Best-selling author Elizabeth Marquardt notes that two thirds of today's divorces are ending what could be called low-conflict marriages. Nevertheless, despite the common belief of many contemporary couples and self-styled experts, she insists there is no such thing as a "good divorce."
Adults may claim that ending a marriage amicably is better for children than the parents' constant bickering would be, but Marquardt says research has shown that is not the case. "Children of so-called good divorces, on many indicators, fare worse than children from unhappy marriages, as long as those marriages are low conflict; and they fare far worse than children from happy marriages," she notes.
"Some experts have said a good divorce, a good marriage, it matters not," Marquardt adds. However, she asserts, "It's completely untrue. For children there's no such thing as a good divorce." And even though divorcing parents may try to minimize the fallout their young children experience, she says there are always residual effects on the kids' lives.
The author contends that divorce often compels children prematurely to take on heavy emotional responsibilities, like "little adults" forced to protect their fragile parents, instead of being protected by them, as normally happens in functionally "intact" families. Also, she says the results of one nationally representative survey indicate that children of divorce are at higher risk of engaging in substance abuse and or being attacked by pedophiles, and these kids may also tend to feel alienated from organized religion.
"I've found that when children of divorce grow up they are, over all, less religious than kids who grow up with married parents," the author points out, "though some become more religious as a result of their parents' divorce." However, she says the survey shows that many young people become less religious after their parents divorce, and children of divorced parents are over all "much less likely when they grow up to attend church regularly and to be involved in that church and to be a leader in that church."
Marquardt, a scholar with the Institute for American Values, is the author of the recently published book "Between Two Worlds: the Inner Lives of Children of Divorce" (Crown, 2005). In it she examines the anecdotal and statistical support for her contention that divorce harms youngsters for the rest of their lives.
In this thoughtful look at how divorce affects kids, Marquardt also compiles studies about a segment of today's youngest adult generation – a group she describes as being plagued by their parents' divorces.
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