Does the divorce of parents harm their children?

Published 21 Feb 2017

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Apparently, the debated issue concerning the consequences of the divorce of parents to the upbringing of their children, is a polarizing issue and will likely remain to be so. And, if the biases on both sides are allowed to intensify and harden as objective discussions push further forward, the end result in sight is a tragedy of irreconcilable issues. But before further deliberation takes its course onward on such assertion, it is just that both poles be given space in this present work with regards to their respective case studies, findings, positions taken, as well as prognostications.

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he prominent authority who sounds forewarning of a disgraceful and stigmatic future for most children of divorced parents is Psychologist Judith Wallerstein. In her book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: Report of a 25-yr. Study in Psychoanalytic Psychology (Summer, 2004), co-authored by Julia M. Lewis, Judith Wallerstein put on record her Case Studies which began in the early 1970s. Said Studies involved 131 child- ren of divorced parents. For the next 25 years, Wallerstein consistently followed through her encounters with the lives of those kids as they grew up. Focusing her study on a select group of 7 children who served as representative embodiment of a bigger body having similar genre of experiences, Wallerstein found that the indelible mark of infamy brought about by parental break-up remained a haunting emotional pang in their lives all through their growing-up years. Though some broken-home children would achieve relative success in their endea- vor, a void in the inside would hinder them to excel to fullness of attainment in life. Others who are less fortunate experienced a sort of vicious circle of wishful thinking and fear of losing resulting to failure of achieving satisfaction in life. The most unfortunate are those who would repeat the past parental blunder with the prospect that looks even worse.


Though she would not openly claim it, Mavis Hetherington is considered by Realists as the foremost authority of a comprehensive and balanced study of divorce. In her 3-decade study of about 1,400 families beginning in 1972, Hetherington found that 75% of children of divorced parents would do pretty well after living through the transi- tinal adjustment following the parental split. Furthermore, Hetherington found that about 70% of children in their stepfamilies are pretty happy. And, about 70% of their parents are enjoying a well enough to even brighter and enhanced living now than how they lived prior to divorce. Mavis Hetherington’s relatively positive findings are compiled in her book, For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered (W.W. Norton, 2002). She is co-authored by John Kelly, a Journalist. Hetherington’s study and presentation emerges out into the National Audience like a “Tumpet of Good Tidings” announcing to the world of apprehensive pessimists that after all divorce is not at all doomed. To call a “Square peg in a round hole” marital rela- tion quit, is certainly challenging and painful at first, but as Hetherington herself says, “…it is also a window of opportunity to build a new and better life” (USA TODAY, 2002).


On the part of those whose first marriage ended in divorce, the studies, findings, and offerings of hope put forward by Mavis Hetherington and Advocates, are soothing aroma that can somehow motivate them to keep moving on and do better to make up for lost time and opportunity. On the part of those who are yet planning to settle down and have a family, or if they already are married but are encountering relational rough and tumble experiences along the way, the forewarnings offered by Judith Wallerstein can serve as deterrence as well as challenge to do and exhaust every resource available to save what is, where is. On the part of those who committed themselves to go the extra-mile and be larger- than-life like the Stepfamilies, Youth Workers, Counselors, Ministers, the distilled facts and informations derived from the objective findings from both camps can certainly serve as practical and down-to-earth guidelines in their ministerial undertakings.

On the part of Public Policy-makers, the diversity in the realm of personal beliefs, values, preferences, are beyond legalistic infringement. The best that Policy-makers may do is to provide a quality social infrastructure, environment, and atmosphere condu- cive to healthy living. And also, to give more support and incentives to expert and co- mmitted private institutions involved in rehabilitation and rebuilding of the lives of helpless victims of disgrace. CONCLUSION The burden brought about by parental mistakes are never charged on the account of their offsprings (Ezekiel 18:20, NASB).

The latter may, for a while, be inconve- nienced by the absence of the supposed atmosphere and environment of an ideal home due to the shortfall of their “Should-be” Providers. But, as they are innocent and helpless victims, theirs is all the hope and chances to get delivered in time for good. Meantime, the debate which is basically tempered by biased and myopic emotion- alism, and in some cases, sentimentalism can go on and on. Unless and until Miraculous Intervention comes from The Great Power of Compassion and Comfort working within and without, the verbal skirmish can intensify and even harden into a tragedy of irreconcilable differences. May this little voice serve its purpose for the sake of sobriety and open-mindedness in the spirit of Good Faith and Hope, and and for the love of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.


  • The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: Report of a 25-yr. study of Psychoanalytic Psychology (Summer, 2004) For Better or For Worse: Divorced Reconsidered (W.W. Norton, 2002)
  • USA TODAY: “Divorce need not end in disaster”, updated 01/13/2002
  • Old Testament Hebrew-Christian Bible: Ezekiel 18:20, NASB, 1971
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