Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Legacy of Divorce Continues to Grow....

There was a time when the number disrupter of families was death but in the early 1960s that began to change. Social structures changed and we began moving towards a culture of divorce. In 2000 Judith Wallerstein (http://www.amazon.com/Unexpected-Legacy-Divorce-Landmark-Study/dp/0786886161/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1248794199&sr=8-1) published the 25 year 'landmark' study called "the unexpected legacy of divorce" in which she and her fellow researchers discovered that the divorced family is not a truncated version of the two-parent family but it is a different kind of family. In this different family the children she followed for 25 years (all types of divorce were represented in her sample) felt less protected and more anxious about their future than children raised in reasonably good intact families. Mothers and fathers who share their beds with different people are not not the same as mothers and fathers living under the same roof. She 'discovered' the divorced family has an entirely new cast of characters and relationships that features steps (mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters), seconds (marriages and divorces), and often a series of live-ins.

Now the 'new' study just released this week posits divorce can make you sick. Researchers analyzed data from nearly 9,000 adults nationwide, ages 51 to 61, and found those who had been divorced or widowed suffered 20 percent more chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, than individuals who were currently married. Divorce can be so traumatic that not even tying the knot again is enough to reverse the physical and mental toll.

Of course if one is in a 'toxic' relationship where there is physical and/or mental abuse then the health benefits of divorce may outweigh the risks of staying in the relationship.

I see couples everyday who are in "bad" marriages and as a psychologist and family therapist who is pro marriage, I coach them in finding ways to make it better. Many times a couple will commit to working on themselves and the relationship for the 'sake of the kids' and that motivation can see them through tough days. Now we have a new motivation, 'stick together for the sake of health."

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