Divorce is a Threat to our Public Health

Divorce as Threat to Public Health

With a divorce rate hovering around half of all marriages, it’s safe to say it’s pervasive in our culture. If you yourself haven’t experienced divorce (or your parents didn’t divorce), you likely know many neighbors, friends and co-workers who have. And for many people, that means that their children are living in divorced families.

The effects of divorce on children have been well documented:

  • Children of divorced parents are twice as likely to drop out of high school
  • Children involved in multiple divorces perform worse at school
  • Adult children of divorce have lower paying jobs, less college education than their parents

When, then, does this state of affairs become a crisis?

This week I sat down with Dr. Mark Banschick, child psychologist with training from Georgetown University and New York Presbyterian Hospitals, expert witness in custody disputes, author of The Intelligent Divorce: Taking Care of Your Children, and writer for Psychology Today. He has been featured on the CBS Early Show and quoted in The New York Times, CNN and USA Today. He recently launched a comprehensive online course, Intelligent Divorced Parenting to help parents deal more effectively with divorce even when confronted with a difficult former spouse. He’s identified divorce as not just a sociological event, but as a public health crisis.

Population at Risk

Population at risk” is a statistical term that refers to the population that is exposed to a certain event. So, for example, in the case of divorce, the population at risk is 50% of the married population, since the divorce rate is about 50% of marriages. Dr. Banschick has extensive experience with this group of people. In studying divorced families, he’s looked at what factors have helped children thrive despite their parents’ split.

Divorce Island

Dr. Banschick discusses his idea of what he calls “divorce island”—the place of isolation from old friends and family, where people may be preyed on by opportunistic lawyers. This is not a happy place. But it’s also a place you only visit temporarily, during a divorce. Trouble is, you must continue to parent, and parent well, while you reside on divorce island.

Protecting Innocence

Dr. Banschick explains that one of the most important ways to parent responsibly during divorce is to protect your children’s innocence. That means keeping your children out of the divorce process. No sharing complaints or filling your children in on Daddy’s betrayal. Dr. Banschick also warns against incidental mistakes, like saying something in front of the children without even realizing it. Dropping nasty assumptions like “he doesn’t even love our son” in front of your son may scar him—for life. It’s imperative that parents protect their children to preserve their sense of themselves and how deserving they are of love.

This series with Dr. Banschick is more than just a review of an expert’s tips. In many ways, it will be a guide to how you can successfully navigate divorce with children in the kindest and most productive way.

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.