Divorce is a deadly killer!

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Jemy Gatdula

Being Right

Divorce is a deadly killer!

Pardon the quite unsubtle clickbait title. It is, to be clear, not meant to disrespect or make light of anybody’s circumstance. But two things: this article’s focus is on divorce specifically (and not of couples contemplating it). But also, it describes really how strongly some people feel about the matter.

wedding cake

Let’s face it: divorce signifies failure.

It’s hardly a thing to be celebrated.

Nobody gets married, in fact nobody grows up, hoping to get divorced. Something went wrong and in an array of difficult choices, divorce happens to be one of them. But it’s far from the best solution.

Divorce’s worst victims, as study upon study will show, are children.

Divorce “is catastrophic for children.” And it “is destructive to both boys and girls, but each sex suffers differently. Girls who grow up deprived of their father are more likely to become depressed, more likely to self-harm, and more likely to be promiscuous. But they still have their mothers, with whom they clearly identify. Boys do not have a comparable identification and thus suffer more from father absence. They also tend to act out in a manner that’s harmful to others, which girls typically do not.” (Suzanne Venker, “Missing fathers and America’s broken boys,” February 2018)

The US today is notorious for school shootings. But what mainstream media (mostly liberal) refuse to report is that most, if not all of the shooters were bereft of fathers, “whether due to divorce, death, or imprisonment” as Susan Goldberg points out (“When Will We Have the Guts to Link Fatherlessness to School Shootings?” February 2018).

Then there’s this: “72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers; the same for 60% of all rapists. 70% of juveniles in state institutions grew up in single- or no-parent situations. The number of single-parent households is a good predictor of violent crime in a community, while poverty rate is not.” (Terry Brennan, cofounder, Leading Women for Shared Parenting)

And contrary to what others say that the negative effects on children of divorced parents are merely short-term, Amy Desai (of Focus on the Family) reports:

“Psychologist Judith Wallerstein followed a group of children of divorce from the 1970s into the 1990s. Interviewing them at 18 months and then 5, 10, 15, and 25 years after the divorce, she expected to find that they had bounced back. But what she found was dismaying: Even 25 years after the divorce, these children continued to experience substantial expectations of failure, fear of loss, fear of change and fear of conflict. Twenty-five years!

The children in Wallerstein’s study were especially challenged when they began to form their own romantic relationships. As Wallerstein explains, “Contrary to what we have long thought, the major impact of divorce does not occur during childhood or adolescence. Rather, it rises in adulthood as serious romantic relationships move center stage …”

Other researchers confirm Wallerstein’s findings. Specifically, compared to kids from intact homes, children who experienced their parents’ divorce view premarital sex and cohabitation more favorably. This is disturbing news given that cohabiting couples have more breakups, greater risk of domestic violence and are more likely to experience divorce.”

Therapist Steven Earll points out, “Children never get over divorce. It is a great loss that is in their lives forever. It is like a grief that is never over. All special events, such as holidays, plays, sports, graduations, marriages, births of children, etc., bring up the loss created by divorce as well as the family relationship conflicts that result from the ‘extended family’ celebrating any event.”

In fact, Dr. Wallerstein explodes another myth, “that if the parents are happier the children will be happier, too.” So the argument goes: divorce frees children from living in an unhappy home. Not true.

“Indeed, many adults who are trapped in very unhappy marriages would be surprised to learn that their children are relatively content. They don’t care if mom and dad sleep in different beds as long as the family is together.” (see Brent Barlow, Brigham Young University, “Marriage Crossroads: Why Divorce Is Often Not The Best Option,” 2003)

Considering the stakes, we must avoid what Tim Wu calls the “tyranny of convenience,” which “fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience.”

Indeed, seeing their parents persevere in very difficult situations is perhaps one of the greatest things that can be given to children.

Finally, it’s quite tiresome hearing people parrot the line that to go against divorce is a step back to the dark ages. Most anthropological studies agree that human sexual development (from pre-humans to humans) went roughly by this sequence:

Group sex free for all => then temporary pairings => then longer termed “open” pairings => then marriage but with divorce => then (with the coming of Christianity) absolute permanent marriage.

Going by this chronology, to go with divorce is actually a regression.

Perhaps someone should tell that to Congress.


Jemy Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence.

Twitter @jemygatdula