We all know that divorce can be a very traumatic time for the children who get caught in the middle. For years, though, there has been loud rumbling that “if mom and dad keep it friendly, everyone will be OK.” Is that true? Not really, say the experts. Though the damage may not appear in acting out behavior, plummeting grades or depression, you need only to look at your own children to see that children learn most about life – at least as far as their parents are concerned – by way of watching what the the parents do, not what they say. That should make it easy to see, then, that kids who live through a divorce are probably more likely, as adults, to experience their own divorce. Monkey-See, Monkey-Do.
According to Nicholas H. Wolfinger, in his book Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in their Own Marriages, there is clear statistical evidence that “divorce is transmissible from parents to children and that it continues, in many families, to cycle through generations.” “The crux of the idea”, says Wolfinger, “is that the family structure of origin powerfully affects marriage formation and marital stability in the adult offspring of divorce.” Wolfinger and colleagues found that:
Among adults whose parents had two or more failed marriages:
67% divorced, 26% two or more times.
Among adults whose parents divorced and remarried only once:
58% divorced, 19% at least twice.
Among adults raised in intact homes:
41% divorced, 9% two or more times.
What to do if you are contemplating or are in the middle of divorce? Try your best to use the divorce as a learning tool to help our kids develop mature, seasoned conflict resolution skills. Sound trite? Maybe. But, at least it will keep you focused on your kids and not your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s idiot behavior and post-divorce financial blues. It will help you, too, blossom into the level-headed and child-centric negotiator that you need to be at this complex and emotional time.