HAPPY DIVORCE SEASON:
Unbeknownst to me, family lawyers apparently call January “divorce month.” As the Christmas tree is thrown out and the wrapping paper cleared away, the empty Champagne bottles taken out behind the garage, Google searches for terms like “divorce lawyer” and “file for divorce” spike. Many of the people researching how to untie the knot will probably not do so. But some will.
Brad Wilcox and Samuel Sturgeon of the Institute for Family Studies suggest that there might be good reason to hold off, particularly if you have kids. Of course, there might be good reason not to hold off! But the majority of divorces involving kids don’t come from “high conflict” marriages or situations involving abuse; Wilcox and Sturgeon point to data indicating that most divorces come from couples who are still basically functioning as parents.
Counterintuitively, kids whose parents divorce amid flying crockery and lurid accusations may actually do better, post-divorce, than kids whose parents unhappily fizzle out. But if you think about it for a while, that’s not all that surprising. In homes with major conflict, divorce brings a certain measure of peace and stability. But if your parents are basically civil to each other, divorce could come as an unwelcome surprise.
Our parents, our family unit, are the first and most bedrock fact of our lives. Suddenly breaking that apart — for no reason apparent to the children involved — shakes a faith in the world that will never be rebuilt in quite the same way. Moreover, divorce often means downward economic mobility. Unless you are hugely wealthy, splitting your income across two households means that sacrifices have to be made by both parties, and often, that financial stress is added to the emotional upheaval of unraveling two lives.
Small wonder, then, that the children of divorce tend to have worse outcomes on various measures than the children whose parents stay together.
Small wonder, indeed.