The children of divorce


(Photo: Liz Banfield Photography)

It’s been 30 years since the peak of America’s “divorce boom.” Later this week, MPR’s Sasha Aslanian looks at how the kids of divorce have turned out. She has some insight; she’s one of them.

“‘I have two bedrooms,’ I bragged to other kids,” Aslanian says in the hour-long documentary. “I bristled at hearing the term broken home. It wasn’t until much later, in adulthood, that I laid down my guard a little bit.” When she looked around her book club one night and found most of them were children of the divorce boom, she pressed ahead with her project.

“I thought it was like teams. And we were part of the losing team. And we got dumped by the captain,” one woman says, recalling her parents’ divorce.

Aslanian interviews her dad, who recalls the day the divorce became final, and even tracks down the divorce court mediator who processed the divorce like so many cattle in a stockyard. He turns out not to be mean and uncaring, and recalls that he often got calls from the children of divorcing parents.

Back in the early ’70s, some pop psychologists of the day opined that “staying together” for the sake of the kids would do them more harm that good, granting permission for them to walk away from bad marriages.

We know more now.

“It’s one of the few issues in our society where what’s best for the parents is not necessarily best for the children,” says Dr. Judith Wallerstein, who studied the kids from the divorce boom and produced a book about it in 2000, when looked at the issue:

When a parent dies, a child suffers loss. With divorce, says Wallerstein, a child must cope not only with loss but with failure: “Even if the young person decides as an adult that the divorce was necessary, that in fact the parents had little in common to begin with,” she writes, “the divorce still represents failure — failure to keep the man or the woman, failure to maintain the relationship, failure to be faithful, or failure to stick around. This failure in turn shapes the child’s inner template of self and family. If they failed, I can fail, too.”

As a result, some of the children of divorce whose lives Wallerstein has followed (their average age at the latest interviews was 33) have grown up to be pathological commitment-phobes, expecting all relationships to end in disaster and pain. Others, going to the opposite extreme, have rushed into reckless, spur-of-the-moment, almost invariably doomed marriages in their late teens or early 20s, or selected clearly inadequate partners who are too weak and needy to leave. Even those who are happily married remain haunted by fear of abandonment and have trouble dealing with any disagreement or conflict.

That’s the sort of talk Aslanian hated when she was a kid, though she acknowledged “it felt like the sky was falling” the day the divorce was announced.

The documentary tracks down the authors of “The Kids’ Book of Divorce,” written in 1979 by the kids at Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge, Mass. One didn’t confront his parents about the divorce until years later. He chose not to marry the woman with whom he has a son. Another had a long-term relationship in her 30s that didn’t lead to marriage, followed by a marriage at age 40.

What’s the effect of divorce on kids when they have relationships years later? “The bad news is that you really are much more likely to get divorced as an adult if your parents divorced, and parental divorce really does affect almost every aspect of future relationships,” according to Nick Wolfinger, a sociologist who studies divorce and has a formula for kids of divorce:

“If you want to stay married, marry someone just like you, except if you’re from a divorced family, marry someone from an intact family.”

For the record, Sasha Aslanian has been married for nearly 10 years to a man who does not come from a background of divorce. They dated for 12 years.

A segment of the documentary looks at what we’ve learned about the effect of divorce on kids. We’re smarter now, sure, but conversations with today’s kids reveal heartbreaking tales of kids still being stuck in the middle.

Hennepin County, for example, once funded mandatory programs for parents and children going through divorce, but those days are over and without the requirement, enrollment has dwindled. Aslanian tried to follow some of the kids in a class she visited three years ago, and found most had moved. One girl, now 13, whom she was able to follow, has gained a stepmother, a stepbrother, and a half brother. Her father says he and his ex-wife are better friends now than when they were married. He admits there’s pain that comes with a blended family, “but there’s more people to love the kids,” he says.

That’s known as a “good divorce.” It comes partly from 30 years of doing it badly. Yet the question from the height of the divorce book is still relevant: What’s best for the kids?

“I’m not advocating for loveless marriages,” Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values. “But it’s also the case that marriage doesn’t make us happy every day. No marriage does, but your marriage serves as so much more than just a vehicle for immediate individual adult needs. It makes one world for your child, and children will tell you that means everything to them.”

Aslanian says she started the project five years ago to show how kids “aren’t all messed up.” Then she realized the real story is “how deep this stuff cuts. The past stays with us as a cautionary tale. I still believe in love, even for divorced kids.”

The documentary airs on MPR’s Midday at noon on Wednesday. In the meantime, if you’re a ‘child of divorce,’ share your story below.

  • JP

    I work with fathers and families. I am looking forward to this series and will share it with others.

    I believe that father absence is the #1 public health problem in America today.

    I find the program well-timed with all of the recent emphasis on the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock “Peace, Love and Music” festival. I know there were less than half a million people there, but still, a whole generation claims it as their own. But if I’m gonna give ’em all that, then they have to take the divorce boom, too. And disco.

    A decade after woodstock, the summer of love and all that, they proved they just couldn’t hold it together, the peace and love, I mean. And for people who had teen years filled with the beatles and the temptations what was the deal with DISCO people? And all of that cocaine, too? What were you thinking? What marriage could ever endure that?

  • bsimon

    My parents split when I was in my 20s. Nobody saw it coming, including my father. They didn’t fight and nobody cheated. While I was surprised when it happened, I had also often wondered before why they were together – they didn’t seem to share the same goals or interests. So it is fair to say that I already had strong opinions about whether I would ever marry, without coming from a ‘broken’ home, or seeing divorce proceedings up close.

    So while I agree that there’s a story there – trying to find out what happens to the children of divorce – I suspect there are also stories to be told by the children of parents who stay together ‘for the sake of the children’ or to respect ‘the sanctity of marriage’.

  • Cassandra

    Elizabeth Marquardt: “… marriage doesn’t make us happy every day. No marriage does, but your marriage serves as so much more than just a vehicle for immediate individual adult needs. It makes one world for your child, and children will tell you that means everything to them.”

    This is really the key here. Marriage had from time immemorial always been associated with children, to the extent that the primary End (or purpose) of marriage was seen as the procreation and education of children. Companionship was a close, but secondary purpose. The baby-boomers in all their narcissism tried to invert that order. Thus, when the companionship wasn’t working so smoothly, they just bailed out without taking into consideration that there are larger purposes which involve some self-sacrifice.

    This has had tremendous repercussions in society beyond their own destroyed lives and that of their children. This change in understanding of marriage has made it nearly impossible to defend marriage from the gay activists. If marriage is primarily about companionship and not about providing a secure home for the procreation of children, then one can hardly refuse marriage to gays.

    And the repercussions go deeper. In order to assuage their guilt, the divorce culture has tried to convince themselves that children can do equally well without a father or without a mother in the home. This has led to single women (both heterosexual and lesbian) seeking artificial insemination, which intentionally orphans a child of its father, in order to fulfill their own maternal desires. Gay men couples are now using surrogate mothers in the same way. And homosexual adoptions are leaving more children without hope of a complete home.

    It boils down to the selfishness and self-centeredness of adults who so focus on their own desires and whims that they refuse to acknowledge that the children’s needs may conflict and require some sacrifice on the part of the adults, or in some cases preclude them from bringing a child into their lifestyle.

  • Bob Collins

    Tell you what.

    For the purpose of this post and discussion, let’s not use it for a springboard for a political discussion about marriage.

    If you’ve got a personal story, tell it. If you don’t, hold onto it. There’ll be other opportunities to post the same old thing.

  • JS

    My parents are serial divorcees. Neither of them are fit for relationships and are both currently single, which is entirely appropriate. Neither can compromise. My fathers father died when he was 12, my mothers mother died when she was 7, they both hated the other parent. Two individuals less fit for parenting I do not know.

    All that needs reading is the poem:

    Philip Larkin – This be the verse.

    Just remember “They may not mean to, but the do”.

    For all of us that blame the parents, they were suffering as well, we just cant see it as kids, as the parents appear to be invincible and can deal with anything.

    I see no point in teaching most of the math that is taught in school (I am a scientist and I like math). For most of the kids it is irrelevant. Why do we not teach relationships? Not just sex, but how to compromise, how we behave when we get hurt? What do we do that undermines our own interests. How to realize that there are ups and downs, and that the downs may last for years but then the ups come again.

    Lower the drinking age to 18, raise the marrying age to 25.

  • My parents divorced when I was 12. It was the greatest shock of my life. I still hold that to be true, and I’m 43. I had no idea why until I screwed up my courage at the age of 19 and asked my mom. She thought, and then answered, “because of a lot of broken promises”. Pretty useless, but at least it was an answer. She then continued, “and because your father came home from Vietnam an alcoholic.” (1984 and I hadn’t even known he’d been there!)

    Neither of my parents was/is good at communicating. I’m sure they love me; they’re just constitutionally incapable of demonstrating that in any meaningful way.

    What I don’t understand is how they treat each other today. At my brother’s wedding, Dad showed up with his not-yet-2nd-wife. Mom refers to her as That Woman. After watching Mom & Dad then, and since, I finally realized that my parents still care for each other. They’re not just civil, they’re nice to each other. Back to the Inability to Express Feelings In a Useful Way. I think it was primarily an inability to live with each other that doomed them.

    I got divorced at the age of 34. After 9 years of marriage. While it was pretty much due to lots of broken promises, at least he missed the Gulf War. I simply cannot blame it on my parents. Oh no, my Screw Ups were all my own. And nice to him since? I have problems enough being civil. I don’t see how my divorce had anything to do with my parents’ divorce (with them as parents, yes, but not their divorce).

    My husband-of-6-years’ parents will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in a couple years. I envy him. I look at my in-laws and am astonished at seeing what I can never have.

    Far more serious a consequence of divorce is when a replacement parent appears. This person might not vaguely qualify as a good father-figure/mother-figure. (Mom’s boyfriend moved in with us for the most miserable 6 years of my life, what a total waste of abusive organic material.) I occasionally wonder what life would have been like if she’d managed to find a good father.

    re: JS comment on relationships … you are sooooo right. We screw up our relationships because we haven’t learned how to have them. How to compromise … when to simply shrug your shoulders and ignore someone thinking you’re wrong … when to admit you’re wrong … when to demand respect … etc. etc.

  • J. Daniel

    I found this article very insightful. I grew up as a child of a divorced mother and father in the mid seventies. At the time I attended a private elementary school in St. Paul and being seven years old I remember most children lived with both parents together. I felt embarrassed to tell my peers that my parents were divorced and instead I told them that they were just simply separated and that my dad wanted to live in England, where he is from and that my mom didn’t want to go there. I must of explained it with a lot of self-confidence because I was never questioned or teased, which in retrospect is a bit surprising.

    No marriage is perfect and no divorce after an unhappy marriage assumes bliss, life is a learning experience and any intimate relationship takes an extreme amount of goodwill and forgiveness on both ends as well as the ability to let the relationship constantly evolve and be creative. I think my generation (X-I think I am?1973)as children of many divorced parents we have a tendency to want to make it work almost in a “Leave It To Beaver” or in a life is always good -facebooky way. We don’t want to give up easily. Many of my generation have traveled outside the US and had the opportunity to witness marriages throughout many diverse cultures. Marriages that are not just based on intoxicating self fufilling romantic love-like we dreamed of having in the 80’s growing up with 16 Candles and Molly Ringwald- and for that I thank my progressive, feminist, divorced mother for teaching me not to have children and to give up my identity like many women did in the 50’s but that also good home cooked meals and clean laundry is essential to a family’s survival. Also sometimes you just have to go to bed mad at each other..usually a good nights rest, heals the heart.

  • SB

    No, please, don’t go to bed mad. It makes matters worse. The most important times of the day and minutes of a marriage are the first 5 mins of the morning, first 5 mins upon coming home, and last 5 mins before bed/sleep. Spend them with your spouse. 15 minutes a day will help your marriage immensely. We didn’t, our life now together is miserable, but we stayed together because of the kids. Nurture your marriage or it will die.

  • JS

    further thoughts on divorce is as follows.

    In every relationship there are up to 10 things that drive you completely crazy (in not a good way) about your partner. This will happen in every relationship, not just yours.

    If you leave your partner because of the things that are driving you crazy then your new partner will give you 10 new things that drive you crazy; they will most likely be different things than the first one, but they will still drive you crazy. Its not worth it for the 10 things. I think I can count 6 things about my wife, so I have 4 more to go. I can live with that.

    Marriage is not a given, it does require work, children are a great test of a marriage, nothing will strain it more.

    Also i dont think people plan for what are they going to do when the children leave.

    A lot of divorce happens either very soon after marriage (1-2 years), or later on when the kids seem more grown up.

    If you have been staying together for the kids, then when they hit 13 or so and the Evil Teenage Fairy takes your precious ones away; and they start saying “I dont need you around” you suddenly seem to be left with your spouse. I think then when the kids seem be to doing OK, and they seem to not want you around, people feel better about splitting up. In fact of course that is the time the kids need you the most. They are learning about relationships and behaviour and learning from you.

    I say make plans for what you will do when the kids leave, plan it as you would plan for retirement. My wife makes a sad face when she says the kids will leave for college one day; I follow up with “Then you and I will go to Italy for a month together alone” we both laugh and look forward to it.

    Spend more time planning the marriage than the wedding.

    If he/she does not want kids before you are married; when you are married then he/she will STILL not want kids.

    Looking forward to the program tomorrow,

  • S. Erickson

    I am a divorce mediator and would like to offer that the manner in which parents go about their divorces matters more to their children’s well-being than if they get divorced. Don’t get me wrong, divorce is a crisis for children and there is extraordinary pain, but if a divorce is going to occur no matter what, if parents can emotionally disengage from each other and conduct their divorce in an amicable manner, children are mostly resillient. I would love to see some discussion of this too.

    In particular, the book The Truth about Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive by Robert Emery, PhD is a fantastic guide through all of the research on this as well as what divorcing parents need to know before, during and after divorce to foster their children’s resillience.

    The statistics can paint a depressing picture of children of divorce, but MOST children of divorce do not fall into these statistics (Emery talks about the “one-fifth empty, four-fifths full” phenomenon). Perhaps there could be some discussion of this either tomorrow or on another show.


  • Jo

    My MIL divorced in about 1980. I am married 11 years to her wonderful, loving son who to this day is more afraid of conflict and dissonance than the average person.

    Yet my MIL recently claimed that “the divorce didn’t affect the boys.” I’m not saying she shouldn’t have divorced, but this kind of myopic, stubborn attitude toward her sons is why one has no relationship with her today and the other very little.

    My grandma, a faithful and yes, occasionally martyred Catholic, used to say, “The first 25 years of marriage are the hardest.” She was married 60 years.

    Somehow, we’re trying to meld all our family marriage histories into a loving, intact family for ourselves and our kids. So far, so good, God continue to help us.

  • Amelia

    I am very much looking forward to hearing tomorrow’s program…

    I am a child of divorce…and I have married into intact families (twice), my first marriage ending in untimely death (car accident). My late first husband’s family is very deeply family to me to this day–and to my current husband and our chidren. Providing a strong, consistent, loving home for our sons is core for my husband and me. It is particularly pressing for me, because loss is such a marker of my experience of family. I think, even so, deep down, I still struggle with a sense of commitment in my heart, even as I am committed, deeply. Both of my parents did not come to both of my weddings…because it was too difficult for them to see one another…after decades. This hurts, and there is no blame, at all…just a river of sadness. It’s as if there is a permanent split in my soul while I try to be whole for my children…

    Thank you for this good work!

  • G

    As a child of divorce, I don’t think my ability to have healthy relationships was in any way tarnished by my parents divorce.

    Whether your parents live in separate homes or together isn’t the issue, its if they continue to act together as parents. They can divorce and end their romantic/partnership relationship but still maintain a relationship as parents. And that, I think, is really what ends up making the difference.

    Staying married doesn’t necessitate having a good parental relationship, and neither does getting a divorce. What makes the difference is the individuals involved and how “grown up” they chose to act.

  • Ben Sunderlin

    My parents divorced when I was 3 years old in 1975. I only have one memory of them together. As a child I had two separate lives, the one at my dads house with his new wife and my step-sister and half-sister, and one at my moms house where I was a single child and had all of the advantages of that… with a few exceptions… most notably extreme difficulty for my mom.

    I was left with this neverending curiousity through my childhood of what happened. Through most of my childhood I was the only child I knew with divorced parents. My parents could never answer what happened with any clarity. It was a constant blame game between my mom and my dad and through most of my childhood I chose a winner… my mom. It was only when I was an adult that I realized they both were to blame. My dad and I always struggle in our relationship and divorce is in large part responsible for us never being able to connect; mostly because he was never able to move past losing custody of me and how he felt punished by the courts, and punished by me for not choosing to live with him when I became old enough. As a child I always felt torn by my parents between these two worlds and choosing where I wanted to live and who I wanted to love.

    I heard lots of statistics as a child about the troubles of divorced children. I took those statistics as a challenge to always do better in school, which I generally did. But I always struggled in my relationships with other males, struggled in my behavior, struggled emotionally.

    My mom was single and had difficulty through most of my childhood unable to supply money to support us. She was a strong woman who turned over her life to making sure we made it. We made it well. She always pressed that she needed to work, and work late in order to bring home enough money to support us. That also meant I became a latch-kid kid at a very young age. She taught me very important lessons of struggle and how to overcome it. And important lessons about managing money and living on a shoestring budget.

    As an adult I have taken all of the lessons they taught me and constantly use their mistakes to help guide my way toward success in my marriage. My parents have both divorced twice and there are lots of lessons to learn. But, I am constantly afraid that I will fail and almost believe it is a certainty in the long-run.

  • Jon

    My parents divorced when I was 14. Call me different but I really do not think that it altered me too much. My parents worked together, lived in the same community and always worked together for their children. Today I am going through a divorce and I have two small children. My ex and I do not work well together and it has everything to do with the court system. The court system, child support based on incomes and not needs is completely destroying families by creating unnecessary conflicts. If you need to get a divorce, avoid lawyers and the courts system if at all possible. I could write a book on my experiences and how corrupt and unfair the system is especially for willing and able fathers. The bottom line is give your kids lots of love and attention and everything will be as good as it possibly can be given the circumstances.

  • cath

    Sasha, what a brilliant job you did with this. I followed it all the way, and had my 14 year old in the car. She has so many friends who are children of divorce. I know it helped her, too. And to have known you through so much of this journey. You really touched me.

    Congratulations. Brilliant for staying with it for five years. You are a rare creative genius.

  • JIM


    Thank You for telling Ellie’s Story. The program was great!

    Ellie’s Dad

  • Anna Krueger

    Great program! The topic hits home to me as a now 5 years married 30 year old whose parents divorced when I was 14.

    My parents’ divorce turned my world upside down, even though they divorced quite amicably. I acted out for years as a result even though I always said and believed that I was fine at the time. I went through counseling for it 7 years afterwards.

    I recommend Wallerstein’s book, Children of Divorce. I read it 10 years ago and felt that it was very true. If parents give up on their marriage without fixing the problems, their children either live the same problems or figure out how to overcome them. I recommended the book to my parents who have never been able to read it because they’ve felt too bad about the situation.

    I hope I’ve learned from their mistakes so that I don’t repeat them. In my marriage I am still afraid of conflict, never having learned how to handle conflict in a healthy way. I’m working on it.

    I look to the successful marriages of my grandparents and my in-laws for models to follow.

    It’s been 16 years. We all get along well now. I love my parents and they love me. But it hasn’t been easy at times.

  • TommyB

    my parents got divorced when i was 1.5yo, and i’m grateful to my mom for it, for even though i missed out on being raised by “a dad,” but she actually did me a huge favor by not letting a selfish and hurtful and deeply unhappy man raise me. my mom was divorced a second time when i was fourteen, and this time it was because of infidelity and alcoholism on my stepdad’s part. again, my mom pulled me out of a potentially permanently scarring situation. so, even though it hurt in the short term, eventually the scabs healed and i am better for it. my mom is an incredible, strong, smart and loving woman who did a remarkable job raising me on her own through some difficult times, immigration to a new country, and moving to a new city. it’s not all roses, but i’m happier for it.

  • Kelly

    My parents divorced in the early 80’s when I was just 4 years old. What little memory I had of this divorce is that I thought I was never going to see my dad again. My parents quickly found a regimen for my older brother and I to see my dad once a week and every other weekend. It was quite routine from age 4 though age 12. Then my mom dropped a bomb on me. We where moving 250 miles away where her boyfriend lived (now husband). At the age of 13, it was like torture to me. But now, not only did I gain another father figure who loved me like his own, but I gained a step brother, who I am so proud to call my ‘brother’. Three years after I moved away from my dad, he re-married also. I developed a relationship with my step mom that was and is wonderful! Another mother figure who loved me like her own. Even though it was hard being a child of divorce, I look at my parents now and think how they could have lasted for us kids OR what my life would be like if I didn’t have my step parents. I think it was for the best in the end for everyone.

  • I appreciated this look at divorce from the kids’ (even the grown up kids’) perspective. I notice that many of my friends come from divorced parents. It’s very exciting to hear the voices of kids on the radio, and to hear the perspectives of the whole family when a couple divorces. I remember a rocky time in my parents’ relationship when I was in my twenties, and the way that they each of them confided in me. I realize now that that was completely inappropriate for them to do. I remember the pain it caused me. As a parent of two high school students and a college student, I hope to bear in mind the importance of not seeking out my son and daughters as people to confide in about my marriage!

    Additionally, this kind of programming on MPR is delightful to hear. It stops us in our day to consider our lives and our relationships, as newsworthy and thought provoking. Well done.

  • SR

    Interesting. Many seem quick to judge – and quick to say that divorce is selfish for the parents who seek it.

    Sometimes one may need to seek a divorce in order to survive. As one who recently began trying to get out of a marriage in order to avoid falling deeper and deeper into a suffocating, debilitating depression because of it…

    I spiritually and honestly believe in marriage. It is a shock to be here. My heart is crushed, but after 6 years of therapy, I am trying to find my way out.

    I hope that by being healthier, I will also be healthier for my children.

    And as a side note — my parents were never divorced, yet I, and some of my peers from “intact” homes also experienced some of the abandonment and other relationship issues that grown-up children of divorce say they experience. I’m not sure they have a corner on the market of issues.

  • M

    My parents divorced in the late 70’s when I was 15. My siblings and I don’t fit the standard divorced kid model because we’re certain the divorce was “best for the children”. Our father was abusive; the divorce may have saved our lives.

    In most respects, our lives improved immeasurably with the divorce. However, what really hit our lives and the lives of so many of our classmates and I didn’t hear so much of in the documentary was the economic hardship of becoming a divorced kid at that time. In the 70’s and early 80’s we fell into a gap between the passage of no-fault divorce laws and the passage of laws mandating payment of child support through the clerk of court. Plus, we had the fantasy that a woman could do the same work as a man but the reality of a fraction of the pay. That gave a lot of fathers (in my personal experience) the ability to leave their families easily and cheaply.

  • Elizabeth T

    There are many tools to creating and managing a “successful” marriage. “successful” being, of course, a matter of personal definition. I learned much, between my 1st marriage and this one. There is too much, far too much, which society ridicules or looks down upon, that would make marriage better.

    We spend too much time planning the wedding, and not enough planning the marriage.

    My husband & I have a pre-nuptual agreement. He wouldn’t get married without one. This is not something for pop-stars or rich people wanting to protect their assets from greedy poor spouses.

    Our pre-nuptual agreement required that we both sit down and organize our plans for marriage in a very formal way. Whose debt goes where, whose assets go where, etc. Yes, much of it revolves around “what if we get divorced…” But, you know what? This is like any contract – it is to protect you each, if the unwanted happens.

    When we discussed marriage, there was a lot of discussion before the proposal. Where were we going to live? Did we want kids? How many kids? What if I couldn’t get pregnant? What kind of education for the kids? What life style did we want to have? How did we see our roles in the marriage? Who was going to be bringing in the dough? Did he mind if I made more money than he did? (true then, not now) etc. etc. etc. We wanted to see if our individual desires and life-philosophies were compatible.

    JS’s comments are rather well made. I knew what drove me nuts about my former spouse. I had to come to terms with what type of behavior I was willing to put up with. And, vice versa. I apologized the other day for losing my temper over something. He shrugged and said, “well, you told me you had a short temper; I married you anyway.”

  • Steve

    I’m a child of a couple people who probably should have divorced. Instead, they just celebrated their 50th. All my life I remember shouting, fighting, denigration, and more. Yes, there were happy times, but to this day, I still struggle with visits, with having good feelings for any of my family (including siblings) and would really prefer to never see any of them ever again. My situation with relationships is very much like what you describe for the children of divorce. My feeling is an unhappy relationship is what causes the difficulties outlined, not the divorce itself. The divorce is just one more symptom of the dysfunction that creates the sense of loss in the child. I feel just as abandoned, just as wary of a new relationship, and just as broken as if I was the child of a divorce. In fact, I have often wished my parents had gone through with that, hoping that perhaps it would have given me the opportunity to find a better family and to develop a healthier attitude toward marriage. Maybe that is hopeless once two people get married who should not be together in the first place.

  • Sasha Aslanian

    Hi. Sasha here. Thank you for the wisdom in these comments. I love the advice to invest 5 minutes in your marriage 3x a day. If there was one bottom-line I got from everyone it was to put more energy into marriages upstream…

    I told Bob the reason I produce for this audience is the hope that someone will point to a Philip Larkin poem at just the right moment, or tell the kinds of moving stories you all have.

    The program will be rebroadcast Sunday evening at 6:00, and Midday is considering doing a call-in on the subject. What would you like to hear?

    Thanks again for writing.

  • Peggy Rader

    I was only able to listen to this today–thank you so much for a truly excellent show. I am a divorced mom of one son–he was 10 when my former husband and I separated, 11 when the divorce was final and 12 when his dad married the woman he had become involved with that led to our breakup.

    My son is 23 now and has had two long-term relationships–one in high school and one in college. I want so deeply for him to succeed where I did not in a long-term relationship. I know the statistics are bad, but like Sasha, I still believe in love and I wish it for my son.

  • I have been reading the posts here and would like to share my own experience as a child of divorce. My parents divorced when I was 13 (I’m now 46) and it was really difficult at first. However, I was fortunate because my parents were mature enough to put our feelings before their own. They were always civil to one another and even after they both remarried they made a huge effort to keep the family together for holidays, birthdays, and even school events. I’m sure most people thought it was strange that they were all friends but it was the best gift that they could give us if they couldn’t remain married to each other. Both of my stepparents are wonderful people and were always there for me and my siblings. My parents and stepparents are still very close to each other today, even after all of the children grew up and moved away. Having four loving parents has been a positive and powerful example for us all. I even wrote a children’s book about it!

  • Chai Tea

    I just recently had my father pass away. I am in my early 20s and my parents separated when I was too young to remember.

    I lived with my mother all my life, and now my father is gone and I am dealing with issues of grief and guilt, that I didn’t spend more time with my father.

    It is very hard. It makes me wish I was not a child of divorce, because then I would have had equal time with mother and father.

    Glad people are exploring this issue. It is important. Divorce really impacts people, even someone like me who was 2 when her parents divorced.

  • I work with a group of researchers at IRIS Media, Inc. who have created a multimedia online program to help parents effectively parent during separation and divorce. We are currently conducting a research study (funded by the National Institutes of Health) of our program: Two Families Now: Effective Parenting during Separation and Divorce.

    If you would like more information, please look at our YouTube video:

  • Nathan Landau

    The program was interesting and informative. But there were some subtle thumbs on the scale. For example, there were extensive quotes from someone working for an organization (which I’d never previously heard of) called the Institute for American Values. That Institute states on its website that its goal is to promote marriage. Fine, but that fact should have been stated on the program to help us put the speaker’s passionate denunciation of marriage in context.

  • Samantha Friedman

    To Whom It May Concern:

    My name is Samantha Friedman, an alumna of the University of California at Berkeley and Fordham University, and I am currently a doctoral clinical psychology student at Saybrook University (San Francisco). I am seeking adults between the ages of 20 and 35 who have experienced parental divorce in either childhood or adulthood to assist me in the completion of a study that examines the effects of parental divorce on marital attitudes and intimacy.

    If you agree to participate in this study, please click on this link ( and complete the survey on The online survey I am conducting is very easy to complete. The whole process is designed to take less than 10 minutes to complete. Participation in this study is completely voluntary and anonymous. You are free to not answer any question, to stop participating at any time for any reason, and to not have your information be part of the data set. All forms will be kept confidential; that is, no one will have knowledge of which questionnaire belongs to you.

    The aim of my study is to learn about the psychological impact of parental divorce, particularly how the age at which parental divorce occurs influences attitudes towards marriage and intimacy. It is of particular importance to examine the effects of parental divorce on marital attitudes and levels of intimacy because they are indicators of relationship stability. The ultimate goal of this study is to acquire data that can be used to assist adult children of divorce in understanding the impact of mid- to late-life parental divorce and develop strategies that encourage healthy, lasting marriages.

    Please contact me if you would like a summary of my findings when the project is finished. If you have any questions, please contact me at

    Thank you in advance for your time and assistance. I really appreciate your help and I am sincerely grateful.

    Best wishes,

    Samantha Friedman