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Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

Marriage, Parentage, and the Constitution of the Family

In Activism, Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Liberty, Marriage, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parental Rights Amendment, Parents rights, Restraining Orders, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine on January 28, 2010 at 4:33 pm
January 27, 2010
Marriage, Parentage, and the Constitution of the Family
WebMemo #2783

The family is a prime institution of civil society. In its origins, it is both natural and pre-political. Family is not the creature of the state but a network of relationships between a man and a woman, their offspring (if any), and the families from which they themselves come and that their union will create.

In the modern era, temptations to experiment with the institutions of marriage and family have multiplied. With less emphasis on the long-term responsibilities of marriage, the consequences of redefining the institution for children and society are subordinated to the desires of adults. Rather than compound these weaknesses, policymakers and citizens should consider and adopt necessary reforms to strengthen families and rebuild civil society as the engine of the greatest human goods.

Marriage as a Natural Institution

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines marriage straightforwardly as the “formal union of a man and a woman, by which they become husband and wife.”[1] The United States Census Bureau defines family as a “group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption.”[2] Until recently, the plain meaning of these definitions has been universally recognized.

The underpinnings of sexual differentiation and complementarity have been understood as fixed in natural law. The jurist Joseph Story spoke for this tradition when he wrote, “Marriage is treated by all civilized societies as a peculiar and favored contract. It is in its origin a contract of natural law.”[3]

The marriage contract derives its strength from its conformity with the truth about the human person. Whether or not spouses in a particular marriage are able or willing to have children, they are themselves the children of one man and one woman. Their coming together is the extension into a new generation of the pairings of men and women. Marriage is not only a conjunction of individuals but the intertwining of family heritages. Marriage is the intragenerational expression of the union of man and woman that results from, and often results in, its intergenerational expression: the child.

The simplicity of this truth accounts for the nearly universal history and expression of marriage across cultures. Despite the enormity of the pressures marriage and family face today, the vast majority of people in American society express the desires to marry, experience a lifelong faithful relationship,[4] have children,[5] and raise those children into adulthood where they are able to establish families of their own.

Protecting Marriage Protects Society

The personal benefits of marriage to men and women, their children, and the social benefits to neighborhoods and nations are extensive. Author Michael Novak famously referred to the family unit as the “original Department of Health, Education and Welfare.”

The intact, married family performs best on measure after measure of social outcomes for parents and children alike. For example:

  • Married adults have better health, live longer lives, suffer fewer accidents or injuries, experience less depression, and enjoy greater happiness than either single or cohabiting adults.[6] Health benefits are particularly pronounced for married men.[7]
  • Married women experience less domestic violence than single or divorced women, and they are the victims of fewer acts of violent crime overall.[8]
  • Children raised in intact, married families with their biological mother and father experience a vast array of benefits that span the age spectrum and persist into their own adulthood, including achieving literacy, avoiding teenage pregnancy and juvenile crime, graduating from high school, and attaining marital success.[9]

The fracturing of a family is not the breaking of a single link in a chain but the opening of a hole in a protective net. One scholar has referred to five concentric “rings of community” that the family affects:(1) their unborn children, (2) kin or extended family, (3) the neighborhood, (4) the community of faith, and (5) the nation as community.[10] Damage to one of these rings affects all the others.

Marriage is a wealth-creating and wealth-preserving institution. One proximate result of its weakening has been the growth of government as substitute provider. As one prominent economist has remarked, “Deinstitutionalization of marriage will lead to an expansion of the size and scope of the state.”[11]

Decades of Failed Experiments

Current challenges to the primacy of marriage and family as well-established civil institutions are often premised on the assertion that they will inflict little damage beyond that done by previous changes in law and culture. Those prior experiments, however, bear witness to the unintended consequences of ill-considered changes in public policy.

No-Fault Divorce. Advocates of no-fault divorce assured policymakers that the impact on children would be minimal if not beneficial.[12] National studies of the children of that generation who are now adults provide a clearer picture, as do surveys of divorced adults.

While many marriages are not salvageable (particularly in the presence of abuse, adultery or addiction), a recent University of Texas study of ever-divorced spouses found that only a third of them felt that they had done enough to try to save their marriage.[13] Moreover, children of divorce disproportionately suffer from such maladies as depression, compromised health, childhood sexual abuse, arrests, and addiction.[14]

Welfare. The expanding programs of the Great Society, while well-intentioned and effective in meeting short-term needs for basic necessities, also had long-term and unwelcome effects on intact families.

Until welfare reform in 1996, anti-poverty initiatives in the United States contributed to the self-defeating financing of family breakdown. Marriage remains the primary route out of poverty for low-income couples, and children who grow up in single-parent homes are five times more likely to live in poverty than children in two-parent homes.[15]

In each of these instances, experiments with family form and support mechanisms have inadequately considered the needs of children. They have spurred calls for reform, frequently from the children themselves as they reach maturity. These calls remind policymakers that no period of family decline has proved inevitable or irreversible.

Go with What Works

The decline in the most fundamental indicators of the health of marriage over the past 40 years is real. Rather than risk further decline in this core institution of civil society through additional experiments with the nature of marriage, policymakers would be wise to turn their attention to reforms that capitalize on the lessons of prior eras.

Blueprints are proliferating for the strengthening of traditional marriage.[16] Attention to these blueprints should be the first concern of policymakers seeking the common good of a marriage-centered and child-focused culture. The well-being of this generation and of generations to come depends on their success.

Chuck Donovan is Senior Research Fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.


[1]Oxford University Press, “Marriage,” Compact Oxford English Dictionary, at http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/marriage?view=uk (January 11, 2010).

[2]U.S. Census Bureau, “Current Population Survey Definitions and Explanations,” at http://www.census.gov/population/www/cps/cpsdef.html (January 11, 2010).

[3]Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Conflict of Laws, cited in Matthew Spalding, We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2009), p. 157.

[4]Mindy E. Scott, Erin Schelar, Jennifer Manlove, and Carol Cui, “Young Adult Attitudes About Relationships and Marriage: Times May Have Changed, But Expectations Remain High,” Child Trends, July 2009, pp. 4-5, at http://www.childtrends.org/Files//Child_Trends-2009_07_08
_RB_YoungAdultAttitudes.pdf
(January 8, 2010).

[5]Frank Newport, “Desire to Have Children Alive and Well in America,” Gallup.com, August 19, 2003, at http://www.gallup.com/poll/9091/desire
-children-alive-well-america.aspx
(January 11, 2010).

[6]Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially (New York: Broadway, 2000), cited in the Witherspoon Institute, Marriage and the Public Good (Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute, 2006), p. 31.

[7]Jennifer Steinhauer, ‘Studies Find Big Benefits in Marriage,” The New York Times, April 10, 1995, A10, at http://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/10/us/studies
-find-big-benefits-in-marriage.html?pagewanted=1
(January 8, 2010).

[8]Witherspoon Institute, Marriage and the Public Good, p. 33.

[9]Ibid., pp. 22-29; see also, generally, Patrick F. Fagan, “Special Collection: Mapping America: Marriage, Family and the Common Good,” October 9, 2009, at http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=WX09J01 (January 9, 2010).

[10]Allan Carlson, Conjugal America: On the Public Purposes of America (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press, 2007), p. 42.

[11]Jennifer Roback Morse, “The Limited Government Case for Marriage,” in Jennifer A. Marshall and J. D. Foster, eds., Indivisible: Social and Economic Foundations of American Liberty (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 2009), p. 31.

[12]Elizabeth Marquardt, Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children and Divorce (New York: Crown Publishers, 2005), p. 169.

[13]Ibid., Norval Glenn, foreword, p. xxii.

[14]Ibid., p. 189.

[15]Robert Rector, “Reducing Poverty by Revitalizing Marriage in Low-Income Communities: A Memo to President-elect Obama,” Heritage Foundation Special Report No. 45, January 13, 2009, at http://www.heritage.org/
Research/Family/sr0045.cfm
.

[16]See especially David Blankenhorn and Linda Malone-Colon, The Marriage Index: A Proposal to Establish Leading Marriage Indicators (New York and Hampton, VA: Institute for American Values and National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting, 2009), pp. 14-22. The authors offer 101 specific ideas to strengthen the institution of marriage without alteration of its historical terms.

Marriage, Parentage, and the Constitution of the Family.

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False Allegations, Dishonest Tactics, What Does A Honest Parent To Do?

In Activism, Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, Marriage, Parents rights, Protective Dads, Restraining Orders on December 13, 2009 at 10:56 pm

False Allegations, Dishonest Tactics, What Does A Honest Parent To Do?

By: Ed Brooks

via False Allegations, Dishonest Tactics, What Does A Honest Parent To Do?.

Separation, Divorce and Parental Alienation Syndrome | Psychology Today

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Child Custody for Mothers, Child Support, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Feminism, kidnapped children, Liberty, Marriage, Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights on November 24, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Splitting up shouldn’t mean splitting the kids.

The term “splitting” refers to a familiar tactic often used by children to manipulate their parents — if Mommy says, “No.”, then go ask Daddy.

For parent couples in the throes of separation or divorce, the adult version of splitting — largely characterized by one parent vilifying the other in order to manipulate the children into choosing sides and, ultimately, alienating the other parent from them — can be much more insidious.

The children may, at first, be only pawns — tools for gaining some sense of leverage or perceived control — but, in due course, they can become nothing more than weapons of vengeance, unwitting victims of ego and arrogance.

We are not alone in our relationship, nor is our partner. Establishing any relationship is an act of social co-creation in which all parties must be both responsible to, and accountable for, their actions, inactions and the consequences held therein. To that point, a relationship – any relationship — demands cultivation; it doesn’t just happen.xxxx

Should a relationship break, it is vital that both parties step back, take a moment to examine their personal role in that break, and hold onto that self-revelation. When the break is something not mutually agreed upon, the “wronged partner” – a term used quite loosely here – in denial and ignorance of their own responsibility, will often attempt to exercise some means for regaining a perceived semblance of control.

When benign, these means can appear as gestures of reconciliation, promises of change, pleas to seek counseling and all manner of self-effacing behavior. In instances more menacing, money is hidden; credit cards cancelled; documents disappear; cell phones are checked; computers scoured and private detectives hired, even when there is nothing to detect. A pattern of latent abuse [1, 2] emerges, escalating from a point somewhat removed from normal, to one that veers dangerously close to pathological.

These efforts to regain control are often fruitless; mostly because they are generally an illusion in the first place. Their abject futility, however, can foster a further, even more ominous, escalation – the co-opting of social connections. Friends, family, co-workers – anyone who will listen to the spinning of fantastical yarns that describe the evils of the other is approached, for good, ill or indifference.

Couched within this drama of social distortion, the saddest moment of all can come when an otherwise reasonable adult utters to a child fateful words that might go something like, “I don’t want a divorce. This is all your mother’s idea. She’s just a selfish bitch.” In that moment, in an ego-driven and one way war of wills, the child becomes so much collateral damage.

The mechanism of parental alienation is fueled by a gross failure of emotional intelligence, and further compelled by the anger and resentment of ego. It is roundly destructive to everyone involved; disrupting or destroying familial connections, rending the fabric of the post-marital relationship and effectively compromising any chance at successful co-parenting.

Indeed, the most oppressive aspect of parental alienation is that it creates a false issue — or set of false issues — for children whom it is very likely do not have the social or emotional intelligence to discriminate between fact and fancy. The inaccuracies and misinformation proffered by one parent in service of discrediting the other shakes the very foundations of a child’s model of the world, leaving them stranded outside the bounds of the very structure and consistency upon which they thrive.

Children caught up in this system of abuse [1, 2] are subject to a campaign of unjustified and unjustifiable denigration focused on one parent and perpetrated by the other. In mild cases, there is some programming fostered on the part of the alienating parent, but, all in all, relationships remain intact.

In moderate cases of parental alienation , the level of programming escalates, introducing two artifacts – firstly, the relationship with the targeted parent is more disrupted, created anxiety for the kids and, second, the children become co-opted into the alienating parent’s system of unjustified accusation and begin to believe it, causing a whole separate set of psychosocial issues for them.

In severe cases, the programming has taken hold and the child/children come to develop an irrational and unfounded hatred of the targeted parent, often disrupting the parent/child bond to the point of breaking.

While this all sounds like a horribly Machiavellian system of social pathology – and, at its worst, it is — some space needs to be held for the unintentional or naïve alienation fostered by simple resentment and frustration. Snarky remarks about financial matters, living arrangements or general behavior not personally directed at the other parent constitute a sort of indirect and somewhat unintentional alienation that a child may or may not take to heart.

A more active, and destructive, form of this is compassed by critical comments that remind a child about past disappointments or situations that had negative outcomes. It might also include more personal attacks on character, or descriptions of alleged (and typically false) activities that would reflect on character.

In severe cases, attempts at alienation are obsessive and irrational. The alienating parent literally subjugates the child, enmeshing them in their own irrational belief system and making it virtually impossible for them to think for themselves. The child is interjected into the social reality of the targeted parent as the mouthpiece of hatred for the alienating parent and, objectified in this way, becomes nothing more – and nothing less – than a weapon of social and emotional destruction.

The take away here is fairly straightforward — if we can’t figure out how to be married, fine, but, with children involved, we need to figure out how to be divorced; and certainly not at the expense of the children’s state of mind simply for our own small, petty and vindictive satisfactions.

So, play nice — and if you see this happening or catch yourself doing it, either speak up, or knock it off. In the end, it serves no one and the only ones who suffer are the kids.

References

Gardner, R.A. (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition, Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.

© 2009 Michael J. Formica , All Rights Reserved

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Separation, Divorce and Parental Alienation Syndrome | Psychology Today.

A World Without Courtship is a World of Divorce

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Child Custody for Mothers, Child Support, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, due process rights, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Feminism, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Protective Dads, Protective Parents, Restraining Orders, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, Single Moms, Single Parenting, Sociopath on September 18, 2009 at 11:13 pm

A World Without Courtship is a World of Divorce

by Colleen Hammond on September 17, 2009

A Washington Post column with real world statistics showing that there’s a lot of damage to people and society in 20-somethings’ sexual wasteland.

Full column here.

There is a segment of society for whom traditional family values are increasingly irrelevant, and for whom spring-break sexual liberationism is increasingly costly: men and women in their 20s.

This opens a hormone-filled gap — a decade and more of likely sexual activity before marriage. And for those in that gap, there is little helpful guidance from the broader culture. Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, argues that the “courtship narrative” in the past was clear: dating, engagement, marriage, children. This narrative has been disrupted without being replaced, leaving many 20-somethings in a “relational wasteland.”

The casual sex promoted in advertising and entertainment often leads, in the real world of fragile hearts and STDs, to emotional and physical wreckage. But it doesn’t seem realistic to expect most men and women to delay sex until marriage at 26 or 28. Such virtue is both admirable and possible — but it can hardly be a general social expectation. So religious institutions, for example, often avoid this thorny topic, content to live with silence, hypocrisy and active singles groups.

In the absence of a courtship narrative, young people have evolved a casual, ad hoc version of their own: cohabitation. From 1960 to 2007, the number of Americans cohabiting increased fourteenfold. For some, it is a test-drive for marriage. For others, it is an easier, low-commitment alternative to marriage. About 40 percent of children will now spend some of their childhood in a cohabiting union.

How is this working out? Not very well. Relationships defined by lower levels of commitment are, not unexpectedly, more likely to break up. Three-quarters of children born to cohabiting parents will see their parents split up by the time they turn 16, compared with about one-third of children born to married parents. So apart from the counsel of cold showers or “let the good times roll,” is there any good advice for those traversing the relational wilderness? Religion and morality contribute ideals of character. But social science also indicates some rough, practical wisdom.

First, while it may not be realistic to maintain the connection between marriage and sex, it remains essential to maintain the connection between marriage and childbearing. Marriage is the most effective institution to bind two parents for a long period in the common enterprise of raising a child — particularly encouraging fathers to invest time and attention in the lives of their children. And the fatherless are some of the most disadvantaged, betrayed people in our society, prone to delinquency, poverty and academic failure. Cohabitation is no place for children.

Second, the age of first marriage is important to marital survival and happiness. Teen marriage is generally a bad idea, with much higher rates of divorce. Romeo and Juliet were, in fact, young fools. Later marriage has been one of the reasons for declining national divorce rates. But this does not mean the later the better. Divorce rates trend downward until leveling off in the early 20s. But people who marry after 27 tend to have less happy marriages — perhaps because partners are set in their ways or have unrealistically high standards. The marital sweet spot seems to be in the early to mid-20s.

Third, having a series of low-commitment relationships does not bode well for later marital commitment. Some of this expresses preexisting traits — people who already have a “nontraditional” view of commitment are less likely to be committed in marriage. But there is also evidence, according to Wilcox, that multiple failed relationships can “poison one’s view of the opposite sex.” Serial cohabitation trains people for divorce. In contrast, cohabitation by engaged couples seems to have no adverse effect on eventual marriage.

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De Facto Parents

In Activism, Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, Feminism, Foster CAre Abuse, Freedom, Homosexual Agenda, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Marriage, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parentectomy, Parents rights on September 12, 2009 at 12:00 pm

De Facto Parents

Now children can have multiple legal parents without biology, adoption, or marriage.

By William C. Duncan
In Revolution, Herbert Jacob described how one of the most significant changes to family law in the 20th century, no-fault divorce, began in California and spread through the states with very little public debate or controversy. This remarkable transformation was presented, and largely accepted, as routine policymaking in the domain of legal experts.

Similarly, a revolution in the legal understanding of parenthood seems to have quietly begun with little or no public debate or discussion. This dramatically transformative development is the statutory recognition of “de facto” parenthood — the notion that an unrelated individual (usually the unmarried partner of a biological parent, but potentially any adult) can be designated as the legal “parent” of a child by virtue of an agreement with a biological or adoptive parent, or even just a relationship with the child. In some cases, three or more people may be designated “parents” of the same child. While a handful of state courts have endorsed the idea in the context of disputes between same-sex couples jointly raising children, not until very recently has a legislature endorsed it.

This year, the District of Columbia Council passed a law allowing biological parents’ registered domestic partners to be presumed parents, and to be listed as such on the children’s birth certificates. The law also allows a person to be legally designated a parent if he consents in writing to the artificial insemination of his partner, or if he “hold[s] out” the child as his own—that is, presents the child as his to others. (D.C. already had a law allowing people to sue for child custody if they could show they had acted as “de facto” parents (D.C. Code 16-831.01).)

Then, last month, the Delaware legislature went even farther when it enacted legislation giving state courts the ability to designate a non-parent as a “de facto” parent (with all the legal ramifications of parenthood) as long as the biological parent of a child “fosters” a “parent-like relationship” between the non-parent and the child, and as long as the “de facto” parent has acted like a parent and bonded with the child in a way that is “parental in nature.”

The Delaware law completely untethers legal parentage from biology, marriage, adoption, and even the relationship between the adults who are the child’s legal “parents.” It also abandons the binary nature of legal parenthood by allowing three or more adults to be designated “parents” of a child at the same time.

Like the no-fault revolution, de facto parenthood has its boosters, and they seem to be increasingly influential. Prof. Nancy Polikoff, who advocates the erasure of legal distinctions between households based on marriage and those based on other arrangements, has written extensively and approvingly of these developments and suggests that they ought to be more widely adopted. The prestigious American Law Institute has also endorsed the “de facto” parent idea in the context of the law regarding family breakups.

These changes, however, are radical. The default rules for establishing legal parenthood — which were nearly universally recognized until now — recognize individuals as parents based on (1) biological parenthood, (2) marriage to a parent, or (3) adoption. These clear laws advance the interests of children to know and be raised by their biological parents whenever possible. The one significant exception, adoption, largely imitates the biological mother-father model, thus allowing a child who cannot be raised by his own parents to at least be raised by a mother and father. By limiting the number of people who can claim parental authority, the default rules promote stability and consistency for children.

Existing law also ensures that when natural parents transfer their legal rights, there are “bright lines” governing the process. Thus, parental rights are only terminated when there is clear evidence of unfitness, or when a parent voluntarily relinquishes them through a formal procedure like adoption (including adoption by stepparents).

These rules also enhance children’s best interests because a biological tie between parents and children “increase[s] the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child,” as Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur wrote in Growing Up with a Single Parent. It is clear that living with a cohabiting couple increases risks of abuse and maltreatment for children, and that unrelated males living with children are more likely to abuse those children.

It is also not hard to imagine the chaos likely to result when the relationship between three or more “de facto” parents breaks up and courts are called upon to dole out parental rights and responsibilities to each person. Children have a hard enough time navigating between two worlds after divorce. Imagine the difficulty of being shuttled between the homes of a mother, her former partner, a sperm donor, his partner, etc.

Perhaps most fundamentally, these trends treat children as acquisitions, ignoring their needs for relationships with their parents and for substitute arrangements when those relationships are disrupted. The idea of de facto parenthood legally facilitates the creation of motherless or fatherless homes, based not on children’s needs but on adult desires. In adopting these laws, states are saying that parentage can be created by a bargain between two or more adults.

Needless to say, these developments and their philosophical underpinnings should be met with stiff opposition. That is likely only if people are aware such developments are taking place. That has not been the case to this point. As the promoters of “de facto” parenthood begin to take their arguments to other legislatures, there must be a more robust debate and response. Our children deserve at least that much.

— William C. Duncan is director of the Marriage Law Foundation.

De Facto Parents by William C. Duncan on National Review Online.

The Evolution of Divorce

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Feminism, Foster Care, Homosexual Agenda, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Marriage, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Restraining Orders, Single Moms, Single Parenting on September 11, 2009 at 6:15 pm

The Evolution of Divorce

W. BRADFORD WILCOX

In 1969, Governor Ronald Reagan of California made what he later admitted was one of the biggest mistakes of his political life. Seeking to eliminate the strife and deception often associated with the legal regime of fault-based divorce, Reagan signed the nation’s first no-fault divorce bill. The new law eliminated the need for couples to fabricate spousal wrongdoing in pursuit of a divorce; indeed, one likely reason for Reagan’s decision to sign the bill was that his first wife, Jane Wyman, had unfairly accused him of “mental cruelty” to obtain a divorce in 1948. But no-fault divorce also gutted marriage of its legal power to bind husband and wife, allowing one spouse to dissolve a marriage for any reason — or for no reason at all.

In the decade and a half that followed, virtually every state in the Union followed California’s lead and enacted a no-fault divorce law of its own. This legal transformation was only one of the more visible signs of the divorce revolution then sweeping the United States: From 1960 to 1980, the divorce rate more than doubled — from 9.2 divorces per 1,000 married women to 22.6 divorces per 1,000 married women. This meant that while less than 20% of couples who married in 1950 ended up divorced, about 50% of couples who married in 1970 did. And approximately half of the children born to married parents in the 1970s saw their parents part, compared to only about 11% of those born in the 1950s.

In the years since 1980, however, these trends have not continued on straight upward paths, and the story of divorce has grown increasingly complicated. In the case of divorce, as in so many others, the worst consequences of the social revolution of the 1960s and ’70s are now felt disproportionately by the poor and less educated, while the wealthy elites who set off these transformations in the first place have managed to reclaim somewhat healthier and more stable habits of married life. This imbalance leaves our cultural and political elites less well attuned to the magnitude of social dysfunction in much of American society, and leaves the most vulnerable Americans — especially children living in poor and working-class communities — even worse off than they would otherwise be.

THE RISE OF DIVORCE

The divorce revolution of the 1960s and ’70s was over-determined. The nearly universal introduction of no-fault divorce helped to open the floodgates, especially because these laws facilitated unilateral divorce and lent moral legitimacy to the dissolution of marriages. The sexual revolution, too, fueled the marital tumult of the times: Spouses found it easier in the Swinging Seventies to find extramarital partners, and came to have higher, and often unrealistic, expectations of their marital relationships. Increases in women’s employment as well as feminist consciousness-raising also did their part to drive up the divorce rate, as wives felt freer in the late ’60s and ’70s to leave marriages that were abusive or that they found unsatisfying.

The anti-institutional tenor of the age also meant that churches lost much of their moral authority to reinforce the marital vow. It didn’t help that many mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders were caught up in the zeitgeist, and lent explicit or implicit support to the divorce revolution sweeping across American society. This accomodationist mentality was evident in a 1976 pronouncement issued by the United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination in America. The statement read in part:

In marriages where the partners are, even after thoughtful reconsideration and counsel, estranged beyond reconciliation, we recognize divorce and the right of divorced persons to remarry, and express our concern for the needs of the children of such unions. To this end we encourage an active, accepting, and enabling commitment of the Church and our society to minister to the needs of divorced persons.

Most important, the psychological revolution of the late ’60s and ’70s, which was itself fueled by a post-war prosperity that allowed people to give greater attention to non-material concerns, played a key role in reconfiguring men and women’s views of marriage and family life. Prior to the late 1960s, Americans were more likely to look at marriage and family through the prisms of duty, obligation, and sacrifice. A successful, happy home was one in which intimacy was an important good, but by no means the only one in view. A decent job, a well-maintained home, mutual spousal aid, child-rearing, and shared religious faith were seen almost universally as the goods that marriage and family life were intended to advance.

But the psychological revolution’s focus on individual fulfillment and personal growth changed all that. Increasingly, marriage was seen as a vehicle for a self-oriented ethic of romance, intimacy, and fulfillment. In this new psychological approach to married life, one’s primary obligation was not to one’s family but to one’s self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one’s spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage — usually to be found in and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse. The 1970s marked the period when, for many Americans, a more institutional model of marriage gave way to the “soul-mate model” of marriage.

Of course, the soul-mate model was much more likely to lead couples to divorce court than was the earlier institutional model of marriage. Now, those who felt they were in unfulfilling marriages also felt obligated to divorce in order to honor the newly widespread ethic of expressive individualism. As social historian Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has observed of this period, “divorce was not only an individual right but also a psychological resource. The dissolution of marriage offered the chance to make oneself over from the inside out, to refurbish and express the inner self, and to acquire certain valuable psychological assets and competencies, such as initiative, assertiveness, and a stronger and better self-image.”

But what about the children? In the older, institutional model of marriage, parents were supposed to stick together for their sake. The view was that divorce could leave an indelible emotional scar on children, and would also harm their social and economic future. Yet under the new soul-mate model of marriage, divorce could be an opportunity for growth not only for adults but also for their offspring. The view was that divorce could protect the emotional welfare of children by allowing their parents to leave marriages in which they felt unhappy. In 1962, as Whitehead points out in her book The Divorce Culture, about half of American women agreed with the idea that “when there are children in the family parents should stay together even if they don’t get along.” By 1977, only 20% of American women held this view.

At the height of the divorce revolution in the 1970s, many scholars, therapists, and journalists served as enablers of this kind of thinking. These elites argued that children were resilient in the face of divorce; that children could easily find male role models to replace absent fathers; and that children would be happier if their parents were able to leave unhappy marriages. In 1979, one prominent scholar wrote in the Journal of Divorce that divorce even held “growth potential” for mothers, as they could enjoy “increased personal autonomy, a new sense of competence and control, [and the] development of better relationships with [their] children.” And in 1974’s The Courage to Divorce, social workers Susan Gettleman and Janet Markowitz argued that boys need not be harmed by the absence of their fathers: “When fathers are not available, friends, relatives, teachers and counselors can provide ample opportunity for youngsters to model themselves after a like-sexed adult.”

Thus, by the time the 1970s came to a close, many Americans — rich and poor alike — had jettisoned the institutional model of married life that prioritized the welfare of children, and which sought to discourage divorce in all but the most dire of circumstances. Instead, they embraced the soul-mate model of married life, which prioritized the emotional welfare of adults and gave moral permission to divorce for virtually any reason.

THE MORNING AFTER

Thirty years later, the myth of the good divorce has not stood up well in the face of sustained social scientific inquiry — especially when one considers the welfare of children exposed to their parents’ divorces.

Since 1974, about 1 million children per year have seen their parents divorce — and children who are exposed to divorce are two to three times more likely than their peers in intact marriages to suffer from serious social or psychological pathologies. In their book Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur found that 31% of adolescents with divorced parents dropped out of high school, compared to 13% of children from intact families. They also concluded that 33% of adolescent girls whose parents divorced became teen mothers, compared to 11% of girls from continuously married families. And McLanahan and her colleagues have found that 11% of boys who come from divorced families end up spending time in prison before the age of 32, compared to 5% of boys who come from intact homes.

Research also indicates that remarriage is no salve for children wounded by divorce. Indeed, as sociologist Andrew Cherlin notes in his important new book, The Marriage-Go-Round, “children whose parents have remarried do not have higher levels of well-being than children in lone-parent families.” The reason? Often, the establishment of a step-family results in yet another move for a child, requiring adjustment to a new caretaker and new step-siblings — all of which can be difficult for children, who tend to thrive on stability.

The divorce revolution’s collective consequences for children are striking. Taking into account both divorce and non-marital childbearing, sociologist Paul Amato estimates that if the United States enjoyed the same level of family stability today as it did in 1960, the nation would have 750,000 fewer children repeating grades, 1.2 million fewer school suspensions, approximately 500,000 fewer acts of teenage delinquency, about 600,000 fewer kids receiving therapy, and approximately 70,000 fewer suicides every year. As Amato concludes, turning back the family-­stability clock just a few decades could significantly improve the lives of many children.

Skeptics confronted with this kind of research often argue that it is unfair to compare children of divorce to children from intact, married households. They contend that it is the conflict that precedes the divorce, rather than the divorce itself, that is likely to be particularly traumatic for children. Amato’s work suggests that the skeptics have a point: In cases where children are exposed to high levels of conflict — like domestic violence or screaming matches between parents — they do seem to do better if their parents part.

But more than two-thirds of all parental divorces do not involve such highly conflicted marriages. And “unfortunately, these are the very divorces that are most likely to be stressful for children,” as Amato and Alan Booth, his colleague at Penn State University, point out. When children see their parents divorce because they have simply drifted apart — or because one or both parents have become unhappy or left to pursue another ­partner — the kids’ faith in love, commitment, and marriage is often shattered. In the wake of their parents’ divorce, children are also likely to experience a family move, marked declines in their family income, a stressed-out single mother, and substantial periods of paternal absence — all factors that put them at risk. In other words, the clear majority of divorces involving children in America are not in the best interests of the children.

Not surprisingly, the effects of divorce on adults are more ambiguous. From an emotional and social perspective, about 20% of divorced adults find their lives enhanced and another 50% seem to suffer no long-term ill effects, according to research by psychologist Mavis Hetherington. Adults who initiated a divorce are especially likely to report that they are flourishing afterward, or are at least doing just fine.

Spouses who were unwilling parties to a unilateral divorce, however, tend to do less well. And the ill effects of divorce for adults tend to fall disproportionately on the shoulders of fathers. Since approximately two-thirds of divorces are legally initiated by women, men are more likely than women to be divorced against their will. In many cases, these men have not engaged in egregious marital misconduct such as abuse, adultery, or substance abuse. They feel mistreated by their ex-wives and by state courts that no longer take into account marital “fault” when making determinations about child custody, child support, and the division of marital property. Yet in the wake of a divorce, these men will nevertheless often lose their homes, a substantial share of their monthly incomes, and regular contact with their children. For these men, and for women caught in similar circumstances, the sting of an unjust divorce can lead to downward emotional spirals, difficulties at work, and serious deteriorations in the quality of their relationships with their children.

Looking beyond the direct effects of divorce on adults and children, it is also important to note the ways in which widespread divorce has eroded the institution of marriage — particularly, its assault on the quality, prevalence, and stability of marriage in American life.

In the 1970s, proponents of easy divorce argued that the ready availability of divorce would boost the quality of married life, as abused, unfulfilled, or otherwise unhappy spouses were allowed to leave their marriages. Had they been correct, we would expect to see that Americans’ reports of marital quality had improved during and after the 1970s. Instead, marital quality fell during the ’70s and early ’80s. In the early 1970s, 70% of married men and 67% of married women reported being very happy in their marriages; by the early ’80s, these figures had fallen to 63% for men and 62% for women. So marital quality dropped even as divorce rates were reaching record highs.

What happened? It appears that average marriages suffered during this time, as widespread divorce undermined ordinary couples’ faith in marital permanency and their ability to invest financially and emotionally in their marriages — ultimately casting clouds of doubt over their relationships. For instance, one study by economist Betsey Stevenson found that investments in marital partnerships declined in the wake of no-fault divorce laws. Specifically, she found that newlywed couples in states that passed no-fault divorce were about 10% less likely to support a spouse through college or graduate school and were 6% less likely to have a child together. Ironically, then, the widespread availability of easy divorce not only enabled “bad” marriages to be weeded out, but also made it more difficult for “good” marriages to take root and flourish.

Second, marriage rates have fallen and cohabitation rates have surged in the wake of the divorce revolution, as men and women’s faith in marriage has been shaken. From 1960 to 2007, the percentage of American women who were married fell from 66% to 51%, and the percentage of men who were married fell from 69% to 55%. Yet at the same time, the number of cohabiting couples increased fourteen-fold — from 439,000 to more than 6.4 million. Because of these increases in cohabitation, about 40% of American children will spend some time in a cohabiting union; 20% of babies are now born to cohabiting couples. And because cohabiting unions are much less stable than marriages, the vast majority of the children born to cohabiting couples will see their parents break up by the time they turn 15.

A recent Bowling Green State University study of the motives for cohabitation found that young men and women who choose to cohabit are seeking alternatives to marriage and ways of testing a relationship to see if it might be safely transformed into a marriage — with both rationales clearly shaped by a fear of divorce. One young man told the researchers that living together allows you to “get to know the person and their habits before you get married. So that way, you won’t have to get divorced.” Another said that an advantage of cohabitation is that you “don’t have to go through the divorce process if you do want to break up, you don’t have to pay lawyers and have to deal with splitting everything and all that jazz.”

My own research confirms the connection between divorce and cohabitation in America. Specifically, data from the General Social Survey indicate that adult children of divorce are 61% more likely than adult children from married families to endorse the notion that it is a “good idea for a couple who intend to get married to live together first.” Likewise, adult children of divorce are 47% more likely to be currently cohabiting, compared to those who were raised in intact, married families. Thus divorce has played a key role in reducing marriage and increasing cohabitation, which now exists as a viable competitor to marriage in the organization of sex, intimacy, childbearing, and even child-rearing.

Third, the divorce revolution has contributed to an intergenerational cycle of divorce. Work by demographer Nicholas Wolfinger indicates that the adult children of divorce are now 89% more likely to divorce themselves, compared to adults who were raised in intact, married families. Children of divorce who marry other children of divorce are especially likely to end up divorced, according to Wolfinger’s work. Of course, the reason children of divorce — especially children of low-conflict divorce — are more likely to end their marriages is precisely that they have often learned all the wrong lessons about trust, commitment, mutual sacrifice, and fidelity from their parents.

THE DIVORCE DIVIDE

Clearly, the divorce revolution of the 1960s and ’70s left a poisonous legacy. But what has happened since? Where do we stand today on the question of marriage and divorce? A survey of the landscape presents a decidedly mixed portrait of contemporary married life in America.

The good news is that, on the whole, divorce has declined since 1980 and marital happiness has largely stabilized. The divorce rate fell from a historic high of 22.6 divorces per 1,000 married women in 1980 to 17.5 in 2007. In real terms, this means that slightly more than 40% of contemporary first marriages are likely to end in divorce, down from approximately 50% in 1980. Perhaps even more important, recent declines in divorce suggest that a clear majority of children who are now born to married couples will grow up with their married mothers and fathers.

Similarly, the decline in marital happiness associated with the tidal wave of divorce in the 1960s and ’70s essentially stopped more than two decades ago. Men’s marital happiness hovered around 63% from the early 1980s to the mid-2000s, while women’s marital happiness fell just a bit, from 62% in the early 1980s to 60% in the mid-2000s.

This good news can be explained largely by three key factors. First, the age at first marriage has risen. In 1970, the median age of marriage was 20.8 for women and 23.2 for men; in 2007, it was 25.6 for women and 27.5 for men. This means that fewer Americans are marrying when they are too immature to forge successful marriages. (It is true that some of the increase in age at first marriage is linked to cohabitation, but not the bulk of it.)

Second, the views of academic and professional experts about divorce and family breakdown have changed significantly in recent decades. Social-science data about the consequences of divorce have moved many scholars across the political spectrum to warn against continuing the divorce revolution, and to argue that intact families are essential, especially to the well-being of children. Here is a characteristic example, from a recent publication by a group of scholars at the Brookings Institution and Princeton University:

Marriage provides benefits both to children and to society. Although it was once possible to believe that the nation’s high rates of divorce, cohabitation, and nonmarital childbearing represented little more than lifestyle alternatives brought about by the freedom to pursue individual self-fulfillment, many analysts now believe that these individual choices can be damaging to the children who have no say in them and to the society that enables them.

Although certainly not all scholars, therapists, policymakers, and journalists would agree that contemporary levels of divorce and family breakdown are cause for worry, a much larger share of them expresses concern about the health of marriage in America — and about America’s high level of divorce — than did so in the 1970s. These views seep into the popular consciousness and influence behavior — just as they did in the 1960s and ’70s, when academic and professional experts carried the banner of the divorce revolution.

A third reason for the stabilization in divorce rates and marital happiness is not so heartening. Put simply, marriage is increasingly the preserve of the highly educated and the middle and upper classes. Fewer working-class and poor Americans are marrying nowadays in part because marriage is seen increasingly as a sort of status symbol: a sign that a couple has arrived both emotionally and financially, or is at least within range of the American Dream. This means that those who do marry today are more likely to start out enjoying the money, education, job security, and social skills that increase the probability of long-term marital success.

And this is where the bad news comes in. When it comes to divorce and marriage, America is increasingly divided along class and educational lines. Even as divorce in general has declined since the 1970s, what sociologist Steven Martin calls a “divorce divide” has also been growing between those with college degrees and those without (a distinction that also often translates to differences in income). The figures are quite striking: College-educated Americans have seen their divorce rates drop by about 30% since the early 1980s, whereas Americans without college degrees have seen their divorce rates increase by about 6%. Just under a quarter of college-educated couples who married in the early 1970s divorced in their first ten years of marriage, compared to 34% of their less-educated peers. Twenty years later, only 17% of college-­educated couples who married in the early 1990s divorced in their first ten years of marriage; 36% of less-educated couples who married in the early 1990s, however, divorced sometime in their first decade of marriage.

This growing divorce divide means that college-educated married couples are now about half as likely to divorce as their less-educated peers. Well-educated spouses who come from intact families, who enjoy annual incomes over $60,000, and who conceive their first child in ­wedlock — as many college-educated couples do — have exceedingly low rates of divorce.

Similar trends can be observed in measures of marital quality. For instance, if we look at married couples aged 18-60, 72% of spouses who were both college-educated and 65% of spouses who were both less-educated reported that they were “very happy” in their marriages in the 1970s, according to the General Social Survey. In the 2000s, marital happiness remained high among college-educated spouses, as 70% continued to report that they were “very happy” in their marriages. But marital happiness fell among less-educated spouses: Only 56% reported that they were “very happy” in their marriages in the 2000s.

Wilcox Figure

These trends are mirrored in American illegitimacy statistics. Although one would never guess as much from the regular New York Times features on successful single women having children, non-marital childbearing is quite rare among college-educated women. According to a 2007 Child Trends study, only 7% of mothers with a college degree had a child outside of marriage, compared to more than 50% of mothers who had not gone to college.

So why are marriage and traditional child-rearing making a modest comeback in the upper reaches of society while they continue to unravel among those with less money and less education? Both cultural and economic forces are at work, each helping to widen the divorce and marriage divide in America.

First, while it was once the case that working-class and poor Americans held more conservative views of divorce than their middle- and upper-class peers, this is no longer so. For instance, a 2004 National Fatherhood Initiative poll of American adults aged 18-60 found that 52% of college-­educated Americans endorsed the norm that in the “absence of violence and extreme conflict, parents who have an unsatisfactory marriage should stay together until their children are grown.” But only 35% of less-educated Americans surveyed endorsed the same viewpoint.

Likewise, according to my analysis of the General Social Survey, in the 1970s only 36% of college-educated Americans thought divorce should be “more difficult to obtain than it is now,” compared to 46% of less-educated Americans. By the 2000s, 49% of college-educated Americans thought divorce laws should be tightened, compared to 48% of less-­educated ­Americans. Views of marriage have been growing more conservative among elites, but not among the poor and the less educated.

Second, the changing cultural meaning of marriage has also made it less necessary and less attractive to working-class and poor Americans. Prior to the 1960s, when the older, institutional model of marriage dominated popular consciousness, marriage was the only legitimate venue for having sex, bearing and raising children, and enjoying an intimate relationship. Moreover, Americans generally saw marriage as an institution that was about many more goods than a high-quality emotional relationship. Therefore, it made sense for all men and women — regardless of socioeconomic status — to get and stay married.

Yet now that the institutional model has lost its hold over the lives of American adults, sex, children, and intimacy can be had outside of ­marriage. All that remains unique to marriage today is the prospect of that high-quality emotional bond — the soul-mate model. As a result, marriage is now disproportionately appealing to wealthier, better-­educated couples, because less-educated, less-wealthy couples often do not have the emotional, social, and financial resources to enjoy a high-quality soul-mate marriage.

The qualitative research of sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, for instance, shows that lower-income couples are much more likely to struggle with conflict, infidelity, and substance abuse than their higher-income peers, especially as the economic position of working-class men has grown more precarious since the 1970s. Because of shifts away from industrial employment and toward service occupations, real wages and employment rates have dropped markedly for working-class men, but not for college-educated men. For instance, from 1973 to 2007, real wages of men with a college degree rose 18%; by contrast, the wages of high-school-educated men fell 11%. Likewise, in 1970, 96% of men aged 25-64 with high-school degrees or with college degrees were employed. By 2003, employment had fallen only to 93% for college-­educated men of working age. But for working-aged men with only high-school degrees, labor-force participation had fallen to 84%, according to research by economist Francine Blau. These trends indicate that less-educated men have, in economic terms, become much less attractive as providers for their female peers than have college-educated men.

In other words, the soul-mate model of marriage does not extend equal marital opportunities. It therefore makes sense that fewer poor Americans would take on the responsibilities of modern married life, knowing that they are unlikely to reap its rewards.

The emergence of the divorce and marriage divide in America exacerbates a host of other social problems. The breakdown of marriage in ­working-class and poor communities has played a major role in fueling poverty and inequality, for instance. Isabel Sawhill at the Brookings Institution has concluded that virtually all of the increase in child poverty in the United States since the 1970s can be attributed to family breakdown. Meanwhile, the dissolution of marriage in working-class and poor communities has also fueled the growth of government, as federal, state, and local governments spend more money on police, prisons, welfare, and court costs, trying to pick up the pieces of broken families. Economist Ben Scafidi recently found that the public costs of family breakdown exceed $112 billion a year.

Moreover, children in single-parent homes are more likely to be exposed to Hollywood’s warped vision of sex, relationships, and family life. For instance, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children in single-parent homes devote almost 45 minutes more per day to watching television than children in two-parent homes. Given the distorted nature of the popular culture’s family-related messages, and the unorthodox family relationships of celebrity role models, this means that children in single-parent families are even less likely to develop a healthy understanding of marriage and family life — and are therefore less likely to have a positive vision of their own marital future.

Thus, the fallout of America’s retreat from marriage has hit poor and working-class communities especially hard, with children on the lower end of the economic spectrum doubly disadvantaged by the material and marital circumstances of their parents.

STRENGHTENING MARRIAGE

There are no magic cures for the growing divorce divide in America. But a few modest policy measures could offer some much-needed help.

First, the states should reform their divorce laws. A return to fault-based divorce is almost certainly out of the question as a political matter, but some plausible common-sense reforms could nonetheless inject a measure of sanity into our nation’s divorce laws. States should combine a one-year waiting period for married parents seeking a divorce with programs that educate those parents about the likely social and emotional consequences of their actions for their children. State divorce laws should also allow courts to factor in spousal conduct when making decisions about alimony, child support, custody, and property division. In particular, spouses who are being divorced against their will, and who have not engaged in egregious misbehavior such as abuse, adultery, or abandonment, should be given preferential treatment by family courts. Such consideration would add a measure of justice to the current divorce process; it would also discourage some divorces, as spouses who would otherwise seek an easy exit might avoid a divorce that would harm them financially or limit their access to their children.

Second, Congress should extend the federal Healthy Marriage Initiative. In 2006, as part of President George W. Bush’s marriage initiative, Congress passed legislation allocating $100 million a year for five years to more than 100 programs designed to strengthen marriage and ­family ­relationships in America — especially among low-income couples. As Kathryn Edin of Harvard has noted, many of these programs are equipping poor and working-class couples with the relational skills that their better-educated peers rely upon to sustain their marriages. In the next year or two, many of these programs will be evaluated; the most successful programs serving poor and working-class communities should receive additional funding, and should be used as models for new programs to serve these communities. New ideas — like additional social-marketing campaigns on behalf of marriage, on the model of those undertaken to discourage smoking — should also be explored through the initiative.

Third, the federal government should expand the child tax credit. Raising children is expensive, and has become increasingly so, given rising college and health-care costs. Yet the real value of federal tax deductions for children has fallen considerably since the 1960s. To remedy this state of affairs, Ramesh Ponnuru and Robert Stein have proposed expanding the current child tax credit from $1,000 to $5,000 and making it fully refundable against both income and payroll taxes. A reform along those lines would provide a significant measure of financial relief to working-class and middle-class families, and would likely strengthen their increasingly fragile marriages.

Of course, none of these reforms of law and policy alone is likely to exercise a transformative influence on the quality and stability of marriage in America. Such fixes must be accompanied by changes in the wider culture. Parents, churches, schools, public officials, and the entertainment industry will have to do a better job of stressing the merits of a more institutional model of marriage. This will be particularly important for poor and working-class young adults, who are drifting away from marriage the fastest.

This is a tall order, to say the least. But if our society is genuinely interested in protecting and improving the welfare of children — especially children in our nation’s most vulnerable communities — we must strengthen marriage and reduce the incidence of divorce in America. The unthinkable alternative is a nation divided more and more by class and marital ­status, and children doubly disadvantaged by poverty and single parenthood. Surely no one believes that such a state of affairs is in the national interest.

W. Bradford Wilcox is the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and a senior fellow at the Institute for American Values.

The Evolution of Divorce > Publications > National Affairs.

“The Medea Complex and the Parental Alienation Syndrome: When Mothers Damage Their Daughter’s Ability to Love a Man”

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, child abuse, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Children and Domestic Violence, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Violence, family court, Family Court Reform, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Marriage, Non-custodial fathers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome on September 9, 2009 at 7:21 pm

“The Medea Complex and the Parental Alienation Syndrome: When Mothers Damage Their Daughter’s Ability to Love a Man”

by Robert M. Gordon, Ph.D.
When doing custody evaluations, I am often struck by the frequency in which mothers aggress against their children’s fathers by turning their children against him. In the process, they do great harm to their children.

As a therapist, I am often struck by the resistance of patients who were brainwashed as children against a parent. I believe that brainwashing by a mother is both more common and more powerful than that of a father, since the child’s bond with the mother is more intense and primitive.

Such brainwashing and alienation usually leads to a life long problem with establishing and maintaining a healthy intimacy. Their mother’s perception and definition of their fathers, if programmed at an early age becomes a core fundamental belief, and if questioned, the person’s core sense of reality seems shaken; “If my mother lied to me about my father, then can I trust her love for me?” Thus there is a great deal of resistance to the awareness of having been brainwashed.
In this chapter I will discuss: The mother-daughter bond, The Medea Complex ( The mother’s revenge against her former husband by depriving him of his children), brain washing and the Parental Alienation Syndrome (The children’s pathological unconscious wish to please the “loved” parent by rejecting the “hated” parent), the subsequent disturbed intimacies that the brainwashed child suffers later in life, and a case history of three generations of Parental Alienation Syndrome and it’s unusual resolution.
In this chapter, I will bring together two separate issues: the Medea complex and the Parental Alienation Syndrome. To my knowledge, I have not seen these two concepts brought together. I believe that the Medea Complex in divorcing mothers is a frequent cause of Parental Alienation Syndrome.

The Mother-Daughter Bond
Mothers are more likely than fathers to be alienators and brainwashers (Gardner,1987). Mothers are more likely to take out their aggression on their children. Selma Kramer (1995) refers to Steele’s research (1970) in stating that children are more physically abused by their mothers,and sexually abused by their fathers. Women may have few means of expressing power, and thereby may use their own children as scapegoats.
The mother’s brainwashing of a daughter is particularly powerful due to the daughter’s identification with the mother. Juni and Grimm (1933) in their study of adults and their parents found that the strongest relationships were between mother-daughter and father-son dyads. Troll (1987) found that mother-daughter relationships “… appear to be more complex, ambivalent and ambiguous than do other parent-child configurations.” Olver, Aries, and Batgos (1989) found that, “… First born women had the least separate sense of self and reported the greatest degree of maternal involvement and intrusiveness…Men showed a more separate sense of self than women.” They also found that mothers were reported to be more highly involved with and intrusive in the lives of their daughters than their sons. Gerd Fenchel in this text, points out that the mother-daughter relationship is a primitive latent homosexual one, that is intense and ambivalent; one that requires first fusion, then separation for the proper development to occur.
When the mother encourages her daughter to see her father as bad, this may become an Oedipal fixation in that the daughter may be attracted to men who will mistreat her, or she may mistreat them. The daughter will also have problems with separation from the mother and have problems with attachment and abandonment with subsequent love objects. The son has his mother as his Oedipal love object, but is aided in his separation from her when he must go to his father for his male identity. The daughter is more closely tied to her mother as both a primary love object and source of her identity. Her Oedipal drive toward the father fosters development in helping her to separate from her mother and to master the outside world which father represents. If the mother devalues the father, and sees separation as betrayal, the daughter does not make that necessary break from her mother. The daughter remains with a parasitic mother, insecure and dependent.
Fathers are very important to their daughter’s feminine development. Biller’s research review (1971) supports that girls who had positive relationships with their fathers were more likely to have satisfying heterosexual relationships. When a mother poisons her daughter’s love of her father, she is also compromising her daughter’s ability to maturely love any man. The mother is programming her daughter to be her ego extension without a will of her own, and to be with her and no one else, narcissistically bound.
Although both boys and girls are greatly harmed when they are turned against a parent, the harm is often different. Studies indicate that boys suffer the most harm when the boys are stuck with mothers who express hostility towards their fathers- the source of their male identity ( Hodges, 1991; Kelly,1993). This chapter, however, will focus only on the mother-daughter bond in the Parental Alienation Syndrome. Although the daughter’s self esteem may not suffer as much as the son’s, her ability to deal with separation and mature relationships with men is very deeply affected. Wallerstein’s (1989) 10 year longitudinal study of girls from divorced families found that the nature of the mother-daughter relationship, and the daughter’s identification with her mother were predictive of the daughters’ ability to address the tasks of their relationships with men later on. Daughters who identified with hostile mothers had the poorest adjustment.
A woman has two internal sexual love objects, the mother representation-the original love object, and the father representation-the later Oedipal love object. Both affect object choice. The boy has a more narrow band of “chemistry”. His love for a woman will always be affected by his internal mother representation. He has his mother as his ever powerful love object. His father is a latent homosexual love object and source of identification that does not play the same gyroscopic object role as does the mother. A man will not marry a woman like his father. A woman however will choose a man in reaction to her mother or her father. If the daughter is brainwashed against her father by a hostile paranoid mother (which is often the case), the daughter has internally two core love objects, the hostile mother and the devalued father. These internal objects will guide her love choices and her behaviors in relationships with men. By picking, provoking or by distorting , she will try to repeat her emotional past with men. I caution the reader to the distinction of “emotional past” verses “actual” past. Our neuroses may be based on real events as well as on false perceptions and fantasies. For example, in the Parental Alienation Syndrome the “hated” parent may in fact be loving, and the “loved” parent may be very disturbed and unloving. This sets up a complex system of layering of object relations in the ego. At one level the child is traumatized by the perceptions and not the reality of the “hated” parent and consciously hates that parent, yet at the unconscious level, the child often secretly loves that parent, who was in fact loving. The “loved” parent may be loved on the conscious level, but feared and hated on the unconscious level. The patient may start therapy claiming that she was traumatized by her father, and later in therapy realize that her trauma was based partly on the image of her father, and largely on the her mother’s exploitation and hostility. The patient who was brain washed will not present this as a problem, and has special defenses to guard against this awareness.
Why would a mother do this to her own children? The story of Medea may help us to understand such motives. The Greek drama served the purpose to not just entertain, but to provide a catharsis for the collective unspoken traumas and pains of the audience. These classic stories express most beautifully powerful human conflicts characteristic of our universal psychology.

The Medea Complex: The myth.
Euripides wrote Medea around 400 .B.C.. It is a story of intense love turned to such intense hate, that Medea kills her own children to get back at her husband for betraying her. Medea is so madly in love with Jason, that she tricks her own father, King Aeetes, who guards the Golden Fleece, and kills her own brother so that Jason could steal the Golden Fleece. (Jason might have done well to consider how she treated her father and brother before he married her.) Jason leaves Medea to marry yet another princess. Medea plans her revenge. The chorus blames Aphrodite for causing all the trouble, in having intense passion turns to hate. (The Greeks often displaced their psychodynamics onto their gods.) Medea offers the bride her gifts of a beautiful robe and chaplet. When Jason’s new bride puts on the gifts, her head and body burst into flame and she dies a horrible, painful death. When her father embraced her corpse, he too bursts into flames and dies the same tortured death. Medea then takes her sword and kills their two children. The chorus amazed at the degree of Medea’s vengefulness doubt that anything can rival a mother’s slaughter of her own innocent children. Medea escapes Jason with a dragon drawn chariot. She taunts Jason not allowing him to embrace or bury his sons. She rejoices at having hurt him so.

Fred Pine (1995) refers to Medea as an example of a particular form of hatred found in women.” Medea’s internal experience is a compound of a sense of injury- a sense that builds to imagined public humiliation and a sense of righteousness. … The righteousness implied here in “the wrong they have dared to do to me” has struck me clinically. It is a frequent accompaniment of hate and hate-based rage. I think it stems from something self-preservative(“I have been so mistreated that I have this right…”) and some flaw in the super-ego, possibly based on identification with the child’s experience of the rageful mother’s giving herself full permission- and without subsequent remorse- to express her rage toward the child.” (p.109). That is, Pine suspects that for a mother to be so destructive to her own children, she herself must have been exposed to her own mother’s unremorseful hostility.

Jacobs’ (1988) paper entitled, “Euripides’ Medea: A psychodynamic model of severe divorce pathology” views the Medea mother as “narcissistically scarred, embittered dependent woman…(who) …attempts to severe father-child contact as a means of revenging the injury inflicted on her by the loss of a self-object, her hero-husband.” Jacobs’ idea that the Medea mother is so dependent that she cannot deal with the loss, and thus holds on with hate.
Medea certainly has a flaw in her superego. We know this early on when she betrays her father and kills her brother to help Jason steal from them. But she not only kills his new bride and her father, but her own children. Her love turned to hate is so passionate that she destroys that which intimacy between them produced. The hate goes beyond her instinctive need to protect her own children. Medea must make Jason suffer more than she suffers for it to be a punishment with revenge.
Jason, “You loved them, and killed them.”
Medea, “To make you feel pain.”

The Medea Complex involves a mother who is still pathologically tied to her (ex)husband. She has a great deal of rage probably as Pines suggests (1995) from her interactions with her hostile mother. This rage is rooted in part with a wish to destroy the child, whom she at some level resents being stuck with and may turn her rage into overprotectiveness as a reaction formation. She is unable to let her children separate from her. She tells them the harm that will befall them when they are out of her control. When the mother wishes to punish the father by turning their children against him, she is also aggressing against the children. In her unconscious, both the children and the husband represent the same thing (others that did or might betray), and destructiveness is wished on them both. In short, a mother who brain washes her children against their father has a Medea Complex. She probably has paranoia or at least paranoid features within a borderline or psychotic character structure. She can not deal with the loss, and remains tied to her (ex)husband in an intimate hate, and keeps her children tied to her out of fear.
A Medea mother must kill off her own femininity in order to be destructive to her own children. As Lady Macbeth prays so that she will be able to help murder, “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe topful of direst cruelty!” (Macbeth, act 1, scene 5 ).
Brain Washing and Parental Alienation Syndrome
I agree with Gardner’s (1987) assessment that most mothers in custody disputes do some form of brain washing. I have done custody evaluations for over 15 years. I have found that mother’s attempts to turn their children against their fathers in custody disputes are very common. I have also found that this is by far the most destructive aspect of divorce on children. I now consider brain washing children against a parent as a form of child abuse, since it leads to enduring psychopathology.
Kelly’s (1993) longitudinal research of child’s postdivorce adjustment found that the majority of children adjust to divorce, and older children express relief. Most symptoms last 6 months to 2 years post separation, and usually only involve adjustment disorders. Only about 10% of divorcing couples with children fight over custody. Of this group, at least one parent often has hostile and paranoid features. In a study of MMPI’s given to parents in custody evaluations, the MMPI’s of the parents who lost the custody dispute had significantly higher scores in Psychopathic Deviant (hostility), Paranoia, and Mania (narcissistic and impulsive tendencies), than parents who won the custody dispute (Otto and Collins, 1995). Children do adjust to divorce, except if a disturbed parent uses them as a pawn to punish the other parent. This traumatizes the child, and it’s effects may be life long, and is often passed on generation after generation.
Gardner (1987) stated, “Although the mothers in these situations may have a variety of motivations for programming their children against their fathers, the most common one relates to the old saying, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ … Because these mothers are separated, and cannot retaliate directly at their husbands, they wreak vengeance by attempting to deprive their former spouses of their most treasured possessions, the children. And the brainwashing program is an attempt to achieve this goal.”p.87. Gardner also feels that these mothers are aggressing against their own children by brain washing them against their fathers. “These mothers exhibit the mechanism of reaction formation, in that their obsessive love of their children is often a cover-up for their underlying hostility.”p.87…”And when these mothers “win”, they not only win custody, but they win total alienation of their children from the hated spouse. The victory here results in psychological destruction of the children which, I believe, is what they basically want anyway.” P.88
Brain washing are conscious acts of programming the child against the other parent. But Gardner went on to describe what he refers to as “Parental Alienation Syndrome”. The concept of the Parental Alienation Syndrome includes the brain washing component, but is more inclusive. It includes not only conscious but unconscious factors within the programming parent that contribute to the child’s alienation from the other parent. Furthermore, it includes factors that arise within the child- independent of the parental contributions. The child may justify the alienation with memories of minor altercations experienced in the relationship with the hated parent. These are usually trivial and are experiences that most children quickly forget. These children may even refuse to accept evidence that is obvious proof of the hated parent’s position. Commonly these children will accept as 100 percent valid the allegations of the loved parent against the hated one. “All human relationships are ambivalent… the concept of ‘Mixed feelings’ has no place in these children’s scheme of things. The hated parent is ‘all bad’ and the loved parent is ‘all good'(Gardner,1987).p.73.
Dunne and Hedrick (1994) in their research found that Parental Alienation Syndrome, “appeared to be primarily a function of the pathology of the alienating parent and that parent’s relationship with the children. PAS did not signify dysfunction in the alienated parent or in the relationship between that parent and child.” This study supports Gardner’s definition of Parental Alienation Syndrome as a pathological reaction to a parent, and not a conflict arising out the real relationship with the rejected parent.
Gardner also refers to factors arising within the child which contributes to Parental Alienation Syndrome, such as the fear of losing the love of the alienating mother, since “the loved parent is feared much more than loved.” p.90. Additionally, Oedipal factors are sometimes operative in the Parental Alienation Syndrome. A daughter may resent the father’s new female partner, and may identify with her mother’s jealousy and rage, and the daughter may revenge by rejecting him.
Damaged Ability for Separation and Intimacy
A daughter has first her mother as the primary love object, and then shifts to her father as the Oedipal love object. These two internal objects guide her attractions and patterns of intimacy. If she had in fact a rejecting father, but a healthy loving mother who does not turn her against the father, the daughter will have damaged relationships with men. But she has a good prognosis for overcoming this problem. Since her mother was healthy, the daughter can form love relationships built on that basic love relationship. If however, her mother has a Medea Complex, that is she turns her daughter against her own father out of revenge, the daughter is more likely to have a damaged ability to love maturely. Both her primary love object, the mother and Oedipal love object, the father, are internally driving her to self defeating relationships. To love a man is to betray her mother. And, she can only love as she has been taught and shown. The daughter will find unconscious ways to undermine relationships. She can unconsciously undermine them in three ways: picking, provoking and distorting.

to see more read:

MMPI-2 Information, Continuing Education, and Psychology Books by Dr. Robert M. Gordon.

Time Gets a Little Right and Much Wrong about Marriage in America – GlennSacks.com » Blog Archive

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, custody, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Feminism, Freedom, Homosexual Agenda, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Liberty, Marriage, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome on August 31, 2009 at 12:53 am

Time Gets a Little Right and Much Wrong about Marriage in America

August 30th, 2009 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

You’d think that an article that ends with this sentence,

What we teach about the true meaning of marriage will determine a great deal about our fate,

would do a better job than this one does of teaching its readers about marriage (Time, 7/2/09).  Caitlin Flanagan gets a few of the high points right, but ignores others entirely.  Maybe there’s an unwritten rule that I don’t know about that forbids mention of certain things.

What Flanagan gets right are things like the value of marriage and a stable home environment to children’s wellbeing.  She understands as well that much of our divorce culture stems from a attitude of hedonism that’s been learned over the past few decades.  Adults often seem incapable of seeing and acting on the most obvious truth – that divorce harms children and that they benefit from having two parents to raise them.  Absent the direst circumstances, adults who have made the choice to have children, should stick together and stick with the children until they themselves become adults.  After that, divorce is fine.

So Flanagan gets the basics, but her context goes a long way toward undermining her thesis.  That context is male infidelity.  The article starts off with photos of various high-profile male philanderers – Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, John Edwards and, yes, Jon Gosselin.  In the text, she tosses in John Ensign, just to balance the ticket, I suppose.

So what Flanagan is suggesting, without coming out and saying it explicitly, is that the “me first” culture that’s destroying marriage is all about the narcisism of men.  Never does she mention a high-profile female adulterer.  Nowhere does she cite statistics that show that, while married men stray more than do married women, the difference is a matter of a few percentage points.  Depending on which study you prefer, something like 23-28% of married men have extramarital affairs while 15-22% of married women do.  In Flanagan’s piece no women do.

Nor does she mention that most marriages in which one or the other partner commits adultery remain intact.  So sexual infidelity, as wrong as it is, as painful as it is, as self-centered as it is, has little to do with the failure of marriage in America.

Flanagan champions marriage for the many good reasons we all know, but, while bemoaning the fragility of that most important of institutions, she never asks why it’s become fragile.  Doubtless the answers to that question are many and complex, but why not give it a shot?  Why not at least try?

Well, maybe it’s because doing so would inevitably lead where Flanagan and Time fear to tread.  Maybe it would violate that unwritten rule I mentioned earlier.  That marriage is in such ill repute, might conceivably force us to ask how it got that way.  After all, 50 years ago, it wasn’t.  So what happened?

Well, one thing that happened was feminism.

I’m aware of course that many feminists are married.  Gloria Steinem is; Katha Pollitt is; most of my female feminist friends are.  But one of the most consistent themes of feminist discourse over the past 40 years has been that marriage is the seat of male subjugation of women.  According to many feminist writers (see, e.g. Catharine MacKinnon) over the years, marriage is at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous to women.  And if men are dangerous to women, they’re no less so to children, so the story goes.

Never mind that essentially every word of those claims is directly contradicted by massive amounts of social science.  Never mind that, whatever may be true about women, men, fish and bicycles, children need their fathers.  And never mind that children have more to fear from their mothers than from their fathers.

Never mind all that because, for decades, popular culture absorbed and repeated most of those feminist claims producing TV programs, movies, books (fiction and non-fiction), short stories, etc. which hewed to the feminist narrative that men are dangerous to women and children and, in any case, incompetent to – and uninterested in – caring for children.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc?

No, that’s not my argument.  My argument is simply this: I find it highly coincidental that, after decades of denigrating men, fathers and the institution of marriage, that the institution of marriage is now so shaky.  Maybe the one had nothing to do with the other.  Maybe if second wave feminism had never happened, marriage would still be on the rocks.  About that we’ll never know.  But what we do know is what did happen.  Anyone who chooses to believe that the denigration of marriage by feminists and taken up by popular culture had nothing to do with its current status is welcome to that opinion.

Flanagan, not content to ignore feminism’s contibution to the decline of marriage, moves right on to ignore the law’s.  I’ve detailed elsewhere the many, many ways in which family law separates children from fathers and thus tends to obviate the reason for marriage.  So I won’t go into that again.  But what I will say is this:  we know the one thing that will do more than anything else to discourage it – shared parenting.

Women file for about 70% of divorces in the United States.  They do so because they know to a virtual certainty that they will retain physical custody of their children.  That was the finding of a massive study done in 2000 by Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen of over 40,000 divorce cases in four states.  They learned that far more than any other factor encouraging divorce was the fact that the woman knew she would not lose contact with her children.  What’s also true is that divorce rates drop in jurisdictions that adopt some version of shared parenting.  Establish shared parenting as the law, and, in addition to all its other benefits, watch the divorce rate drop.

But Caitlin Flanagan reports none of that.

Think of what might happen if we devoted even half the resources to telling the truth about fathers and children that we devoted to disinformation about them over the past 40 years.  Combine that with making real efforts – like establishing the presumption of shared parenting in all 50 states – to ensure maximal continued contact between fathers and children post-divorce.  Do those two things and let’s see what the state of marriage is in this country.

Thanks to Jed for the heads-up.

GlennSacks.com » Blog Archive » Time Gets a Little Right and Much Wrong about Marriage in America.

Children are better off with both parents there

In Activism, Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, Children and Domestic Violence, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, custody, deadbeat dads, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, due process rights, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Freedom, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Liberty, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Restraining Orders on August 20, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Children are better off with both parents there

The Daily News

Published: Thursday, August 20, 2009

Re: ‘Children’s interests first priority in divorce, says justice minister’ (Daily News, Aug. 18)

I read your article about our federal justice minister making comments to the Canadian Bar Association meeting in Dublin, Ireland.

Rob Nicholson is either being misquoted or appears to have little understanding of the legal effects of the divorce process.

It is not about the best interests of children versus fathering rights. It is in the best interests of children to have both parents in their lives, both father and mother. This fact has been adequately researched and documented for years.

Children perform better in all areas of their lives when they have a mother and father present in their upbringing. This is not to say that single-parent families are deficient, simply a statement about the ideal situation.

MP Maurice Vellacott’s Bill C-422 to entrench equal parenting in the Divorce Act is simply to make changes that Canadian society has overwhelmingly supported by 80-90% in numerous opinion polls since the early 1990s.

This bill does not reduce protection for children, but clarifies what the best interests of children are and that equal parenting needs to be the starting point unless other factors are existing. These other factors could be practical considerations such as work schedules, or the necessity of protecting “the child from physical and psychological harm through abuse, neglect or alienation of parental affection.”

This bill specifically directs judges to take these considerations into account. Kelowna lawyer Meg Shaw was way off the mark when she suggested that this bill would somehow diminish the protection children might receive when required. In fact, it would have the opposite effect.

Federal justice ministers for many years have been quoted as dismissing parental rights as either nonexistent or minimal (re: Martin Cauchon’s oft repeated 2002 statement of “Parents have responsibilities, they don’t have rights”). Putting the best interests of the child is not in any way in conflict with parents having rights and responsibilities. We all know that having responsibilities entails having the power to perform them, thus the necessity for parental rights.

Theo J. Boere

Nanaimo Men’s Resource Centre

Children are better off with both parents there.

Marriage absence: the leading cause of fatal child abuse and neglect

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Marriage, Non-custodial fathers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome on August 19, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Marriage absence: the leading cause of fatal child abuse and neglect

Outside the institution of marriage, one parent has to do everything. And there are no checks and balances if that parent is not mentally stable.

This is why at least two-thirds of serious and fatal child abuse and neglect is caused by women, who are almost always not married.

Here is yet another sickening example of what happens because Marriage has been replaced by big government “solutions”.

Woman Who Beheaded Son, 4, Showed Signs of Mental Illness Months Before

Lars Sanchez was found dead on July 18 in a bedroom he shared with his mother.

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that nine months earlier, Yolanda Tijerina was seen screaming and shouting “I think you killed my son” outside the boy’s Highland Park preschool.

The principal called a child abuse hot line.

Child welfare and mental health officials investigated but the boy wasn’t removed from his home. Authorities concluded that any risk could be addressed through informal monitoring by relatives and neighbors.

Marriage absence: the leading cause of fatal child abuse and neglect :: Sex+Metropolis.

Adult children carry the burden of divorce too – The Globe and Mail

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, Children and Domestic Violence, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, custody, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, due process rights, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Foster Care, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, kidnapped children, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Restraining Orders on August 11, 2009 at 1:00 am

Adult children carry the burden of divorce too

Waiting until they’ve left the nest won’t spare kids the trauma of Splitsville

Sarah Hampson

Sarah Hampson

shampson@globeandmail.com

When one of Silvio Berlusconi’s daughters expressed dismay earlier this week about the reported links between her 72-year-old father and Noemi Letizia, an aspiring actress and model whose 18th birthday party the Italian Prime Minister attended, she inadvertently illuminated an issue that’s often overlooked in divorce.

Contrary to what many assume, the emotional upheaval for adult children is just as intense and painful as it can be for younger children who endure a family break-up. The realization flies in the face of the popular belief that if parents endure an unhappy marriage while their children are still young and living at home, they can spare them trauma by divorcing later on. It’s the old “for the sake of the children” argument for staying together until the nest empties.

But the assumption is a misconception.

“People think that because the children are adults, it shouldn’t affect them; they should be able to handle it,” says Debra Rodrigues, a counsellor and mediator of separation and divorce issues with Peel Counselling & Consulting Services. “But no matter how old you are, the child within you is still going to react to something traumatic like that.”

It is not uncommon to hear of parents who drop a child off at university and announce the news that they are separating. They have reached a parenting goal: Their child is mature and independent. They reason that their child will be so happily distracted with the activities of her own life, she won’t have the time or inclination to worry about changes going on at home.

Some parents may privately congratulate themselves for having sacrificed their own short-term happiness to protect their children until they are old enough to handle the news.

“I knew 10 years ago that I would leave my husband when our daughter went off to university. I was biding my time,” says one woman in her 50s who left her spouse after a marriage of more than 20 years.

But the age of mature children can make them more vulnerable to the effects of a split. For one thing, “parents often think that they can tell them everything that’s going on about the divorce and also sometimes pull them into the middle and expect them to take a side,” observes Ms. Rodrigues, who counsels many children of divorce in their late teens, 20s and even 30s.

The children are also forced to reconsider their childhood. “They may have felt that they’re one of the lucky ones in the world, in this case by having an intact family, and suddenly that view of their family and the stability of their life changes,” she says. “They look back and think, ‘What did I miss?’ And they may wonder what was real and what was put on for the sake of the children.”

In her comments to the Italian edition of Vanity Fair, Barbara Berlusconi, who is 25 and the eldest child from her father’s second marriage, to Veronica Lario, explained that “my story is of a girl who lived her youth in a normal and tranquil fashion.” Now she is dealing with a father up to his dyed-black hair in scandal. The most recent embarrassment is tape recordings, allegedly of her father’s voice, said to have been made by an escort who was partying at one of his houses.

When asked if she thought her parents’ breakup was the end of a great love affair, she replied, “I am sure that it was for mamma.”

Worrying about the more vulnerable parent is a common burden for adult children, experts say. Roles often become reversed, as adult children assume responsibility for one or both parents.

A few years ago, I was talking to an adult child of divorced parents who remarked that their family story proved that a deadbeat father, as theirs had been, did not affect their livelihood or their happiness. “He wasn’t around, but we didn’t need him,” she said, referring to herself, her mother and three siblings.

But she neglected to point out that the eldest sibling, a graduate student at the time of the divorce, and, soon after, a successful businessman, essentially stepped in to become a provider.Such a sense of responsibility, while generous, can interfere with the adult child’s own stage of life, one in which he shouldn’t have to think about supporting or advising his parent. Children whose parents divorce as they enter university often react in an unexpected, self-sabotaging way. Rather than diminish their worry about their parents’ decision, the distance from home accentuates it, as they fear the unknown and the uncertainty.

The involvement of new partners is also problematic. When they visit their parent, they often discover a completely different person to the one they knew growing up. “Enough talk about sex,” a friend of mine announced at a recent dinner gathering, hushing her guests when her 19-year-old son, who was over from his dad’s house, emerged from the basement. She had been regaling her girlfriends with talk of her raucous sex life in the aftermath of her fresh divorce. She straightened her blouse, stubbed out her cigarette and waved demurely at her son. “Got enough pop down there?” she said sweetly.

And it goes without saying that a parent who is interested in a much younger person runs the risk of alienating the adult child, who may, as in Ms. Berlusconi’s case, be the elder. “I was amazed. I never frequented old men,” she said of her father’s friendship with the dewy Ms. Letizia. “These are psychological links of which I have no experience.”

The new relationships can make the adult children feel displaced. As they try to adjust to the new people in their parents’ lives, they can feel that they don’t matter as much as the new love interest does. Or, as their parents rejoin the dating carousel, children can find themselves having to continually play the role of confidant for mom and dad’s love woes.

But the biggest problem is that adult children often feel they should just suck it up. They should just cope with the pain of their parents’ divorce. And unfortunately there are few resources for them, Ms. Rodrigues notes, because the focus is usually on younger children of divorce.

Finding people to talk to is important – and not necessarily a reporter with Vanity Fair.

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Adult children carry the burden of divorce too – The Globe and Mail.

‘My dad was my best friend, and I was Daddy’s Girl…My dad’s love was the most powerful I’ve ever witnessed’ :: Glenn Sacks on MND

In Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Glenn Sacks, Marriage on August 7, 2009 at 1:00 am

‘My dad was my best friend, and I was Daddy’s Girl…My dad’s love was the most powerful I’ve ever witnessed’

kaitlyn-bouchard“Losing my dad was the most devastating experience I’ve ever had to deal with…I would not be the person I am today if he was never a part of my life…He will forever be my hero.”

The National Students of AMF (deceased or “Ailing Mothers, Fathers,” or loved ones) Support Network is an organization dedicated to supporting college students coping with the illness or death of a loved one and empowering all college students to fight back against terminal illness.

Recently Kaitlyn Bouchard (pictured), a student and Chapter President at the University of Rhode Island, submitted a piece about her father to the National Students of AMF forum. She wrote:

Before I entered first grade, my parents divorced. I was young and didn’t really understand the new life I was thrown into. My mom and I moved out, and I was only able to see my dad every other weekend. I had been used to not seeing my dad very often, as he had been in the Navy. He eventually left the service to watch me grow up.

Being able to only spend time with my dad on the weekends, we would make the most out of it – we went to amusement parks, played mini golf, and we’d make midnight runs for snacks. My dad was my best friend, and I was Daddy’s Girl. We’d parade around town in matching sweatshirts, and go to the local diner on Sunday’s for breakfast. My dad even helped make the other kids at school jealous by sending gorgeous flowers to my classroom every Valentine’s Day.

My dad’s love for me has come to be the most powerful love I’ve ever witnessed. Only, I had no idea that this would all end before I even turned twelve years old.

Most of my time was spent living with my mom. One night in May 2002, mom had to do something no parent should ever have to. Just past 3AM, she opened my bedroom door and woke me up. Tears filled her eyes as she told me “Dad had a heart attack”. At that moment, I became wide awake and asked, “What hospital is he at? Mom took a moment to answer before saying “He’s in Heaven.”

It’s been seven years since that day. Losing my dad was the most devastating experience I’ve ever had to deal with. It was so completely unexpected and sudden. But I know for a fact I would not be the person I am today if he was never a part of my life. He taught me many valuable lessons, and even though I only knew him for eleven years I am so thankful that he was my dad. He will forever be my hero…

Read the full piece here.

Help, Resources for Dads
The National Fathers’ Resource Center is a division of Fathers For Equal Rights, Inc. (FER), located in Dallas, Texas, with offices in both Dallas and Ft. Worth. In existence for over three decades, it has services and resources for dads nationwide and is one of the largest and most active fathers’ rights organizations in the U.S. www.fathers4kids.org

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‘My dad was my best friend, and I was Daddy’s Girl…My dad’s love was the most powerful I’ve ever witnessed’ :: Glenn Sacks on MND.

‘No-fault’ divorce encourages people to take easy way out » Evansville Courier & Press

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Freedom, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Liberty, Marriage, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parental Rights Amendment on August 3, 2009 at 6:49 pm

No-fault’ divorce encourages people to take easy way out

By John Phillips

I have a friend whose spouse just filed for divorce. My friend does not want the divorce. However, I think in Indiana there is “no-fault” divorce. Does that mean that the divorce will happen if only one person wants it?

J.C., Evansville

I am sorry to hear about your friend’s situation. Unfortunately, the “no-fault” divorce law means just that. One party can dissolve the marriage even if the other one does not want to. California enacted this law in 1969 and it spread to other states. The family has had a terrible breakdown as a result. According to James Dobson, the number of divorces has increased 352 percent since.

Several states are taking another look at this law. It takes two people to commit to the marriage and two people should have to commit to the divorce. A spouse who does not want a divorce has lost the privilege of making a decision about the marriage. A marriage contract can be broken more easily than any other legal contract.

The intent of the law has been lost. Many argued to enact this legislation because it was believed that bitter custody battles could be avoided. However, the reality of the law is that it is unfair to the spouse who does not want to break the contract or split up the family.

In Indiana, it is too easy to get married and too easy to get divorced. Anyone over age 18 can get a marriage license with no waiting period or preparation. People wanting a driver’s license need to take a driving test. Gun licenses have a waiting period. It would be a good idea to require a waiting period for a marriage license and offer an incentive for marriage preparation.

It would be better for your friend if the law were changed to require both parties to agree to a divorce. If you feel strongly about this issue you could talk to your state senator and representatives.

John Phillips is executive director of Community Marriage Builders. He can be reached at john@makeitlast.org or (812) 477-2260.

‘No-fault’ divorce encourages people to take easy way out » Evansville Courier & Press.

Jill Brooke: Do Men Become Better or Worse Fathers After Divorce?

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Support, child trafficking, Civil Rights, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Homeschool, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Restraining Orders, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine on July 21, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Do Men Become Better or Worse Fathers After Divorce?

If divorce is the future of duplicitous two-timers Gov. Mark Sanford to reality TV’s Jon Gosselin, these men will have to navigate co-parenting. However, a growing trend shows that many men become better parents post-divorce, to the surprise of ex-wives who find it difficult to grasp that a man who wasn’t a good husband can indeed be a good father.

Take the example of Peter Giles.

When Peter Giles’ three daughters were toddlers, work consumed him at the expense of family life. The New York businessman would justify the absences as doing the right thing for his family since he was providing the financial womb while his wife was taking care of their other needs.

What finally made him a better father? Getting a divorce.

“The divorce was such a shock and forced me to take stock of who I was and what success should look like,” said Giles, whose ex-wife Nancy Claus sought a divorce in 2001. “I came to realize that I had been providing for my children but needed to be more to them. ”

Like the majority of divorcing men today, Giles sought joint legal custody, which courts are more willing to grant since a federal study shows that men paid child support 90 percent of the time in comparison to less than 45 percent when the mother had sole custody.

When his daughters visited, Giles morphed into a multi-tasker taking on chores previously done by his wife including cooking, buying cosmetics and remembering to buy eggs and bacon at the market.

“I wish he would have been as involved and helpful when we were married,” said Claus. “But he has definitely become a much better Dad after our divorce.”

He is not alone.

“When a father is away from the stress of a failed marriage, he can be more relaxed and more reflective and as a result enjoy being more fully involved with his children,” said Don Gordon, professor emeritus of psychology at Ohio University and the director of the Center for Divorce Education.

David Gestl, the divorced father of four in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, agrees, adding how it’s a relief not to argue about parenting styles which allows the father to develop his own.

“In my marriage, I was always walking on eggshells and getting criticized,” he said. “Recently after I made dinner, my son shook his chocolate milk and it went flying everywhere. I could say, just relax it’s nothing a paper towel won’t pick up. It’s okay to make a mistake and fix it. ”

One benefit to divorce is that with scheduled rationed time, each parent doesn’t take it for granted and can have more single minded focus with their kids.

CNBC anchor Dennis Kneale says divorce has made him “vastly closer ” to his 9-year-old daughter Jing-Jing. “In many families, mom is the center of everything and the husband is the supporting player,” he observed. “But with divorce, I have had more one on one time with her in ways I never did before.”

In a study on non-residential fathers, researcher Paul Amato from Pennsylvania State University found that the percentage of non-residential fathers being involved with their children more than tripled from 8 percent in the 1970’s to 26 percent in 2000’s.

A recent study by Kathleen Gerson, professor of sociology at New York University and author of ” The Unfinished Revolution:How a New Generation is Reshaping Family, Work,
and Gender in America” found the number to be 27 percent.

“Large numbers of contemporary fathers are doing their best to fulfill their responsibilities as parents despite the limitations of not residing with their children,” said Amato. “It’s time to recognize, value and support the commitment of these men to their children.”

Experts say that the rise of more involved fathers post-divorce is based on several factors that collectively aligned like shooting stars and is preventing what one organization calls, “a parentdectomy.”

A kid-focus culture for starters has helped cement ties.

Dr. Warren Farrell points out that pop culture’s parenting focus expanded the definition of a man’s identity. In one study tracking data from 1965-1998, married men had doubled their direct child care involvement. “More men put in the effort early which created deeper attachments that fathers didn’t want to lose,” said Farrell, who is also the author of “Father and Child Reunion.” Hence, more requests for joint custody.

Technology has also helped prevent or reduce what is called parental alienation where in the past the residential parent may – consciously or unconsciously – block contact either out of her resentment towards the father or because she has remarried and is protecting the stepfather relationship. A study by J. Annette Vanini and Edward Nichols found that 77 percent of noncustodial fathers faced some form of visitation interference.

But now fathers can give their kids pre-paid cell phones to insure contact. Divorce contracts are also often written to permit contact through email accounts.

Ted Rubin, a Huntington Long Island divorced dad to two girls, admits to using Facebook to keep in contact with his kids. “Sometimes when we speak on the phone I can tell if Mom is standing there and then later my daughter will contact me on Facebook,” he said. “A lot of Dads complain that moms could stand in the way of communication but now it’s almost impossible because kids are so tech savvy.”

In fact, Rubin, who has a contentious divorce with his ex-wife, says that email helps divorced parents diminish “the nastiness is our dialogues” which the kids would overhear on the phone. Now he can email what time he’s picking up the kids and delivering them without any verbal warfare.

Another big boost for continued contact has been videoconferencing. In 2002, Utah resident Michael Gough worried that his ex-wife’s relocation to Wisconsin would wipe out his parental involvement. Considering that less than 10 percent of divorces go to trial, he fought to have the right to videoconference with his daughter. Utah was the first state to pass legislation for virtual visitation in 2004.

“It costs me thousands of extra dollars to go to court but as a result there is now a statute for videoconferencing that other judges and attorneys can refer to and follow,” said Gough, who now runs a website called internetvisitation.org. Because of his efforts, Wisconsin, Florida and Texas all passed similar legislation and North Carolina did this month.

“With videoconferencing, I was able to read bedtime stories, help her with her homework and even watch her open up a present,” said Gough, with genuine sentimentality.

Schools are also helping divorced parents co-parent on neutral ground. While some wives would raise their eyebrows like thunderbolts when an ex-husband would arrive at the sports field, schools are not playing favorites.

“My ex-wife interpreted the divorce agreement that if I arrived at my son’s soccer game that it should only be when I had him for an overnight,” said Eric Ryerson, a nurse in Eugene, Oregon and father to an 11-year-old son. “But I want to see him more than my custody arrangement and by coming to sports events and volunteering at school, I can see him more.”

Ryerson went to the school and volunteered to be a chaperone for class trips, signed his name to contact forms and also spoke to coaches to provide information on his son’s soccer and baseball games.

“I asserted myself to be present and got rewarded for it,” said Ryerson. “I also got to meet his classmates and interacted with them.” Ryerson recalls fondly how in second grade he was nicknamed Mr. Pushy because he eagerly pushed his son’s friends on the swings. “My son told me he liked it when I came to school.”

In fact, research shows that the kids do like it when both parents are present.

“They have fewer behavior and emotional problems, higher self-esteem and better school performance than children in sole custody arrangements,” said Glenn Sacks, the National Executive Director of Fathers & Families. “When researchers have examined children of divorce, and studied and queried adult children of divorce, they’ve found that most prefer joint custody and shared parenting.”

For example, in one Arizona State University study of college students who experienced their parents’ divorces while they were children, over two-thirds believe that living equal times with each parent is the best arrangement. A Harvard University study also confirmed that children in joint custody settings fared much better than kids living in sole custody households.

While many men acknowledge progress, some still complain that the system treats fathers as second-class citizens when asking for more time with their children.

As Gary Nicholson, the president of the American Association of Marital Attorneys, explains, part of the problem is that various state laws tie child support payments to the amount of time a father is with their child. Payments can be adjusted if the father spends as much as 100 nights with his child so many mothers resist giving 50-50 splits and are angered by the request.

Said Nicholson, “Are there folks who look at this economically and think if I have equal time I won’t have to pay as much child support? Yes. But the majority of dads want to be involved in their kid’s lives. They feel they should be equal partners.”

As the nation sees more divorced families, more parents have learned that even though the marriage is over, they are forever linked as co-parents. Cultural cues also encourage that they should love their children more than they hate their spouse. Over time, many hard feelings thaw and enhanced appreciation can ensue.

Deb Rabino, a New York based make-up artist, learned to admire her ex-husband’s parenting of their two sons so much that when he lost his job in the financial industry, she voluntarily reduced his alimony and child support payments.

“He definitely became a better father after our divorce,” she said. “He honored his support of us and now it was our turn to help him out.”

The increased connection between children and fathers also results in other sacrifices as well. Michael Gough says videoconferencing helped get him more involved with his daughter. “My participation reminded me I have a daughter who needed me otherwise it could have been out of sight, out of mind.” Because his wife later relocated to Austin, Texas, Gough now found a new job to be near his daughter.

“Videoconferencing really helped us stay closer,” said Gough. “But it still can’t replace seeing my daughter and getting a hug.”

Like many men, he is getting remarried and may start a new family.

As Stephanie Coontz, the Director of Research and Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families, observes, men have for more than 150 years tended to think of the responsibility of kids as a package deal. When the relationship split up, they’d walk away and start new families. “But we’re seeing a growing number of men separting from their wives but not their children,” she said.

Do you have any doubt that recent divorced dads including Dylan McDermott, Robin Williams, Russell Simmons or Guy Ritchie won’t enjoy time with their kids? All have said how much it means to them.

Still, it can be very painful for ex-wives to see that their families are living lives without them – especially when spouses repartner. However, in time, this divorce therapist has seen many women realize that a break from 24/7 parenting can benefit everyone. And love is far more elastic and flexible than we think.

(This story will also be discussed on CBS’ “Early Show”)

Jill Brooke: Do Men Become Better or Worse Fathers After Divorce?.

Why I (and, I suspect, many separated women) regret divorcing | Mail Online

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Civil Rights, Divorce, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Marriage, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers on July 16, 2009 at 10:14 pm

By Jane Gordon

Last updated at 10:57 PM on 16th July 2009

Last weekend, at a family wedding in the country, I was overwhelmed by an emotion that has, in the last year, become only too familiar to me.

Sitting in a stifling marquee, listening to my cousin Sally’s husband making the traditional father-of-the-bride speech, I was overcome by a feeling that was part envy, part guilt and part regret.

My cousin’s marriage, which has lasted for 25 years, is by no means perfect – what marriage is? – but against the odds, she has achieved something that is now, and always will be, beyond my grasp.

A lost life: Jane Gordon with her husband and son in 1999, before her divorce

A lost life: Jane Gordon with her husband and son in 1999, before her divorce

As I looked at her sitting happy and radiant at the top table, laughing uproariously at her husband’s far from funny jokes, I realised that, in a world that has horribly devalued the institution of marriage, she was reaping the benefits of putting the love and security of her family first, before any disagreements she might have with her husband in the rough and tumble of daily life.

Watching her united with her husband on such an emotional occasion reminded me sharply of exactly what I had lost – but had no idea I was losing – seven years ago, when I got divorced from my husband, the father of my three children, after 25 years together.

Our relationship had broken down, I can now see, not because of any petty irritations such as his lateness or my untidiness, but because we had both moved irrevocably away from each other.

In the past few years of our marriage, I was more absorbed in my children and my career than I was in my husband while he, feeling increasingly isolated, simply switched off.

It’s a scenario that will be familiar to many couples. But how many of them choose to separate, and how many have the gumption to stick it out?

The trouble is nobody tells you the truth about divorce. They tell you it’s a ‘difficult’ experience, and it’s generally accepted that the process sits somewhere near the top of the ten most stressful life events.

‘No one ever points out that the repercussions of a marital split will reverberate down the timeline of your life forever’

But in the main it is regarded by society as a necessary evil. A milestone which, in an age when two in five UK marriages will fail, millions of us will go through at some point in our lives.

Indeed, in many ways, divorce is given a more positive spin in our confused modern world than marriage is.

The drawbacks of divorce are believed to be mostly either financial – as if the splitting up of the spoils of a life together were the very worst part of the process – or the fallout experienced by the children.

Little is ever said about the longer-term effects of divorce on the couple. No one ever points out that the repercussions of a marital split will reverberate down the timeline of your life forever.

This week, the Conservatives published a report commissioned by Iain Duncan Smith which proposed a three-month ‘cooling off’ period for couples considering divorce.

But the idea that couples would be ready to rethink their break-up after such a short period is unrealistic.

Change in family dynamics: Jane and her family before the divorce, now special occasions involve jugging the needs of her step family as well

Change in family dynamics: Jane and her family before the divorce, now special occasions involve jugging the needs of her step family as well

As I have discovered the hard way, it is only now, seven years after I received my decree nisi, that I am starting to realise the gravity of what I have done.

If it has taken me this long for the seismic shockwaves of divorce to really hit home, how are warring couples expected to take an informed decision about separation when they are in the midst of the rows, the tension and the recrimination that so often accompany the death throes of a marriage?

It is only now that I am experiencing something akin to the seven-year ‘itch’ of marriage; the seven-year ‘ache’ of divorce, a regular recurrence of the emotion I experienced at that recent wedding – a pang, a regret for what has gone for ever.

There is much in my post-divorced life that I am grateful for and happy about. I have gained a new partner and two stepchildren, and our ‘blended’ family is more harmonious than anyone could have expected.

My ex-husband, who is a media consultant, has ‘moved on’ to a perfectly ordered and elegant bachelor apartment and a social life (with a series of ever-younger girlfriends) that is the envy of his old married friends.

On the surface, we have ‘come through’ our split relatively unscathed. But however contented I might be with my new partner Robin – and he with me – we realise that our relationship is, well, somehow second-best.

‘I had no idea of the true complexity of unravelling a life that had been led in tandem with someone else for more than 20 years’

Our true loyalties lie not with our new ‘blended’ family, but with our own biological children and the ex-partners from whom we were both amicably divorced.

The important occasions in family life which I used to love – birthdays, Christmas and so on – are now difficult, trying times.

They are unsatisfactory no matter how hard we try; whether my partner and I attempt – as we have on several occasions – to unite our new and old lives or agree to simply be apart for the ‘sake’ of our children.

Now, for example, we spend Christmas apart – each ensconced with our children and ex-partners – which causes huge tension between us and has made us both dread the annual celebrations.

When my husband and I parted, my view of divorce was simplistic. I believed in the notion of divorce as a clean break and imagined a ‘fresh start’ would solve all my problems.

It wasn’t a decision made lightly, but I had no idea of the true complexity of unravelling a life that had been led in tandem with someone else for more than 20 years.

It was the death of my parents, within six months of each other in 2008, that was the catalyst for my change of heart.

At my father’s funeral, my brother made a moving address about the formidable achievements of an extraordinary man. He concluded that the greatest achievement of all was his remarkable partnership – over 60 years – with my mother.

Ashley and Cheryl Cole

Still going strong: Jane admires women like Cheryl Cole who can get past their husband’s infidelity for an enduring marriage

The fact that I had not been able to give my own children the security that I had taken for granted shamed and upset me almost as much as the loss of my adored parents.

My children hadn’t lost their parents when my husband and I divorced, but they had lost their family home and the continuity of family life that makes the journey from childhood to adulthood so much more comforting and secure.

It was at that funeral that I first experienced the feeling – part envy, part guilt and part regret – that has haunted me ever since.

With my new partner sympathetically sitting by my side and my ex-husband (who shared so much of my family history and yet had somehow been edited out of it), standing in the gallery, I truly understood what I had lost.

And there have been countless other moments in the past year when I have experienced similar feelings.

Last month, I attended a dinner party thrown by a close female friend whose own marriage had shifted perilously close to the edge of divorce, shortly after mine did, because her husband had an affair.

At the time of my break-up, my view of other people’s marriages was as skewed as my view of my own, and I viewed her reluctance to divorce in a cynical way – imagining that her main motivation was her fear of losing her status as a married woman.

‘It is impossible to go back, but at the same time my divorce makes it difficult for me to move forward’

But I now see there was a much more selfless reason for her tenacity. Because a marriage, however imperfect, isn’t just important in the happy moments of life – a child’s graduation or wedding for example – but also in the bad times.

Shortly after my friend and her errant husband were reunited, he lost his high-flying City job and he now admits that it would not have been possible for him to recover from that (they started a successful new business together) without her love and support.

Their relationship has changed – my friend admits that she is still wounded by his infidelity – but losing her trust in him for a time is nothing to what she would have lost had she gone ahead with her divorce.

Back then, I couldn’t understand her ability to accept his behaviour. But now I have nothing but admiration for the way she was able to take a longer view of her own marriage.

Indeed, I have a similar sense of admiration and e

nvy for a handful of other still-married friends whose relationships I had viewed somewhat cynically because they displayed such open animosity towards each other.

A good marriage – I now realise – is dependent upon the ability of both partners occasionally to be selfless and to compromise.

It is, of course, ironic that divorce has strengthened my belief in marriage. But then the years haven’t just changed my view of divorce; they have inevitably blurred my memory of the reasons for our split.

Somewhere in my new home there is a large brown envelope filled with the reasons why we parted, duly noted down by lawyers, but the passage of time has made those mutually exasperating irritations seem petty.

In 2002, they were real and seemingly insurmountable. Had someone told me the truth about divorce then – explained exactly how, in the years ahead, it would impact on my life – perhaps we would still be together.

WEDDING SCENE SHOWING BRIDE AND GROOM

I do two? Jane is unsure whether she will marry her new partner due to the scars left by the failure of her first marriage (file photo)

It is impossible to go back, but at the same time my divorce makes it difficult for me to move forward.

Maybe one day my new partner and I will marry, but the impact of our break-ups – he divorced several years before me – has so far prevented us from making a legal commitment to each other.

Our mutual fears that re-marriage will somehow invalidate our original families, and his concerns about the financial loss he would endure should our marriage subsequently break down, make the notion of a wedding unlikely.

But my divorce hasn’t just had a major impact on the likelihood of re-marrying. I worry, too, that it has affected my children’s view of marriage.

Will the repercussions of my break-up not only reverberate down the timeline of my life but also the timelines of my children’s lives?

My daughters were 19 and 22 when I divorced and my son, who lives with me, was just ten.

Seven years on, my daughters are both much more focused on their careers than their love-lives, and show no sign of settling down in the way that my cousin Sally’s daughter – several years younger – has done.

The long-term effects of my divorce, then, may not only deny me the opportunity to be a bride again and thus, in some way, legitimise my new relationship in the eyes of the world.

But they also could prevent me from being the mother-of-the-bride and – ultimately – a grandmother.

To paraphrase William Congreve’s famous quote: ‘Divorce in haste, repent at leisure.’

Why I (and, I suspect, many separated women) regret divorcing | Mail Online.

Could Your Child Be Depressed? – Redbook

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, custody, deadbeat dads, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights on July 16, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Thursday, July 16, 2009

At first, Andrea Carpenter* blamed preadolescent hormones for her 10-year-old daughter’s moodiness. “Allie was extremely irritable at home, and she’d get snippy with her dad and me for no apparent reason,” says the Marietta, GA, mom. Life at the Carpenters’ home grew so tense that the family started seeing a counselor who, after a few sessions, recommended that Allie visit a psychiatrist. “He mentioned depression, but I thought it was just puberty,” Andrea says. Her thinking quickly changed after Allie said she wished she was never alive and talked about cutting her throat. “I was devastated — I knew she wasn’t a happy-go-lucky kid, but I never thought a 10-year-old could be suicidal.”

In fact, depression is the second most common childhood mental health problem. (Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is number one.) An estimated one in 33 children and one in eight teens are depressed, and the World Health Organization predicts that the number of kids — and adults — diagnosed with the disorder could double by the year 2020. Fewer than a fourth of the estimated 12 million kids in the United States who suffer from psychiatric disorders receive treatment, however, which places them at high risk for failing school, abusing drugs and alcohol, and committing crimes. Kids with untreated depression also are 12 times more likely to commit suicide. The nation’s suicide rate for children jumped nearly 10 percent from 2003 to 2004, the largest increase in 14 years.

Even though up to 80 percent of depressed kids improve with treatment, many parents delay seeking help because of the stigma of mental illness. “I wish I would have reacted quicker, but it’s a hard thing to admit your 7-year-old child is mentally ill,” says Carmen Vandyne, a Columbus, OH, mom whose 11-year-old daughter, Addison, was diagnosed with depression at age 7. Other parents hope their child will just get over it on their own. But “depressed kids aren’t just going through phases that they’ll outgrow — they find it difficult to manage their emotions without professional help,” says child psychiatrist Harold Koplewicz, M.D., founder of the New York University Child Study Center.

Figuring out the difference between true depression and temporary moodiness is crucial. Here’s how to tell if your child has a problem — and what you can do to help.

Names have been changed.What are the warning signs?

While all children feel sad from time to time or have the occasional bad day, a child with depression remains in a funk for weeks or months. During this time, she’s likely to struggle at school, isolate herself from friends, cause problems at home, and act like Allie Carpenter did — angry, moody, and irritable. Depressed kids are also as confused by their emotions as their parents are; they can’t describe how they’re feeling. Instead, they might complain about stomachaches, develop exaggerated fears, grumble about being bored, lack energy, or talk about death.

Three years ago, Boston resident Robyn Hanley assumed her then 16-year-old son, Matthew, was going through typical teenage angst when his grades slipped and he started missing school because his stomach hurt. “I wasn’t really worried until he stopped hanging out with his friends and participating in activities that he loved so much,” she says. Matthew’s guidance counselor noticed the changes in him and suggested that the family talk to their doctor. After Matthew was referred to a psychiatrist and diagnosed with depression, Robyn learned that withdrawing from pleasurable activities and family and friends is a key sign that a child is depressed. “It’s frustrating, because you just want your child to lighten up and enjoy life,” she says, “but I’ve learned that a depressed kid can’t control how his illness makes him feel.”

Why do some kids suffer?

Though experts still aren’t sure why certain children are more likely to become depressed, the following factors may play a role:

They’re born with a “blue gene.” There’s a 25 percent chance a child will struggle with depression if one parent has it; that risk jumps to 50 percent or more if both parents are affected.

They have a chemical imbalance. Chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters — namely serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine — play a vital role in regulating emotions. Experts think that depressed kids may not produce enough of these chemicals.

They’re dealing with trauma. Up to half of all depressive episodes (among kids and adults) are preceded by life-altering events. Losing a loved one, dealing with a parental divorce, moving to a new home, or being the victim of abuse can be particularly traumatic to kids who haven’t yet developed coping skills. Addison Vandyne’s first major bout with depression happened when she was 7, after her mom was injured in an accident. “Addison shut down emotionally, but we thought she’d snap out of it,” says Carmen. Instead, Addison bullied kids, drew frightening pictures of people getting injured or killed, and clawed at her face when she was upset.

Their hormones are in flux. Kids as young as preschool age can have depression, but the disorder is most likely to be diagnosed around puberty, when hormones kick in. Boys and girls are equally at risk for depression until puberty; during the teen years and throughout adulthood, females are up to two times as likely to be depressed. Fluctuating hormones, as well as differences in societal expectations, likely account for this gender bias. “Girls are encouraged to express their emotions, while boys learn to bottle them up,” says Koplewicz. As a result, depression in girls may often be easier to recognize.

How can you get help?

Even if a child’s dark cloud lifts, research shows there’s a 60 percent chance she’ll be depressed again unless she gets treatment, and her lifetime risk for depression goes up with each untreated episode. First, talk to your child’s pediatrician; if she suspects a problem, she’ll likely refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a child psychiatrist. If depression is diagnosed, the following treatments can help:

Psychotherapy. Kids with mild depression often respond well to talking about their problems with a mental health professional, who helps them identify and change negative patterns of thinking. Addison Vandyne’s mood has improved dramatically since she’s been in therapy, says mom Carmen.

Medications. Antidepressants, namely selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac (the only medication FDA-approved to treat depression in kids), can greatly alleviate symptoms in children by elevating brain chemicals. Despite this, pediatric prescriptions for SSRIs have declined nearly 25 percent since 2004, when the FDA issued a warning that their use may induce suicidal thoughts in youths. “Overall, depressed kids see significant improvements with SSRIs. But because every child responds differently, kids starting these medications should be closely monitored,” says David Fassler, M.D., author of Help Me, I’m Sad: Recognizing, Treating, and Preventing Childhood Depression. A large study found that the benefits of giving antidepressants to kids outweigh the risks.

Combined treatment. Depressed kids improve the most when they take medications and participate in psychotherapy. Nearly three out of four children on combined treatment reported that their depression lifted, while 61 percent improved with medication alone and about a third got better with only psychotherapy. Allie Carpenter and Matthew Hanley, both now 19, are enjoying happier lives thanks to a combination of drugs and therapy. “Allie’s a completely different kid,” says Andrea. “She enjoys herself. She sings. She’s easier to be around. It’s wonderful to see her so happy.”

To learn more about childhood depression and to find a mental health professional in your area, visit Families for Depression Awareness at familyaware.org.

Signs your child is depressed

Is your child:

  • irritable, angry, or cranky for no good reason?
  • uninterested in spending time with friends or participating in fun activities?
  • experiencing frequent stomach or head pains?
  • losing weight?
  • sleeping more than usual?
  • doing poorly in school?
  • talking about running away from home?
  • lacking energy or complaining a lot about being bored or tired?
  • suffering from low self-esteem?
  • talking about hurting or killing herself?
  • giving away favorite belongings?

If you answered yes to five or more of these questions and your child has displayed these behaviors for at least two consecutive weeks, she may be clinically depressed.

Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc. Originally Published: Could Your Child Be Depressed?

Could Your Child Be Depressed?.

The Ring Thing

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, custody, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, due process rights, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Freedom, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, kidnapped children, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Restraining Orders on July 12, 2009 at 4:57 pm

We must have marriage

By W. Bradford Wilcox

This Sunday, neighbors, husbands, and especially children should lift a glass to the mothers who have managed to get and stay married to the fathers of their children. For, despite the fact that single motherhood never seems to go out of style with the media, motherhood typically works best — for our nation’s neighborhoods, children, and even most moms — with a wedding ring.

You will not read any of this in the New York Times, which seems to think sperm-donor-dads are just fine, but married mothers serve our nation’s neighborhoods, children, and even themselves better than any of the dizzying array of alternatives to married motherhood. This truth was abundantly clear to me after surveying the social-scientific literature on marriage and child well-being with 15 other family scholars for a recent report, Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-Six Conclusions from the Social Sciences.

Take crime. Mothers who manage to get and stay married are much less likely to produce boys who end up terrorizing playgrounds, parks, and little old ladies walking home from the grocery store. One recent Princeton study found that boys who grew up in an intact, married family were half as likely to end up in prison as young adults. After studying murder and robbery rates in our nation’s cities, Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson observed, “Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States.” This is why neighbors should thank the married mothers on their block.

Or take psychological well-being. Children who are fortunate to grow up with a married mother and father are much less likely to find themselves in serious emotional trouble. By contrast, children who grow up without their father are significantly more likely to suffer from depression. And for some children, it gets much worse than depression. In the last half-century, suicide has more than tripled among teens and young adults; one recent Harvard study found the single “most important explanatory variable” behind this disturbing rise in youth suicide was the “increased share of youth living in homes with a divorced parent.” This is why children should thank their mothers for getting and staying married.

Or take a mother’s relationship with her sons and daughters. No one is surprised to learn that divorced and never-married fathers typically have poor relationships with their fathers. After all, most nonresidential fathers do not even see their children once a week. But even mothers are much more likely to have poor relationships with their children when dad is not in the picture. One study found that young adults whose parents were divorced were nearly twice as likely to report that they had a poor relationship with their mother compared to young adults who were raised in an intact, married family (30 versus 16 percent). This is why mothers, who usually make great efforts to have good relationships with their children, should also make every effort to get and stay married.

This is not to say that mothers should endure abusive or adulterous relationships, nor is it to devalue the heroic sacrifices that many single mothers make on behalf of their children. (Full disclosure: I think my own mother did a wonderful job raising me and my sister all on her own.) Indeed, the best social-scientific evidence suggests that children do better when their parents part ways if their relationship is characterized by serious physical or emotional abuse.

But the sad fact of the matter is that most divorces — two-thirds, according to a recent book by Penn State sociologists Paul Amato and Alan Booth — do not involve such abuse. All too many divorcing spouses “grow apart,” take an interest in an attractive coworker, or decide that their personal happiness is more important than the happiness of their spouse and children. And, according to Amato and Booth, these divorces are precisely the ones that are most devastating to the children who have to endure them.

Why does marriage matter so much for children? Typically, two parents bring more social and economic resources to the parenting enterprise than does one parent. Two parents offer one another mutual support, encouragement, and relief when a child is difficult, disobedient, or depressed. For instance, a husband can step in and relieve a wife who has grown angry or exhausted with her children. This, by the way, is one reason married moms are more likely to have children who report good relationships with them; because of the financial, practical, and emotional support they receive from their husbands, married moms are more likely to be affectionate and authoritative — and less likely to be abusive — than are single mothers.

Marriage also binds children to their fathers, who usually find it very difficult to maintain consistent and positive relationships with their children without the support and encouragement of their children’s mother. Finally, children who are fortunate to have married parents who are considerate of and committed to one another enjoy a measure of emotional security — not to mention a model of adult love that gives them hope for their own marital future — that their peers in broken homes do not.

So, this Mother’s Day, lift a glass to dear old Mom, and lift it especially high if she honored the vows she made on her wedding day.

— W. Bradford Wilcox, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, is a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute.

via The Ring Thing by W. Bradford Wilcox on National Review Online.

Change Views on Marriage? – The Heritage Foundation

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, due process rights, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Feminism, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, kidnapped children, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation on July 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm

June 30, 2009
Change views on marriage
Failing Marriages

From reality show stars like Jon and Kate Gosselin to politicians to the folks next door – what we thought were the most solid of marriages are falling apart.

Viewers tuned in to TLC’s “Jon & Kate Plus 8” because it gave them hope that it is still possible to have a big, happy family led by a mom and dad who overcome all odds because of their undying commitment to each other. Others supported political leaders who we thought would fight to uphold timeless values, including the institution of marriage.

Many of us are now feeling a bit sick to our stomachs at revelations of infidelity – and are beginning to wonder whether there is any real hope left for this sacrament called marriage.

Our toxic liberal media culture tells us that the “old-fashioned” institution of marriage should be reinvented. This attitude feeds the selfishness at the root of all marital ills. Many people now casually shrug their shoulders and decide in advance that if they aren’t happy in marriage they will just walk away. It’s time to obliterate this cavalier attitude toward the most sacred of relationships.

America’s children and our national future suffer when mom and dad reject their vows. Consider this stunning trend: In 1950, for every 100 babies that were born in this country, 12 were born to a broken family; today, for every 100 babies that are born in America, 60 are born to a broken family. If we continue along this trajectory, our nation is doomed. The family unit has always been the basic building block of civil society. If you damage the DNA of the family unit, you end up radically changing the nation as a whole – and with tragic consequences. Not least among them are the broken hearts and lives of our children.

How to Save Your Family from Falling Apart

Fidelity, commitment and selflessness are timeless values that we must uphold in our own lives – regardless of who else may have trouble doing so. They are the keys to having strong, happy individuals and strong, happy families.

The social science data are clear: Men, women and children are all better off financially, emotionally and physically when they are part of an intact family unit where mom and dad are fully committed to each other. (Visit the Heritage Foundation’s http://www.FamilyFacts.org for more information.)

We know in our hearts this is true. Yet how many of us really work or sacrifice to make our own marriages strong? We’re willing to give our “all” to our jobs and even our hobbies. So why not start spending as much time on building your relationship with your spouse as you do on your favorite TV shows and sports? Can you imagine how vastly improved your marriage would be if you put even half the energy into it that you put into your career?

If you need professional help, please get it. Forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration are as important as fidelity and commitment – and there are counselors who can help guide you and your spouse to embrace them. Just make sure yours believes in biblical guidelines and is determined to help you save your marriage. A good place to find one is www. FamilyLife.com.

It is an amazingly beautiful experience to be married to a person who is fully committed to me and who I know loves me unconditionally. But there is something even more fulfilling than having a faithful mate: Being the person that my husband can depend on. Being the one who says, “I have your back. You can count on me. I will always love you.”

Vow today, anew, to become that person. Refuse to give up or to abandon the heart that trusted you with theirs.

Rebecca Hagelin is senior communications fellow for the Heritage Foundation and the author of “30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family” and runs the Web site HowToSaveYourFamily.com.

First appeared in the Washington Times

Change views on marriage.

Hooray! The Tories are backing marriage – but they’re wrong to pretend all relationships are equal | Mail Online

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, child trafficking, children legal status, children's behaviour, Civil Rights, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome on July 6, 2009 at 3:04 pm

By Melanie Phillips
Last updated at 8:05 AM on 06th July 2009

The Tories are shortly to unveil a far-reaching policy to put marriage at the heart of family life.

A high-powered team of lawyers commissioned by Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice is to issue a report later this month which is expected to shape Conservative policy on the family.

It is said to recommend a sweeping overhaul of the law to strengthen marriage, including moves to make divorce more difficult and promote marriage preparation classes and ‘family relationship centres’, as well as tax breaks for married couples.

Backing marriage: Conservative Party leader David Cameron with his wife Samantha last month

Backing marriage: Conservative Party leader David Cameron with his wife Samantha last month

Condemning the modern mantra that marriage is merely a ‘lifestyle choice’, the report is expected to say that there is overwhelming evidence that marriage brings many benefits to couples, children, the wider family and the nation as a whole.

If the Tory Party accepts these recommendations, it will be an enormous and hugely overdue step in the right direction.

The family is the building block of society. If the institution of the family is broken, society breaks with it.

That is what has happened in Britain over the past four decades as part of a deliberate attempt by the ‘progressive’ intelligentsia to reshape society around the unrestrained gratification of adult sexual desire under the banners of ‘ liberation’, ‘equality’ and ‘rights’.

As a result, nearly half of all babies are now born outside marriage; Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe; and women and children are at far greater risk of sexual and physical abuse.

Children from fractured homes do worse in general in every single area of their lives.

As the High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge recently observed, the family courts are overwhelmed with cases involving damaged, miserable or disturbed children.

Yet for years the evidence of this catastrophe has been swept under the carpet or denied outright by those pushing this agenda.

Anyone who drew attention to it was pilloried as a bigot who wanted to turn back the clock to some mythical ‘golden age’.

Marriage was progressively undermined. With divorce court judges deciding they were no longer prepared to make judgments about who was to blame for the breakdown of a marriage, divorce soared.

All stigma and shame were removed from unmarried motherhood. Cohabitation numbers took off, fuelled by a tax and welfare system which provided incentives for couples to live apart while married couples were penalised.

If the Tories are now really going to tackle all this properly, it would be an act of conspicuous political leadership.

And to his credit, David Cameron has said consistently that he intends to do so.

The problem, however, is that his intention to repair the family is undermined by his support for gay rights.

His apology last week for the Tories’ original support for ‘Clause 28’, the totemic attempt to stop councils from distributing gay propaganda in schools, provoked widespread scorn – not least from many gays who understandably regarded it as patronising and cynically opportunistic.

And it has also promoted a demeaning war of words between Labour and the Tories about whose agenda is more ‘pink’ than the other.

The far more serious point, however, is that the gay rights agenda undermines marriage.

The Tories insist that this is not so and that the two sit happily together. Promoting gay rights, they say, is merely about ending intolerance. It is irrelevant to family breakdown, which is a heterosexual problem.

Undoubtedly, the overwhelming reason is the collapse of constraints on heterosexual behaviour. But it is surely wrong to deny any connection.

The key point is the difference between homosexuals as individuals and the ‘gay rights’ lobby.

A liberal society should be tolerant of gay people. It is good that social attitudes are now far more relaxed. People’s sexuality should be an entirely private matter and should not be the cause of prejudice or, worse still, aggression towards homosexuals.

But is the gay rights agenda really about tolerance, or is it about trying to stop heterosexuality being the behavioural norm?

Because it entails treating gay relationships as identical to heterosexual ones in every respect, any differences – over marriage or adoption, for example – are damned as discrimination and bigotry.

As a result, what started as a decent intention to eradicate intolerance has turned into intolerance as morality has been stood on its head.

Thus opposing gay adoption on the grounds that children need a replica mother and father is denounced as ‘homophobic’.

But hasn’t that been precisely the problem which the Tories are now – to their credit – trying to address in heterosexual family life, that children do need a mother and father and that family life has been wrecked by those who strenuously pretend otherwise?

Gay rights activists claim that ‘lifestyle choice’ means gay relationships should be treated identically to heterosexual ones.

But the core reason for family breakdown is precisely the view that marriage is merely a ‘ relationship’ for people to choose or not from a menu of alternative lifestyles.

However, marriage is not a ‘relationship’ but a unique institution for safeguarding the upbringing of children.

It has to be protected in turn by a web of law and custom, tradition and attitudes. That web has been destroyed by the ‘all lifestyles are equal’ doctrine.

The collapse of sexual norms has destroyed the bulwarks around marriage. And the gay rights agenda is very much part of that process.

What is particularly worrying, moreover, is that any attempt to say so is demonised as ‘homophobic’. As a result, traditional Christians are now being discriminated against.

At the weekend the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, called upon homosexuals to ‘repent and be changed’, which drew the immediate charge that he was promoting intolerance.

But since Christianity holds that sexual relations should be restricted to a man and a woman inside marriage, aren’t those who want to stop Christians upholding their own doctrine displaying intolerance?

It is heartening that real prejudice against gays is now so much less than it was. But how sad that gay activists are now perpetrating a mirror image of the intolerance once shown to them.

Shouldn’t the Tories be defending Christians, the bedrock faith beneath the values of this country, against such bullying?

It will take great courage to tackle the causes of family breakdown. Even now, the progressive establishment is determined to bury the truth.

A two-part programme for the BBC by the respected journalist John Ware about ‘The Death Of Respect’, which identifies family breakdown as an important reason for the rise of aggression, incivility and crime, has been moved by channel controllers from a prime 9pm slot to the ‘graveyard’ 11.20pm time because it is considered to be ‘too dark’.

The real reason is surely that its message runs counter to the libertine ‘group-think’ of progressive opinion.

That’s why such circles will try to paint the Tories as heartless and bigoted over their attempt to promote marriage.

David Cameron should hurl that insult straight back. It’s those who have destroyed marriage and with it the lifechances of countless children, not to mention the health and welfare of abandoned women and men, who are the truly heartless and bigoted.

The Tories are showing courage on marriage. They must be careful this doesn’t turn into incoherence.

Hooray! The Tories are backing marriage – but they’re wrong to pretend all relationships are equal | Mail Online.

Demi’s Message to Parental Alienation Children

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, children's behaviour, Civil Rights, CPS, custody, Department of Social Servies, due process rights, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Liberty, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, state crimes on July 6, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Demi’s Message to All Alienated Children

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjX_OmArgcs