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Reflections: How marriage and divorce affect children

It is widely known that divorce is hard on everyone involved, including children of divorcees. There is some disagreement, however, on the degree of harm that divorce does to children. Today, I want to discuss two opposing views on the effects of divorce on children. First, I will give a brief summary of the two views. Then I will highlight the differences. Finally, I will talk about their similarities.

The first viewpoint I would like to discuss is that of Judith S. Wallerstein. Wallerstein wrote a book titled “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A Twenty-Five Year Landmark Study. In it, she claims divorce is “devastating to most children and that the effects are long lasting.” According to Wallerstein, children with divorced parents suffer more depression, more substance abuse, lower grades, and are more likely to need psychological help than children from intact families. She says that the real impact, however, hits them when they become adults. Without a model of a loving, stable relationship, they don’t have the background to find or maintain one themselves. Wallerstein argues that we as a society need to examine our views on divorce and change them to benefit the children. She does concede that sometimes divorce may be necessary, such as in instances with abuse. But she also claims that “even a bad marriage might be better for kids than divorce.” (Atlas, pp.1-2) Countering this opinion is research conducted by E. Mavis Heatherington. In her book, “For Better or Worse: Divorce Reconsidered,” She found that most children of divorce do not have significant long-term damage and function well as adults. She does concede that 20-25% of children of divorce do have serious problems, but we tend to focus on this small amount of negativity when we should be focusing on the overwhelming majority of cases that are positive. (Corliss, pp. 1-2) Other than their obvious difference of opinion, the research methods of Wallerstein and Heatherington were also vastly different. Wallerstein studied 60 children for 25 years in Marin County, California. Her methods involved thousands of hours of interviews with the children throughout their lives. This is a very subjective look at the subjects, but gives us an in-depth look at the emotional impact of divorce on children. (Saposnek, p. 1) Heatherington, on the other hand, took at objective look at more than 2,500 children over a span of thirty years. She never talked to any of the kids. Instead, she looked at their records and

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