THE INNER LIVES OF CHILDREN OF DIVORCE
by Elizabeth Marquardt
Over the past few decades, divorce has become an increasingly popular choice for adults who feel trapped in unhappy marriages. We hear a lot about the plusses of “blended families” and the importance of having a “good” divorce—but rarely do we hear about the real and lasting effects divorce has on the approximately one million children whose parents divorce each year. That is, until now. A new national study challenges our perception of divorce and reveals, in poignant detail, how divorce dramatically shapes the inner lives of children into young adulthood. In BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (Crown Publishers, September 27, 2005, $24.95, Hardcover and Three Rivers Press, September 2006, $13.95, Paperback), Elizabeth Marquardt, with exclusive access to the first such study, reports on the emotional, moral, and spiritual lives of the first generation of young people to grow up in an era of widespread divorce.
In BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, Marquardt explains:
- Children of so-called “good” divorces often compare poorly even to children of unhappy marriages, and look much worse than children raised in happy marriages. Even when divorced parents behave well, their divorce confronts the child with the monumental task of having to make sense, alone, of the parents’ very different beliefs, values, and ways of living – a job the parents are no longer required to do.
- As a consequence, children of both “good” and “bad” divorces come to feel like divided selves. They lead a wholly separate life in each parent’s world, leading over time to a troubling inner division that goes to the heart of their identity.
- In divorced families secrets are epidemic. Children of divorce feel highly protective of each parent and routinely keep secrets for them, even when their parents do not ask them to. The parents know little about their child’s life when the child is living with the other parent, and the child knows little about one parent’s world while living with the other.
Marquardt, who is now thirty-four, interweaves her own story of growing up as the child of a “good” divorce with the findings of her study, co-investigated with Norval Glenn (a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin), to create a stunning new portrait of this new generation. She explores the ways in which children of divorce:
- Must grow up too soon because they are less protected from their parents’ worries, feel less emotionally safe, are far less able to go to their parents for comfort, and are much more often left alone.
- Are forced to figure out the big questions in life alone because divorced parents often hold different moral views and no longer talk about those views together.
- Experience a loss of trust that affects their belief in God—making them much less religious than their peers from intact families, or (for a much smaller number) dramatically strengthening their faith. Of those children of divorce who were regular attenders at a place of worship, only one quarter said someone from the clergy or congregation reached out to them when their parents split up.
Marquardt gives life to the numbers in her study with vivid, moving stories and quotations from the many young adults she interviewed in person around the country. In BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, Marquardt believes, without apology, that it is vital that children, whenever possible, grow up with their own two married parents. But she states emphatically that she does not believe divorced parents are bad people, nor that anyone should remain a prisoner of an abusive marriage. Instead, Marquardt argues that even though we must be compassionate about the needs and experiences of divorced parents, we cannot allow that concern to prevent us from confronting, unflinchingly, the inner lives of the children.
About the Author
Elizabeth Marquardt is an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values, a nonpartisan think tank focused on children, families, and civil society. Her essays and op-ed pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. Marquardt, now thirty-four, did national publicity as coauthor of a groundbreaking study on college women’s attitudes about sex and dating, appearing on The Today Show, World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, The O’Reilly Factor, CNN’s Talk Back Live, and NPR’s All Things Considered. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.
Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce • Elizabeth Marquardt • Crown Publishers • On sale: September 27, 2005 • ISBN: 0-307-23710-9 • 288 pages • Hardcover • $24.95 • www.crownpublishing.com
Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce • Elizabeth Marquardt • Three Rivers Press • On sale: September 2006 • ISBN: 0-307-23711-7 • Trade Paperback • $13.95 • www.crownpublishing.com