which past research sought justification for divorce as a beneficial solution for children of feuding parents.
"Sociologists were hopeful, assuming if adults could easily exchange bad marriages for good, we would be happier, more self-actualized adults who would parent happier, more self-actualized children," Stanton said.
The conclusion: "Like disco and leisure suits, it seemed like a good idea at the time," but like "Saturday Night Fever," the idea had a hard time staying alive.
Divorce Comes Home
Although the assumption acted as a catalyst for future findings, the effects of divorce are best understood through the first-hand experiences like that of Jeromy Deibler, lead vocalist for the Christian music group FFH. In addition to singing and playing guitar and piano for this five-time Dove Award group nominee, Deibler is a second-generation child of divorce. Unlike his accolades with FFH, it's not a title he's proud to claim, but one he's learning to accept.
"My folks were divorced when I was five, and I didn't really start dealing with it until I was 25," Deibler told the AFA Journal. "Over the past year or so, God has really allowed me to speak to it."
Deibler admits he is still in the center of the healing process as he continuously overcomes feelings of loneliness, fear, and guilt, among other emotions commonly felt by children of divorce. Although the Lord remains instrumental in releasing him from such bondage, the lingering feelings impacted him most during the early years of marriage to his wife Jennifer, vocalist for FFH.
"... It was tough when we first got married because when we would have arguments or fights, I automatically assumed that meant she was leaving because that is what I knew of my childhood," Deibler explained. "When an argument happened, it meant someone left.
"But Jennifer grew up in a godly family and knew that arguments happened, but you got over them. I had to learn that she was someone I could trust -- that she wasn't going to leave," Deibler admitted.
Prior to learning to trust his new spouse, Deibler also struggled with a desire to be independent. "I was kind of my own 'god,' " he said, with the attitude of, "I'll make it on my own."
The Results of Parentification
This drive for independence is common among children of divorce simply because it is a forced reaction to the lack of both a mother and a father in the home.
"Divorce forced them [children] to become adults, sometimes before they became teens," Stanton explained.
Focus on the Family freelance writer Sonja Rose drew similar conclusions in an article about parentification titled, "Helping Children Survive Divorce." "Parentification is a role reversal of parent and child, and it can happen in all families, not just single-parent homes," Rose said. "Alcoholism, drug addiction or absent parents can contribute to a child's parentification."
Not only is parentification an unhealthy way to walk through childhood, but it is also the cause of long-lasting problems when it continues over an extended period of time, according to Rose.
These long-term effects of divorce on children are detailed in the findings of author-researcher Judith Wallerstein in her book titled, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study.
She found that children of divorce "endured more depression, greater learning difficulties, more aggression towards parents and teachers and were two to three times more likely to be referred for psychological help at school than their peers from intact families."
Even more startling is Wallerstein's finding that the effects of divorce have their greatest impact on adults in their 20s and 30s as the effects cumulate and crescendo into this new phase of life.
Americanvalues.org summarizes part of Walleterstein's findings: "Young Americans who grew up in divorced or remarried families have run into an unexpected set of difficulties in adulthood as they form their own intimate relationships, start families or remain childless and, in too many cases, struggle through their own divorces ...."
For Deibler, some of these difficulties are all too real, especially as he and his wife strive to be the generation that puts an end to divorce in his family.
Although Deibler believes "divorce is a death that keeps dying," he and his wife are intent on suffocating any breath Satan may be gasping for in the realm of their relationship. They are not only doing this for their own sake but for the sake of their one-year-old son, Hutch.
"I don't want him to have fear and anxiety of his folks splitting up," Deibler said.
In fact, both Deibler and Jennifer resolved to not even say the word "divorce" in their home to prevent Satan from gaining a foothold in their family.
A Premise of Generational Sin
After all, "If your folks are divorced, it's more likely that you'll get a divorce," Deibler said. "Children from broken families tend to marry later, yet divorce more often than those from intact homes," Kirn explained of Wallerstein's findings.
In addition, Deibler believes divorce to be a premise of the generational sins as referenced in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:5, 34:7b; Leviticus 26:39; Numbers 14:18; Proverbs 3:33).
According to a biblical teacher's manual on generational iniquity and curses found at VisionHarvest.net, "Sin is like a seed that is planted in receptive soil, it will in time reproduce its own kind, unless it is uprooted and dealt with .... Often the sins of our natural parents, grandparents, and forefathers are the root causes of many of our problems."
While viewing divorce as a generational sin makes sense to many, it is not a means of attributing blame.
"I'm not trying to come down on them," Deibler said of his divorced grandparents and parents. "I have to make even a stronger issue and say this is where generational sin stops.
"[We're] making it a heritage of commitment," he explained on behalf of his immediate family. "It's important to our lineage and our heritage."
However, Deibler is not the first to recognize the significance of accepting and dealing with generational sin. According to Bible study material produced by Northern Beaches Christian Centre, "In Psalm 51, King David expressed the principle of taking responsibility for issues in his life that were not his fault but which contributed to his wrongdoing."
In other words, he came to grips with generational sin, and God instructs His children to do the same.
"This requires that we openly and honestly evaluate the events of our lives, our lifestyles, our values, our responses to pressure, our spiritual priorities and our relationships in terms of our faithfulness to God. He also requires that we similarly evaluate the same in the generations that come before us."
Both Deibler and his wife are seeking to do just that as they daily strive to stay committed to each other. But they will admit that a daily cultivation of this commitment is hard.
"To be gut-level honest, we fail a lot," he said while recognizing that trust, perseverance, and prayer are essential to making their marriage last. The couple also encourages other Christians to make it a point to be involved in the lives of others as a means of strengthening their marriages.
"Fight! Not just for your own marriage. Fight for marriage," Deibler challenged. "It's so frustrating to watch marriages break up."
Therefore, Deibler and his wife are taking an active role in ministering to singles who will likely experience marriage in their near future.
Last September, the Deiblers became the worship leaders for a "jeans and Birkenstock" type service geared towards singles. It is a project of Brentwood Baptist Church near Nashville, Tennessee. This is a first for the couple since they are often on the road with FFH.
"We feel like we've got a story to tell, and we want to tell it," Deibler said.
But he makes it clear that FFH is not a "divorce" band or an "issues" band even though he addresses divorce in one song on the band's new album titled "Still the Cross," released September 2004. Instead, he and his wife are simply making a proactive statement apart from the band and will continue to do so as God provides opportunities.
"I'm not going to get my childhood back," Deiber reasoned. "You can't unscramble scrambled eggs."
"But to people who are contemplating it [divorce], this is where I say, marriage is it. It's the be all, end all, say all."
Rebecca Grace, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a staff writer for AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association. This article appeared in the January 2005 issue.
© 2005 Agape Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.