Starting later this year, if you want to get a divorce in Oklahoma and you have kids younger than 18, you are going to have to take a course first, and pay for it yourself. Among the topics to be included in the course is “the effects divorce has on a child’s well-being.”
My guess is that Oklahomans are being forced to pay for propaganda. For many years, I have been scrutinizing claims about the supposed effects of divorce on children, and the implications for children of single parenting. Wildly exaggerated claims and misrepresentations of the actual data are rampant.
Reporters rarely, if ever, seem to understand the methodological complexities in figuring out the actual implications of divorce. They rarely acknowledge even the most basic scientific fact – we can never know definitively the “effects” of divorce because we cannot ethically do the kind of study that is the scientific gold standard, a true experiment in which people are randomly assigned to different conditions (such as getting divorced or staying married).
Also routinely ignored is that the alternative to divorce is often not a loving, attentive, conflict-free family but a tense, emotionally inflamed situation riddled with anger, recriminations, and fighting (emotional and/or physical) – or a steely cold and uncommunicative home. Neither conflict nor emotional frigidity is good for kids. Obviously, neither is violence.
There are also ways in which kids sometimes do better once their parents have divorced. Those kinds of results have been reported in reputable scientific journals (though that in itself is not always a reliable indicator of a good study). I don’t think I have ever seen a media report that acknowledged any of those potentially positive implications of divorce or of single parenting.
In Singled Out, I devoted a chapter to debunking the myth that the children of single parents are doomed. Below are some articles I have written about single parents and their kids since then. There are also relevant sections in Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It. (Paperback is here; ebook is here.) The Bedford Reader has included an adapted version of my Singled Out chapter on the children of single parents in each of the past two editions.
Enough with the Myth of the Doomed Kids; Let’s Have Some Facts
The Children Are Listening
The Media Piles On – and Gets It Wrong
The Politics of Single Parenting
The Big Picture
Broken photo image available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 12 Jun 2014