- Divorce is not a failure, and has many opportunities for learning to be a better person!
- StepFamilies and Blended families have served as successful family forms for thousands of years
- Where is control appropriate in stepfamily life, and where is it destructive?
- Blended and step family life has many opportunities for learning life skills
- Step family life can be infuriating but a life skill can grow from managing feelings
- StepFamilies: An Expression of the highest of Family Values
- Military Suicides and Honoring Family
- Brains in Relationships
- Stepfamilies and Assumptions That are Often Not True
- Divorce Does not Have to Mean Failure
- StepFamilies and the mis-label Dysfunctional
- Does Divorce "Harm" Children?
- Parenting Roles
- Parenting, co-parenting, stepparenting
- Divorce and successful children
- Holiday planning and StepFamilies and Children of a Divorce
- Children of Divorce and Suicide Ideation; it is not the divorce that harms!
Divorce is not a failure, and has many opportunities for learning to be a better person!
Divorce is almost always painful for someone if not for everyone involved in a family and friendship circle. Loss, rejection, disruption of the routines of life seldom occur without sacrifice, scars, and wounds to self-image at the very least. Finanacial problems, decreased economic security, depression, anxiety and suffering challenge all of us, and can be issues that divorce brings intensely, at least for a while. Learning to see opportunities in any grief process is a difficult challenge for many, but absolutely necessary if ex-spouses are to move on to a more fulfilling life. Stepfamilies at their best involve wiser people who hopefully have matured from what they learned in prior relationships. When the learning curve is accepted as part of life, and divorces are not seen as failures people are more free to make conscious loving choices free of shame, and develop the kind of respectful and loving environment in a home where love and people can flourish.
StepFamilies and Blended families have served as successful family forms for thousands of years
Over the thousands of years of human history the purpose of family has often altered and change. Reasons for family have been everything from survival, protection, economic security, the longing to be safely a part of a kinship group, carrying on a family name or dynasty to a spiritual commitment to future generations, or to the greater good of one's chosen community. StepFamilies have always been part of these purposful family groupings, and they too have adapted and changed as the cultural meaning of family has changed. In many societies StepFamilies were seen as exceptional, not second rate, but its opposite. The difference in being proud of your family and its structure versus ashamed reflects in the confidence and self-esteem of members.
Where is control appropriate in stepfamily life, and where is it destructive?
When we are born our sense of security, of well-being, and of being loved is almost totally externally controlled. Whether we live or die, starve or get fed, are comforted when in pain or distress has little to do with our conscious choices. As we grow and assume bits and pieces of responsibility for our well-being we are taking more and more internal control of our sense of self, and who we are in the world. Emotional and psychological maturity involves being aware of what is our responsibility and what is beyond our control. People who blame others for most of their problems and difficulties without examining their own part in their dilemmas are sometimes seen as victims, or as needy, childlike in their view of the world. Being in a successful StepFamily demands honest conscious assessments of whose responsibilities are appropriately assigned. Children and adults alike need to see increased freedom from supervision to involve increased responsibility. Adults who either see themselves as powerless victims of life, or are over-controlling of themselves and others make StepFamily development difficult if not impossible.
Blended and step family life has many opportunities for learning life skills
In athletics we push our bodies to the point where the muscles are sore, muscles build only when pushed to this point, even to point of small tares, and we often feel exhausted after a good workout. But one can go to far, be in so much pain that the body and muscles break down and cause harm to the overall health of the body. Emotional and psychological strength occurs the same way. We can injure ourselves if we are pushed beyond our capacity, or into an area which would damage anyone psychologically, destructive marriages often end in this kind of pain and harm. Once one has recovered from an injury and rested, building slowly to a point where they emotional stretching and growth needed to be part of a StepFamily can be as intense as any good program for strength, flexibility, and endurance. The rewards are immense. Encouraging each member of a StepFamily to grow and become a more resilient healthy person involves awareness of each person, adult and child alike, and neither over pushing growth inappropriately, nor allowing people to become emotional couch potatoes just because the parents feel guilty or depressed about the end of a prior marriage.
Step family life can be infuriating but a life skill can grow from managing feelings
Self-regulation and the challenges of stepfamily were made for each other! Psychologists endlessly discuss and develop ways to help clients regulate their emotions. This means to me that they feel their emotions and choose appropriate behavior and examine their thinking and attitudes. The goal is to feel emotions and then not escalate them to the point where inappropriate and relationally destructive behavior results in damage to self and others. It does not have to be physical damage, although such is of course not acceptable, and can even be illegal. Verbal abuse, emotional abuse, inappropriately assigning guilt, shame, or blame can do damage to self-esteem and confidence, relationships and careers. StepFamilies are at times challenging gauntlets to experiencing intense emotions, pleasant and unpleasant, and having to choose appropriate responses. Emotional and psychological strength is a positive outcome if done with conscious intention to be as loving as possible.
StepFamilies: An Expression of the highest of Family Values
So many of my clients and friends have felt that some of the people in this country use the term Family Values to demean stepfamilies, and keep their status shamed. As if family values only are shared by those who have never been divorced. It is not my idea of a "family value" to discriminate with hostility and prejudice against those who are divorced and have a goal of living in a loving family structure.
In my experience the family values which I think are the most important: providing 1) a safe and loving family where children can grow up to be loving, creative, confident, successful at their chosen work, relational, spiritual and flexible people, and providing 2) a place where two adults form a loving foundation to support each other and their children. A family where adults and children can grow as people in an environment where love is the primary emotion and foundation for the parental relationship. In fact, the thoughtfulness needed to adapt to the complexities of stepfamily life can truly provide a family that consciously strives for the highest success. It is the high value that adults and children place on family that drives the formation of stepfamily by the vast majority of those who begin that journey. In the past, stepfamilies were often seen by the culture as the highest form of loving family -- with the ability to include those not biologically related, a truly spiritual and selfless commitment to children who otherwise might be in orphanages, on the street, or worse. Modern Western Society has opened its heart to children who otherwise might have no family home, or live in a single parent situation. It would be truly wonderful if those who call themselves stepparents could be proud of the title, and all were aware of what immense selflessness of caring that often coincides with parents who call themselves "step."
Military Suicides and Honoring Family
Family life has always been a major casualty of military obligations during wars. The statistics on suicides for those who have and are serving in the military seems to vary between various sources. The four suicides over the weekend among those in active duty hit the news, while other sources "Suicide - Did you Know" from tearsofawarrior.com report that the norm is one suicide among active duty people every 36 hours, and 18 a day for veterans and active duty personnel. This is a nightmare for all of us. With the troops who are in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters experiencing a 80% divorce rate the families are also destructing at an alarming rate. We are a society and a culture which values family. Self-esteem, joy in life, and recovery from PTSD and depression is enhanced when a person suffering from such lives in a loving family. StepFamilies can be just a supportive, but all too often they are treated as part of the problem, not as part of the support system. Honoring the role of stepfamily formation in the midst of this war is an important part of any plan to reduce the suicide rate, and to increase the number of veterans returning home to a supportive honored family -- whether it be a stepfamily or the original family they left when first deployed. The children of our veterans who are part of the families who are experiencing divorce and remarriage challenges also need to feel that they have not been relegated to some kind of second class family due the the military stress which may or may not have contributed to their parents divorce. Most of our young men and women who signed up to serve knew they were making sacrifices, but I doubt that 80% knew that their family structure was going to be one of the biggest sacrifices they would make. They and their new stepfamilies need to be honored not shamed for the sacrifices they have undergone.
Brains in Relationships
I just attended a fascinating workshop put on by Sierra Tucson's outreach coordinator, Lisa Jane Vargas. The workshops provide excellent continuing education programs for psychotherapists in the community while also providing a great venue to network. Dr. Robert Johnson provided two lectures this week on brains in addiction which certainly helps provide solid clinical evidence as to the damage addictions, stress, even mild head trauma (like from soccer balls and headers) can do. The good news is how wonderful the brain can be in healing itself with the right support, nutrition, exercise, medications at times, and removal of the toxins and stressors. The blunting of the ability of dopamine receptors in the brain, which allows us to feel pleasure in our relationships is a wonderful visual of what therapy and marital counseling intends to heal. I hope the model that Sierra Tucson with its SPECT scan brain imagery becomes a treatment model not only for addictions, but for Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, head injuries, and a sense of blunted affect which certainly can result in feeling no fear, and high risk taking impulsive behavior not helpful to family life. A holistic approach treating body, brain, family, mind and soul certainly has the potential for making recovery more complete.
Stepfamilies and Assumptions That are Often Not True
This week I decided to collect assumptions and stereotypes that divorced and remarried people hear almost daily which are often not true, and some that are. Trying to examine the prejudices which harm self-image and confidence unnecessarily for people in step-relationships is an important step toward changing the way stepfamilies are viewed. I am also asking for help with this project. If you hear statements which are shaming, demeaning, and inaccurate generalizations please e-mail them to me at Eleanor@stepwisdom.com, or comment on this blog. I would love to hear from you. When we label a whole group of people whose only common characteristic is that some of the children are not biologically related to both parental figures we are globalizing and shaming many people who simply do not deserve it, and in fact are wonderful families. Some generalizations may have a large degree of truth, such as stepfamilies are at time more complicated and challenging, but the tone of voice that implies admiration rather than contempt or defeat make the statement a compliment or an insult. When people are demeaned it is hard to function at ones best. Conversely, if stepparents were admired for their spiritual and moral courage and compassion in being willing to help raise children not their own, they will probably aim for being the best they can be. There is a reality to self-fulfilling prophecies. Predicting a disaster when a stepfamily forms does not encourage their desire to be their best. The words we use shape our reality. Tomorrow Divorce does not equal Failure.
Divorce Does not Have to Mean Failure
How many of us have not heard someone say "my marriage was a failure," their marriage ended in failure," "she/he is a failure at relationships as they have been divorced," or some other form of such. Please add any statements you have heard like this, or mail them to me at email@example.com. I have been working with people who were struggling with a difficult marriage,, and with people in the throws of a divorce and/or its aftermath for over forty years; yet I have never seen any marriage I would label as a "failure." Life is about learning, and accepting and meeting the various challenges life provides each of us. Most people have friends from the past, jobs they used to enjoy, and groups to which the once belonged all of which are now part of my history. Some of them one would love to see again, some not. But none of these relationships, jobs, or groups have are usually considered by to be failures just because they ended. Most people have learned something of value from each friendship, each job. Marriages can be viewed similarly and the questions asked about what has one learned about love and life, about yourself and others and relationships. What is tragic is hearing divorced parents describe their marriage as a failure or mistake in front of children they love. Are the children a mistake? Should they have just been illegitimate? Never born? This cultural blindness to the self-esteem damage that this derogatory language causes helps no one. It is not compassionate, nor is it accurate. Marriages can end and it is possible to walk through the grief and suffering that the loss of love causes and come out stronger and wiser. If someone never loved, never learned anything, and never gained any wisdom or children from a marriage - then the person involved, not the marriage failed.
I am convinced of one truth after doing this work for four decades, whatever of life's lessons you don't learn in one relationship will be offered again and again until you do. It may take a while when one is in the midst of grief, especially during times a feeling extremely sad, abandoned, or angry to list all the gifts of learning, of feeling loved and loving, or of being in relationships that a prior marriage gave, but it is needed to go on a stronger and more loving human being. Any relationship may end, transform, change, or dissolve; if such happens with compassion and an openness to accepting the gifts each has brought, acknowledging the grief of loss, and moving on in life with more maturity, then divorce may be seen as the end of something important, and cease to be a destructive and shaming event which leaves everyone, including children feeling that their self-worth has been injured.
StepFamilies and the mis-label Dysfunctional
I met yesterday with Patricia Skinner, M.A., LPC, stepparenting.com. What started as a morning coffee, became a ninety minute conversation about stepfamilies It was immensely fun to share ideas on how to increase awareness of the need for classes and workshops on stepparenting, not just parenting, as the two may overlap in places, but there are so many different issues in stepfamilies. We are in planning stages of doing such ourselves and will keep you posted as we develop them. Our discussion on language led to some thoughts on the word dysfunctional and how vague it has become to the point where we can label every family as such, making it a useless and redundant word to describe any family. Families are dysfunctional in different ways, and in different aspects of their complex tasks, but they often function quite well in other areas. If families are supposed to be a place of safety where a group of related people grow to become more successful, relational, creative, happy, spiritual, and healthy human beings then stepfamilies, which are part of over half the extended families in our society, and probably always have been about the same percentage, can function quite well to provide this kind of structure and nurturing support. If as a culture we can embrace all families and help them become the best they can be, then labels such as dysfunctional will be relatively useless except in describing one of the aspects of family life that needs to function more effectively. Global shaming is an ugly burden for anyone to carry.
Does Divorce "Harm" Children?
Divorce always involves suffering loss and grief work for adults and children; as does living in a home with a toxic marriage. However, divorce does not harm, people harm. Perhaps blaming "the divorce" can be seen as a way of avoiding our personal responsibility for careless actions by adults going through a such . Parents and stepparents alike can do and say things that damage self-esteem and result in trauma, depression and anxiety. Being angry and vindictive, trying to get children to hate or be disrespectful to another parent, demanding children take sides, and not working out a respectful co-parent communication to serve the needs of the family now forming in two homes -- those actions harm everyone, not just children. It is human and natural to wish to avoid suffering, but life has losses and suffering. It always hurts to realize that someone who once loved you, no longer loves you, but being cruel and vengeful is an inappropriate response when children are involved. Learning to cope and grow through such experiences is important for all of us. What I do ask people contemplating divorce is to recognize that grief does not harm in and of itself, how we cope, and what we do as we grieve does. To insist that divorce in and of itself harms is to pass responsibility for the health of children off onto some invisible process. I listen daily in my work to people who as children knew their parents hated each other, to people torn, depressed, and anxious who as children were subjected to being ignored, neglected, and often abused while parents raged at each other, both before, during and after a divorce. Divorce is not a spontaneous event or something which happens suddenly, most wedding vows include honor, respect,love and a sense of cherishing another, and as those things diminish or become non-existent staying married begins the process of harm as all are living in an lie or at least an unauthentic situation. People harm each other, parents harm children. It may demand all the maturity one can muster to go through a divorce honoring the other co-parent and being respectful. It may be hard work to accept that one is no longer husband and wife, your former spouse no longer loves you, and may love someone else, but life long co-parents can still commit to not harming their children. Divorce can be far less harmful than continuing to live in a toxic hostile angry environment. If one wants to stay for" the sake of the children," or for the sake of economic security, then work on developing a non-toxic relationship with your spouse; you will always be co-parents until death do you part.
Over the past few weeks several parents and step-parents have written about the need for clarity in the difference between the roles of parent and step-parent. When step-parents are expected to take over the role of the ideal biological parent trouble will follow. No matter how awful the bio-parent may be, the new step-parent is not a replacement to make up for the deficiencies of the biological one; it is far more complicated than that. The roles are different, and when a biological parent is impaired by an addiction, psychiatric problems, or unresolved grief and anger it can make for a very difficult transition. It may seem like an impossible task to deal with an alcoholic bio-parent, or one with severe emotional or behavioral problems. In such cases professional help in terms of counseling or coaching may be advisable if you want to make the new step-family last. It is not impossible or get over one's rage at the end of a prior marriage and the loss of all the hopes and expectations that were not met, but it takes time and soul work. Involving a new spouse into this before the grief work is done will make for very rough sailing. The shipwreck of many second marriages all too often starts in the unresolved problems from the first still poisoning the atmosphere. Great step-families start with former marriage partners working out a co-parenting system based on respect and dignity. If that is impossible due to addictions and other personality issues, get professional help in understanding how this will impact the newly forming step-family difficult, and how to define roles and ways to cope with the upsets. A step parent can never replace a biological parent, but they can make a wonderful loving impact on everyone. Each step-family is unique and the roles should be defined, flexible and evolving as all age and get to know each other better, but clear roles and boundaries are important in all families.
Parenting, co-parenting, stepparenting
There are classes available in almost every state which go by the labels: Parenting Class, Co-Parenting Class, and many fewer labeled StepParenting Class. If you are reading this blog it is probably highly likely that a Parenting Class is not what you are looking for. Parenting Classes can be useful to all, including teachers and counselors without children, but they often have suggestions which are impossible if you are a stepparent. I have had too many divorcing couples, and stepparents come back from those classes feeling even worse about themselves and the prognosis for their children. Co-parenting classes are designed for couples who are de-coupling with children. It focuses on the parenting that goes on, often successfully, with two households. They address the communication and logistics of raising children moving between two different homes often with different ideas of what "should be." Remember no one gets divorced because they agree on everything; the disagreements hopefully will be less volatile after a divorce, but if you couldn't agree on how important grades and school work is before a divorce it is not likely to happen afterwards. Unless, of course, the fight about the importance of homework was a smoke screen for real and deeper issues. Children move between worlds with different values all the time; they are usually good at it. They go from school with different teachers, to home, to clubs, sports, music lessons, church, and other places where they have to act differently, where what is important is different. They can adapt happily and successfully between households where they are loved and safe. If one household is truly abusive or dangerous then the court, not the co-parenting class, is the place to deal with such.
Stepparenting skills ideally should be an added skill set. They are not a replacement for co-parenting skills. Stepfamilies which form when there is a peaceful, well thought-out co-parenting structure already in place are less complicated. But even so, hurt feelings, jealousy and fear can disrupt even the calmest of co-parenting systems when a third and fourth parental figure enters into the picture. Step-parenting involves all the adults involved to focus on soothing their own ruffled feelings, getting appropriate reassurance if needed, and keeping the focus on the goal of raising children to become happy successful adults. That is still the task.
There are wonderful books available on Parenting, on Co-parenting, and on Stepparenting. Make sure you find one that is respectful of the positive aspects of the parenting tasks. If the book seems to take the stance, that "since you are in the miserable situation you should make the best of something which is never good." Get rid of the bookand find another. We form stepfamilies because we love, and increasing the number of people we love is seldom a bad thing. Enjoy your expanded opportunities to love and grow and share your life.
Divorce and successful children
Part of the mythology about divorce and children, about stepfamily outcomes, has been driven by research projects which I believe are unfairly biased before they start. When one is comparing children from divorced families to children from non-divorced families you are comparing children from marriages that to varying degrees became toxic to the biological parents to a mixed group of destructive and non-destructive marriages. 100% of divorced people came to a place where they were no longer loving, respectful, cherishing, and honoring of each other as marriage partners. The non-divorced parental group includes parental partners from two groups: those who do and those who do not honor, love, cherish, or respect each other as marital parents. In the 42 years I have been working with stepfamilies I have not found that the label "divorced" determined how the children fared. Toxic relationships of all sorts harm children. The difficulty for researchers is that separating the families who are not divorced and in deeply conflictual dis-respectful relationships from those who still love, honor and cherish each other even through hard times is practically impossible. I know of many marriages that look wonderful from the outside, and whose partners put on a very happy face to the world. In the public eye all of us went from hearing Sandra Bullock's marriage to Jesse James held up to the world as a model marriage prior to the scandals. Tiger Woods and his wife looked like a happy marriage until the limelight hit it. Doing research which can weed out happy families and marriages from those marriages in which the adults are "divorced emotionally" from each other is very difficult. But there are determined researchers who are working to see if we can find a way to look at long term studies on children being raised in loving homes no matter what the marital status and those being raised in toxic homes, again no matter what the marital status. The research is coming in slowly, but it validates the thousands of anecdotal experiences of so many therapists. Toxic relationships cause the harm.
Success in adult life is often measured by how many friends one has, how many colleagues respect your work, how many people you care about deeply, the amount of mutual respect you have with other people. Stepfamilies can be the perfect schooling for an expansive model of loving and honoring the world around you and those who are not biologically related.
I know of many marriages that look wonderful from the outside, and whose partners put on a very happy face to the world. In the public eye all of us went from hearing Sandra Bullock's marriage to Jesse James held up to the world as a model marriage prior to the scandals. Tiger Woods and his wife looked like a happy marriage until the limelight hit it. So some of this work does not lend itself well to large studies. But there are determined researchers who are working to see if we can find a way to look at long term studies on children being raised in loving homes no matter what the marital status and those being raised in toxic homes, again no matter what the marital status. The research is coming in slowly, but it validates the thousands of anecdotal experiences of so many therapists. Toxic relationships cause the harm. Success in adult life is often measured by how many friends one has, how many colleagues respect your work, how many people you know and care about deeply. Stepfamilies can be the perfect schooling for an expansive model of loving and honoring the world around you and those who are not biologically related. Perhaps we should do more research on what makes so many stepfamilies so successful and less on trying to validate a cultural fear and aversion to divorce. Is it so far from common sense that we need a lot of research to know that people who are loving and compassionate are good for children, and that happy loving parents are too?
There is a wonderful article about one of the pieces of research here.
Holiday planning and StepFamilies and Children of a Divorce
Winter holidays can often make the normal complexities of stepfamily life seem insignificant compared to the logistics of sharing children at this special time of year. Parents after a divorce often feel torn between the desire to have the time with their children all to themselves, and the need to sacrifice some of that time so that their former spouse can have a reasonable share of the holiday hours. For many the loss of their children for hours or an entire day during this season is immensely difficult. The pain following a divorce of the loss of the marriage and prior family structure can activate just when one thought that the grief process had been completed. Learning to be mindful of the purpose of the holiday and to detach from the very human emotions of possessiveness, jealousy, envy, resentment, hurt, and competitiveness can be a difficult process. It is also a spiritual and psychological growth process for all. Sharing the time with your children with your former spouse after a divorce is a gift to them. Children who live with the awareness of how bitter, hurt, and angry parents can be when they have to share their holiday hours with the other parent often grow into adults who find the holidays tense and unpleasant, filled with guilt feelings decades later. One of the first tasks is to let go of the fantasies about what a holiday "should" look like. Be creative about new traditions which meet the needs of stepfamily life. One parent and their stepfamily can open presents Christmas Eve, another Christmas Day. One can go to midnight services; another can enjoy a special event on Christmas afternoon. If you are in a stepfamily where holidays are shared on alternate years, make sure that the year you do not have your children you have something special plans for yourself. Being a martyr and indicating to your children how miserable you are going to be without them will make the entire holiday a guilt ridden misery for all involved, and the long term outcome may be having adult children who would rather avoid the holidays or spend them with new in-laws who do not trigger old painful memories of conflict and guilt. Remember what you are developing as a personal family mythology. Is it fun and love is the theme of the holidays or guilt and conflict?
This can be a difficult stretch for all involved to stay focused on the meaning of the holidays and be willing to quietly accept the sacrifices involved so that both parents can be happily involved with their children. Some decide that it is more important to spend the maximum number of hours with their children even though that may mean accepting that a former spouse and their new partner will now be present; they learn to care about the new stepparent figure in their children's lives and grow past jealous or angry/hurt feelings. This may not be possible in most cases, but thoughtful effort to be as considerate and honoring of the needs and concerns of all involved makes for both a present day pay off of a happier holiday and for a long term benefit of all involved enjoying holidays for years to come.
The sadness that can occur years and decades later when people who escalated their angry fights with a former spouse during the holidays now realize that their grown children have no good memories of holidays, and would rather not come home, but prefer to spend holidays with happier families, or friends is painful to watch as a therapist, but it is understandable. The emotional tones you establish for holidays with resonate for years and decades to come.
There is more information about holiday planning on the resources pages of the web site stepwisdom.com. You are more than welcome to download and copy any of it if it appears helpful.
If you have a member of a stepfamily on your holiday shopping list, I hope you will consider buying the book StepWisdom for them. Whether they are a stepparent, stepchild, or stepsibling, or someone who is considering becoming such in a new relationship there will hopefully be some useful ideas which will encourage success in their relationships and pride in their status.
Children of Divorce and Suicide Ideation; it is not the divorce that harms!
The headlines over the past week about suicide ideation for children of divorce have certainly been spectacular, and if one goes no further than the headlines, they are very concerning. Boys and girls whose parents are divorced have three times the rate of suicidal thoughts and plans than those children in homes where their biological parents are still present and married. I have a Google search for such information and comments and articles based on this research popped up all over the place.
Yet, in looking at the research the headline is not supported in any meaningful way. When all that was looked at was divorce the statistics stood unchallenged. However, when child abuse, addictions, and violence were factored in the suicidal ideation among girls whose parents were or were not divorced showed NO difference. So what made the significant difference for girls was abuse, sexual and otherwise, parents with addictions to alcohol and/or drugs, and violence in the home. Since families with those problems are more likely to end up in divorce the outcomes of the research are predictable. Bad behavior by parents harms children, not matter what the marital status. The research proved that, which has been proven repeatedly by older studies.
Then there was the group of boys. When factoring in abuse and addictions the rate of suicidal ideation still was at 17% among the divorced parents group, and just over 5% for those boys whose first family was still intact. Again this sounds like new information of deep concern. Then there is an "oops". What seems to be true is that the suicidal ideation goes up among the group of boys whose fathers have abandoned them. Only study boys whose fathers, divorced or not, are present in their lives in a meaningful loving way, and the suicide ideation lowers dramatically? Back to no difference between boys with divorced parents or not!
So why don't the headlines read: Children whose parents are abusive or addicted or abandon them are three times more likely to have suicidal ideation than those whose parents are present in their lives and lovingly supportive and responsible. Maybe because that makes sense, just good old common sense, and doesn't sound as sensational. It also doesn't fit into our cultural love of scape-goating external events for our own problems. Divorce doesn't harm children, it can be painful for all but most heal and are stronger for it. Divorce doesn't harm children, parents and adults who impact their lives do the harm. I also think that cultural attitudes fueled by these kinds of headlines harm self-esteem, and are remarkably unhelpful to parents and children alike. The study once you get past the sensational headline actually makes a great statement demanding parents be responsible for their own behavior around children. No excuses that the "divorce did it."
A somewhat sad, somewhat encouraging comment about the research was that even though suicide rates for children of divorce was three times higher than the norm; it still was less that 1 out of every five children whose parents divorced. I am guessing that more research needs to be done, but at first reading it looks like that children whose parents divorce respectfully of each other and their children, whose father's stay involved, and who live without violence and abuse --- for that group suicidal ideation is not a bigger issue than for those children whose families are intact. That is research I would like to see done!