divorce is a hardship for kids, but so is marriage

Don’t know why I was thinking about this the other day, but oftentimes I hear people say that someone is lucky because their parents are still together. Those who have divorced parents have it tough and those with parents who are still together are lucky.

I think a lot of evidence shows that kids who have divorced parents endure substantial psychological stress. I haven’t had a lot of time to review the literature on this, but my question — and I don’t know if it’s answered well in the empirical work on this — is how much stress does non-divorce put on kids?

My point is this: to me it seems that divorce is one symptom of two people who no longer have a certain relationship to each other, but I’m sure there are tons of marriage where this special relationship is no longer in effect yet the two people do not get a divorce. In other words, I’m sure it puts a lot of stress on kids when they see their parents staying together despite their indifference or even dislike each other. It’s no better to say that “at least they’re staying together for the sake of the child” because how stressful do you think it is for a child to realize that his parents are just pretending at love for his own benefit. This puts a lot of pressure on the child’s ultimate success and performance; after all he’s the reason his parents are even in the same house.

There are some marriages that don’t end in divorce, but it would have probably been better if they had, and I think it’s probably tough on a kid who sees his parents alienated from or indifferent to each other, but staying together nonetheless for financial reasons, or worse, for an uncritical desire to conform to an institution valued by society.

One last way of putting my point is this: it’s probably bad for a kid when his parents no longer love each other the way they once did. Given that, why think it’s worse when parents respond to this fact with divorce rather than coexistence?


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