Saturday, August 25, 2012

Divorce is worse than death

Knowing how uninterested most children are in their parents' lives, I tended to consider the idea of divorce somehow benefiting them because they didn't have to witness their parents fight to be a dubious concept. But I had absolutely no idea that divorce could have this sort of negative consequence:
We were surprised to find that although the death of a parent during one’s childhood was usually difficult, it had no measurable impact on life-span mortality risk. The children adapted and moved on with their lives.

That was the end of the good news. Although losing one’s parent to divorce might seem better than losing a parent through death, we found the opposite. The long-term health effects of parental divorce were often devastating— it was indeed a risky circumstance that changed the pathways of many of the young Terman participants. Children from divorced families died almost five years earlier on average than children from intact families. Parental divorce, not parental death, was the risk. In fact, parental divorce during childhood was the single strongest social predictor of early death, many years into the future.
I wonder how long it will take before some woman cites this study in order to justify her husband's murder. "I only wanted a divorce, but I had to kill him for the good of the children instead." In light of the usual family "court" metric and the infamous "he made me wear sexy shoes so I had to shoot him in the back while he was sleeping" murdermanslaughter, one tends to doubt she'd even get probation.

Anyhow, it's worth keeping in mind for those who find themselves in a difficult marriage. One of the things that has to go into the equation is that if one leaves, one is running the risk of taking five years off the children's lives. I also wonder how many fathers and mothers who initiated divorce would have refrained from doing so if they understood the price their children would eventually pay for it.


Doom said...

I don't think knowing that their children's lives would be shortened would change the mind of a single intent divorcee to be. It really is about them, and what they want. My mother married five times, divorcing four of them. No wonder I have a bad heart. That's... 20 years off. Actually, somehow, I think the constant change balanced the thing. Somehow. Might even have allowed me to outlive expectations (considering a viral reduction of heart function to 20% of standard that happened 25 years ago). Blathering, never mind, other than I don't think one mind would be changed by knowing. Divorce is a thing of wealth and excesses.

Stickwick said...

I wonder how long it will take before some woman cites this study in order to justify her husband's murder.

That crossed my mind as I read the article. However, I'm more worried about distraught fathers who may think suicide is a better option for their children than getting divorced by their unfulfilled wives.

Aaron B. said...

I heard Dr. Laura, of all people, talking about a similar study at least a decade ago. I think in that case they looked at things like school achievement and involvement in crime instead of mortality, but the same idea -- what's better for the kids? They found that a two-parent household was the best, of course. But the next best was for one parent to have died. The next best was for one parent to be completely out of the picture after a divorce, and the worst was shared custody where the kids spend time with both parents.

Even before that, I had the thought that judges should play Solomon and give full custody to one parent or the other, allowing for a clean break for the kids. For one thing, there's a chance that remarriage will give them a stable two-parent home again (think Brady Bunch), and that's a lot easier to pull off if you don't have a weekend dad/mom putting his/her two cents in.

Of course, doing it that way would mean that in most cases, it would be the father getting shut out, and that wouldn't be very popular on the Manosphere. But it might be better for the kids regardless. And if judges had to give complete custody to one parent, maybe they'd go with the dad more often than they do now. Now, they can give the mother 90% of the custody, but make Dad stay involved just enough to pick up the pieces (and foot the bill). If a judge had to think, "Which of these two is more capable of raising these children alone," he might think twice. And if there are an even number of kids, the parents can pick them like choosing teams at recess, or the judge can divide them up how he likes.

Oh, and it goes without saying that there would be no child support in most cases. The judge would say, "Okay, I've determined that you're both sane and responsible enough to be parents. So, which of you is willing to take full custody without any financial aid from the other?" If only one raises a hand, that one gets custody. If they both raise their hands, then take bids -- which one will pay the other more for the privilege. If they both say they would need help, then start the bidding that way -- the one who will do it with the least help wins.

I know that all sounds terribly cold and calculating, but anything has to be better than drawing it out for years through shared custody like we do now. Better that it be done coldly and calculatingly -- but most of all, finally.

herman said...

Right on, Doom. Was gonna make a similar comment...except the "Divorce is a thing of wealth and excesses" part. That's a good finish. So I guess I'll just express my amusement at Vox's "he made me wear sexy shoes" line. My mother didn't shoot my father, but that was part of an explanation that she offered to justify divorcing him. On the bright side, the old man did manage to find a woman who didn't mind looking attractive for him.

Stickwick said...

For one thing, there's a chance that remarriage will give them a stable two-parent home again...

It's a very small chance. Dr. Laura repeatedly cites studies that show children are much better off if their parents do not remarry. There are various reasons for this; one is the astronomical divorce rate for second marriages that involve prior kids, which she claims is ~ 75%.

The best thing for children and societal stability would be to go back to a system in which the father is automatically awarded full custody of his children in a divorce. That would drastically cut down on the divorce rate, which is the ideal outcome. If divorce still happens, at least the children won't be subdivided between the parents.

Elusive Wapiti said...


August 25, 2012 5:49 AM

I don't think knowing that their children's lives would be shortened would change the mind of a single intent divorcee to be. It really is about them, and what they want."

Exactly right. What's worse, I think a great many women know deep down that divorce harms children in the long run, which is why they try so hard to in justify it by claiming that "the kids will be all right" in spite of their choice-mommy behavior.

It's merely an attempt to rationalize self-serving actions they know are terrible for their children

Trust said...

It's altogether possible as well that divorce and a shortening of the child's life is a symptom of the same problem(s), such as diminished character and/or self-centeredness. I would suspect that those who have the character and selflessness to stay married also take better care of the children. That character and selflessness present in the remaining parent doesn't disappear upon death.

Just speculation, but it makes sense. Whether divorce is the direct cause, or symptom of the same cause, it is clear that the breakdown of the family has done immeasurable harm.

Daniel said...

I had the same thought. Nasty pretzel logic.

kh123 said...

Given that they haven't thought - or cared - that divorce intrinsically effects their children already by disrupting their home stability and sense of family cohesion, I doubt that any further implications would deter them.

Consider this lot of parents' governing abilities the same as a culture who binges suicidally on things such as credit or immigration, with no thought as to what any of this is doing to future generations.

Oh well said...

Hard luck for me, since my parents divorced when I was 5.

Yet from talking to my half-siblings, the products of my father's subsequent marriage, I still think the divorce decision was correct, since my dad regularly beat the shat out of them. Five years off my life on the back end in exchange for missing 10+ years of beatings on the front end - what a bargain!

Anonymous said...

One of the things that has to go into the equation is that if one leaves, one is running the risk of taking five years off the children's lives.

WND column?

"Honey, I shrunk the kids' expected lifespans"

Markku said...

My theory is that the death of a parent is still basically a "shit happens" -event for the mind, no matter how emotionally hard. But it doesn't require a fundamental remodeling of the child's world view. Parents can still remain the heroes kids tend to think they are. Now there is just one of them instead of two left.

But a divorce will reveal their character in all its ugliness, resulting in zero heroes. Now the kid is forced to face the reality that there is nothing stable in the world, and they will have to survive on their own.

Unknown said...

"The best thing for children and societal stability would be to go back to a system in which the father is automatically awarded full custody of his children in a divorce."

True. Also, get rid of no-fault divorce.

Aaron B. said...

Stickwick, I don't disagree with your preferred solution. But one caveat about that 75% number is that I'd bet most of those second marriages had to deal with shared custody with the previous spouse (or two). If the "surviving" parent could completely cut ties and find a true new second parent for the children, I think the success rate would be higher. From the little research I've done, widows who remarry are only half as likely to divorce as remarried divorcees, which supports that theory.

Yes, the ideal would be to give responsible fathers custody. But even giving the mother custody and cutting the father out completely would be better than what we have now, where the kids may get a new dad, but he's not really "Dad" because they still have Old Dad in the picture, so New Dad is just kinda Mommy's Helper in the parenting department (which doesn't exactly set him up in a leadership position to hold her respect for long). And pretty soon Old Dad gets a girlfriend so now they've kinda got a second mom every other weekend.... The kids end up being half-members of two separate families that don't get along, and play them off against each other when they aren't happy. Any wonder those marriages don't last?

Stickwick said...

Learning that one has to survive on one's own isn't the most damaging thing a kid can experience. I think the most damage to kids occurs from lack of predictability. My husband learned he had to survive on his own from a very young age; he had a horrible childhood, but it was consistently horrible, and he grew up to be a confident, functional adult. My childhood was all over the place -- sometimes great, sometimes horrible -- and I grew up to be kind of neurotic as an adult.

This is related to another study (no citation; can't remember the authors) that showed how kids fared in terms of the overall reliability of their parents. Of course, the children with completely reliable parents were the best-off. But, surprisingly, the children with completely unreliable parents (like my husband's) were not the worst-off. The worst-off kids were the ones whose parents were sometimes there, sometimes not, like mine. These kids had the greatest tendency to end up with all kinds of emotional problems later in life, because nothing was ever predictable.

It seems what's best for children is consistency / finality, even if it's something lousy (death of a parent, crappy parenting).

Boogeyman said...

A mother and father are the yard sticks a child uses to measure the rest of mankind, as well as themselves. All relationships will be compared to that marriage.

About 12 years ago my sister kicked out 3 girls in a 4 year time span, then went to prison. The father was more interested in getting high and running the streets than being a dad, so they couldn't go to him. The girls had spent nearly their entire lives under my roof, so when my mother went to adopt them I went along and promised to stay and help raise them, ensuring the judge ruled for her.

This has basically taken away most things I wanted. No marriage, no higher ed., just working long hours at crappy jobs to keep food on the table and the lights on. But I went in knowing this, accepted this, and wouldn't have done anything different. The odds for foster kids dropping out of school, being junkies, suicide, sexual abuse victims... ect, is horrendous. By the time their mother went away, the girls were mine in everything but blood, and I couldn't imagine condemning them to that fate.

The oldest 2 are in high school now, doing well, and looking forward to college - something my siblings, myself, and my parents failed to do. My sister has been out for some years and is clean and acting like a citizen. She knows if she backslides I'll stomp her into a mudhole then hide the body in the desert.

I learned a long time ago to never play Captain Save-a-Ho. Grown-ups are responsible for themselves, but nothing makes me want to go Hulk on some asshole as when I seem them pursuing their own desires as if their children doesn't exist. I'm in my 40's and been through some ugly crap, but nothing has effected me half as much as father leaving my mother when I was 5.

mnl said...

And consider that divorce is also "the gift that keeps on giving." That is, children of divorce not only suffer the direct negative effects cited above, but they pass along these same effects like a bad disease. Children of divorced parents are themselves more likely to divorce once they grow up and get married.

The breakdown of the family through divorce (and other) is one of the worst AND most obvious of our present social ills. It simply astounds me that more isn't said about this in the MSM and that there's not greater public push-back on the one movement over the past 40 years that put family breakdown on its platform--feminism.

Stingray said...

It simply astounds me that more isn't said about this in the MSM and that there's not greater public push-back on the one movement over the past 40 years that put family breakdown on its platform--feminism.

"It's for the children" doesn't fly when there is a "war on women".

Johnycomelately said...

Now we have studies on life expectancies of married men and children of divorces, are there any such studies on the life expectancies of divorced men themselves, including suicide?

papabear said...

Strength and peace be with you.

Brad Andrews said...

I have no idea if it applies to your situation, but I have significantly changed my views over time and I am convinced many women drive their husband off. Certainly not all, but the idea of all absent dads being deadbeat is stretched. My mother and father got along reasonably well after they divorced, but she had a strong subtle message that the fault was all his. I have seen enough as an adult to question that. My dad had problems, but so did my mother.

Houston said...

"...I am convinced many women drive their husband off."

This happened with my in-laws. My wife has mentioned several times that she learned how NOT to treat a husband by observing how her mother treated her father (nagging, nitpicking, demanding justification for every expressed thought and emotion). No overt nastiness, just a continual withholding of respect.

Heh said...

Any woman you mention this to will immediately respond, "this is because the evil, evil, evil ex-husband did not provide enough money to his ex-wife."

dustydog said...

Study bias.
Most parent deaths are soldiers dying - a very different type of wife. Good woman, moves on with life, more likely to remarry.

Many more divorces than parent deaths. Skewed sample.
In divorce, the odds of the woman being a horrible person spike dramatically, and of course that is bad for the kids.

Anonymous said...

Even kids adopted by birth feel their parents' absence, and step-parents simply will never love someone else's kid that much. And how do you cut parents out completely? Make it illegal for them to be anywhere near the kids? Seems like making marriage irrevocable, at least while any child is a minor, is a simpler solution. People will be more careful when getting married, and will be more cooperative once they are locked in because they'll have to be.

ken in tx said...

I have been wiped out three times, once by fire and twice by divorce. If you have a choice, choose fire. If you have a fire, people will feel sorry for you and give you old towels, sheets, and other stuff. If you have a divorce, you lose all the same stuff—plus your kids—but nobody gives you anything or even feels very sorry about it. They think it's probably your fault if you are a man. No matter what she did, people will say, “What did he do to her to make her do that?”

HeligKo said...

The problem with these studies is sample size. There is a huge sample size for mothers raising the kids after divorce. There is a small sample size of widows and widowers. There is a small sample size of fathers raising children after divorce. Most studies that have been done to find the perfect scenario show that the more a father is involved in the day to day raising of kids the better. History shows us that the nurturing aspects of motherhood are not the most valuable traits after the first few years of life.

I recently had the debate with my ex over uniforms and school things. I believe they need to show up at soccer with the stuff they prepared for themselves, and if they failed to get all the items together, then the coach can feel free to punish them by not playing them. If they don't have their school stuff together, then they should take the 0 on the homework, etc. She thinks it is our job to make sure they are ready. So much so, she has manipulated after school time, so that she is in charge of homework, so I can't make this point to the kids.

The side effect of kids not having to take responsibility for their actions while they are in the comforting and protective environment of their parents is they are not prepared for the real world. I do believe that the end result of this will be a lower life span, since the kids are not living well on their own. I also think that a widow is much more likely to teach the kids these lessons, because the results of losing a spouse unexpectedly forces her to face these realities and will not want to shield the kids as they go into adulthood. They are also more likely to marry a man, and allow him to be the father, because the father is dead.

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