Effects of Fatherless Children

Effects of Fatherless Children

Living Arrangements For Children 18 Years And Younger From 1960-2010:

  • In 1960, 87.7% of children lived with two parents as opposed to 9.1% only living with only one parent and 3.2% living with relatives (2010 U.S. Census Bureau. Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present; Father Facts, 2011).
  • In 1980, 76.7% of children lived with two parents as opposed to 19.7% only living with only one parent and 3.7% living with relatives (Ibid).
  • In 1990, 72.5% of children lived with two parents as opposed to 24.7% only living with only one parent and 3.1% living with relatives (Ibid).
  • In 2000, 69.1% of children lived with two parents as opposed to 26.7% only living with only one parent and 4.2% living with relatives (Ibid).
  • In 2010, 69.4% of children lived with two parents as opposed to 26.6% only living with only one parent and 4.1% living with relatives (Ibid).
  • In 2010, more children were raised by other relatives (4.1%) than their fathers alone (3.4%) (Ibid)
  • In 2010, 33% of children lived in biological father-absent homes (2010 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey; Father Facts).
  • 1/3 of Children are expected to live with a non-biological parent before they reach the age of 18 (Fragile Families Research Brief No.46; Father Facts).
  • In 1960, children living only with their mothers, who were never married, was 4.3%, by 1980 it was 15.3%, by 1990 it was 31.5%, by 2000 it was 40.8%, and by 2010 it was 43.6% (2010 US Census Bureau. “Children Under 18 Living with Mother Only, By Marital Status of Mother, 1960 to Present”; Father Facts).
  • In 1960, children living only with their mothers because of divorce was 23.7%, by 1980 it was 41.8%, by 1990 it was 36.9%, by 2000 it was 35.0%, and by 2010 it was 30.8%% (2010 US Census Bureau. “Children Under 18 Living with Mother Only, By Marital Status of Mother, 1960 to Present”; Father Facts).
  • In 1960, 90.9% of white children lived with both parents and 7.1 lived with one parent, by 1990 it was 79.0% with two and 19.2% with one, and by 2010 it was 74.9% with two and 21.8% with one (2010 U.S. Census Bureau. “Living Arrangements of White Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present”; Father Facts)
  • In 1960, 67.0 of Black children lived with both parents and 21.9 lived with on parent, by 1990 it was 37.7% with two and 54.8% with one, and by 2010 it was 40.8% with two and 51.9% with only one (2010 U.S. Census Bureau. “Living Arrangements of Black Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present”; Father Facts).

The Consequences of Father Absence For Children

Child Abuse

  • The absence of a biological father contributes to an increase in childhood sexual abuse (Blankenhorn, 1995; Popenoe, 2009; Fragile Families Research Brief No.46; Father Facts).
  • 20% of adult women and 5-10% of adult men have experienced sexual abuse at some time during their childhood (Popenoe).
  • The chances of a daughter being sexually abused by her stepfather are at least seven times higher than by her biological father (Popenoe).
  • In cases of child sexual abuse, when the perpetrator is known, ¼ are cohabiting parents (i.e., boyfriends) (Blankenhorn).
  • In reported cases of nonparental child abuse, ½ are boyfriends (Blankenhorn).
  • About 84% of nonparental child sexual abuse happens in single-parent homes (Blankenhorn).
  • Physical abuse is twice as common as sexual abuse (Popenoe).
  • Mothers are more likely to physically abuse their own children when their partners are stepfathers to the children (Alexandre, Nadanovsky, Moraes, & Reichenheim, 2010; Father Facts).
  • Single mothers have a 71% greater rate of ‘very severe violence’ toward their children than did dual-parent mothers (Popenoe).
  • Single Fathers tend to abuse even more than single mothers (Popenoe).
  • Mother plus stepfather had twice the risk of child abuse than households with two biological parents (Alexandre, Nadanovsky, Moraes, & Reichenheim; Father Facts).
  • Children are far more likely to be physically abused by their stepfather than by their natural father (Popenoe)
  • In 1993, stepparents were 40 times more likely to abuse than children living with two biological parents (Popenoe).
  • Mothers married to the father of their children are at a lower risk for maternal physical abuse (Guterman, Yookyong, Lee, Waldfogel, & Rathouz, 2009; Father Facts).
  • Children with a single parent with a live-in partner have 8 times the rate for maltreatment, 10 times the rate of abuse, and 6 times the rate for neglect (2010 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau; Father Facts)
  • 64% of nonparental abuse is committed by mother’s boyfriends (Popenoe).


  • Since the 1960, the crime has risen 550%, while the population has grown 41% (Popenoe).
  • Arrest for murders committed by juveniles has gone up by 128% from 1983-1992 (Popenoe).
  • Youth delinquency is 10-15% higher in fatherless homes than intact homes (Popenoe).
  • 90% of adolescents and pre-adolescents in gangs come from single-parent families (Jeynes, 2011).
  • Children raised in fatherless homes have a greater probability to be rapists, murderers, and abuse women and their own children than children raised intact families (Jeynes).
  • 60% of American rapists come from fatherless homes (Popenoe).
  • 72% of adolescent murderers come from fatherless homes (Popenoe).
  • 70% long-term prison inmates come from fatherless homes (Popenoe).
  • Teen violence increases as the number of fathers in a neighborhood decreases (Knoester and Hayne, 2005; Father Facts).
  • There is an increase likelihood for drug and alcohol abuse among children (particularly boys) where the father is absent (Patock-Peckham, Morgan-Lopez, 2007; Mandara and Murray, 2006; Father Facts).

Social Functioning

  • Children raised in fatherless homes have a greater probability to drop out of school (Jeynes).
  • Children raised in fatherless homes have a great probability to be unemployed for longer periods of time (Jeynes).
  • Children raised in fatherless homes have a greater probability to be homeless (Jeynes).
  • There is increase likelihood for depression/withdrawal, antisocial behavior, impulsive/hyperactive behavior, and school behavior problems when a child experiences family transitions (Popenoe).
  • Among all the family processes, the only factor that decreases the odds of engaging in sexual activity is a father’s involvement with his children (Jordahl, & Lohman, 2009; Father Facts).
  • Girls raised without a father have a great proclivity for early sexual activity, adolescent childbearing, divorce, and lack of sexual confidence and orgasmic satisfaction (Blankenhorn).
  • There is a decrease in deviant behavior the longer the father is involved with his children from birth (Antecol, & Bedard, 2007; Father Facts).
  • From 1970-1996 there was a 5% increase in child poverty, which can nearly all be attributed to the rise of single-parent families (Sawhill, 2006; Father Facts; Blankenhorn).


Alexandre, G.C., Nadanovsky, P., Moraes, C.L., & Reichenheim, M. (2010). The presence of a stepfather and child physical abuse, as reported by a sample of Brazilian mothers in Rio de Janeiro. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34, 959–966.

Antecol, H., & Bedard, K. (2007). ‘Does single parenthood increase the probability of teenage promiscuity, substance use, and crime?’ Journal of Popular Economics, 20, 55-71.

Blankenhorn, D. (1995). Fatherless America : confronting our most urgent social problem. New York, BasicBooks.

“CPS Involvement in families with social fathers.” Fragile Families Research Brief No.46. Princeton, NJ and New York, NY: Bendheim- Thomas Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and Social Indicators Survey Center, 2010.

Father Facts, 6th edition, 2011.

Guterman, N.B., Yookyong, L., Lee, S. J., Waldfogel, J., & Rathouz, P. J. (2009). Fathers and maternal risk for physical child abuse. Child Maltreatment, 14, 277-290.

Knoester, C., & Hayne, D. A. (2005). Community context, social integration into family, and youth violence. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 767-780.

Mandara, J., & Murray, C. B. (2006). Father’s absence and African American adolescent drug use. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 46, 1-12.

Patock-Peckham, J. A., & Morgan-Lopez, A. A. (2007). College drinking behaviors: Mediational links between parenting styles, parental bonds, depression, and alcohol problems. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 21, 297–306.

Popenoe, D. (2009). Families without fathers : fathers, marriage and children in American society. New Brunswick, N.J., Transaction Publishers.

Sawhill, I.V. (2006). Teenage sex, pregnancy, and nonmaritial birth. Gender Issues, 23, 48-59.

U.S. Census Bureau. “Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present.” Table CH-1. Internet Release Date November, 2010. http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/ch5.xls

U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, “Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years/1 and Marital Status of Parents, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin/2 and Selected Characteristics of the Child for All Children: 2010”. Table C3. Internet Release Date November, 2010. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizations/time-series/demo/families-and-households/ch-1.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2010). Child Maltreatment 2009. Available from: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/ stats_research/index.htm#can

US Census Bureau. “Children Under 18 Living with Mother Only, By Marital Status of Mother, 1960 to Present” Table CH-5. Internet Release Date November, 2010. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizations/time-series/demo/families-and-households/ch-5.pdf

U.S. Census Bureau. “Living Arrangements of White Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present.” Table CH-2. Internet Release Date November, 2010. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizations/time-series/demo/families-and-households/ch-2-3-4.pdf

U.S. Census Bureau. “Living Arrangements of Black Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present.” Table CH-3. Internet Release Date November, 2010. https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/tables/families/time-series/children/ch3.xls

William Jeynes. ‘The Two-Biological-Parent Family and Economic Prosperity: What’s Gone Wrong,’ The Public Discourse, July 20, 2011 https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/07/3532/


Brandon Wall is a Counselor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: http://www.cedarrapidscounselingcenter.com/

Effects of Fatherless Children

Families Without Fathers

Since many of you are coming to this website because your marriage is needing some readjusting or because you are thinking your marriage is heading for the chopping block, we thought it pertinent to remind all of you how important fathers are to their children.  To do this, we thought it best to review David Popenoe’s book Families Without Fathers.

The main thesis of this book ‘is that as marriage declines, fatherhood will inevitably weaken and children will be hurt . . .’ (p.vii).  While many of us are used to the notion of children being raised without a father, it was not always so. As Popenoe, writes, ‘the decline of fatherhood is one of the most basic, unexpected, and extraordinary social trends of our time” (p.2). Consider the percentage of children living apart from their biological fathers from 1960 to 1990 went from 17% to 36%. As such, Popenoe wants to show through this book that a father’s absence ‘is a major force lying behind many of the attention-grabbing issues that dominate the news: crime and delinquency; premature sexuality and out-of-wedlock teen births; deteriorating educational achievement; depression, substance abuse, and alienation among teenagers; and the growing number of women and children in poverty’ (p.3).  If this is true, is it any wonder that ‘some experts have suggested . . . that the current generation of children and youth is the first in our nation’s history to be less well-off—psychological, socially, economically, and morally—than their parents were at the same age’ (p. 2)?  Popenoe’s book not only aims to prove this, but also gives suggestions on how to reverse the effects of fatherlessness.

Surprisingly, this book in not just filled with statistic about how children without fathers are deprived (though there is plenty of this), for Popenoe wishes to go deeper by addressing key cultural assumptions and objections about fatherhood, family structure, and marriage as a whole. On of the major assumption and objection that he addresses is the popular notion that fatherhood is merely a social construction that any women can do. In other words, to women that think they can raise their children on their own, Popenoe wants to say, first, not without serious difficulty, and, secondly, not really.

Certainly, a growing number of mother’s have the ability to provide financially, and most mothers give emotionally to her children. However, the biological father brings a different emotional, psychological, and biological element to the children’s needs that women just can’t give very well, if at all.  Popenoe argues, then, that there is something fundamentally inherent in the biology of a man that predisposes him to be the best fit to care and educate (both intellectual and morally) for his own children when he is within a married state. That is to say, a married man is the best father.

In an age that promotes sexual equality, some of you might want a few examples of what men bring that women don’t bring without difficulty or at all.  While Popenoe dedicates all of chapter five to this question, we will just provided a few examples. The obvious is a role model. As Popenoe writes, ‘sons learn from their fathers about male responsibility and achievement, about how to be suitably assertive and independent, and how to relate acceptably to the opposite sex’ (p. 142).  The father helps the boy make the shift from boyhood to manhood by assisting him in ‘braking away from the comforting female arena of their mothers’ (p. 142). Also, fathers are essential in curbing teenage boys behavior and aggression (p. 142). Likewise, girls learn how to relate to other men. They learn that some men can be trusted and are not always seeking sexual gain. It is well documented that girls without fathers tend to experiment with sexual behavior and have more out of wedlocked children than girls with an in-homed father.

Another example is children thrive with the different parenting styles that each mother and father brings.  A counterintuitive example is play. The father tends to emphasize play more than care-taking (p. 143). More often than not, the father’s play is physically stimulating and exciting.  It turns out that this sort of play is essential for children (both boys and girls) to learn self-control. They learn not to bite, hit, or scratch. ‘Children learn critical lessons about how to recognize and deal with highly charged emotions in the context of playing with their fathers. Fathers, in effect, give children practice in regulating their own emotions and recognizing other’s emotional clues’  (p. 144).

For more examples, you’ll have to buy and read the book.

The book is divided into four parts with seven total chapters.  Part one (chapters 1 and 2) deals with fatherlessness and its effects.  Chapter one reports the decline of fatherhood in America with chapter two giving the ‘carnage of fatherlessness.’  These two chapters have the heaviest statistical feel.  I personally found these two chapter the most depressing. These two chapters will be of most people’s interest.

The second part (chapters 3 and 4) ‘looks back at fatherhood, marriage, and family life in American history’ (p. 15).  Its main focus is the rise and fall of the modern nuclear family. By far this was the most interesting part of the book for me.  I love reading about the history of the family and how our cultural understanding plays into shaping our opinions about how the world should work.  There are several important facts that Popenoe brings out in these two chapters, but two of the most salient are the decline of the father in the house due to becoming the primary bread winner and with such a decline the father’s role of the primary discipliner and education shifted to the mothers role.  This section will interest mostly historians, specialist, people who enjoy cultural studies, and social philosophers and theologians. Yet, I do recommend all to read it.

The third part (chapters 5 and 6) deals with why fathers matter. Basically, ‘the social science evidence is analyzed to find out what fathers actually do that makes them so important and how they differ from mothers’ (p. 15).  Chapter five just radials what Popenoe believes the evidence suggest. In chapter six he uses evolutionary psychology to explain why men have these character traits. The basic point of chapter six is to show that fatherhood is not merely a social construction but somewhat essential to manhood. I for one think one can show this without appealing to evolutionary psychology, but that debate is for another day.  I strongly recommend chapter five to all readers and chapter six to specialist and philosophers.

Part four (chapter 7) ‘summarizes the main thinking of the book and deals with how fatherhood and marriage can be reclaimed’ (p. 15).  After several pages of summarizing the book, Popenoe shifts to listing five key social propositions and two action implications that need to be embraced if fatherhood is going to thrive again.

The first proposition is that ‘fathers have a unique and irreplaceable role to play in child development’ (p. 197). The second proposition is that ‘children need a committed male and female couple to provide them with dependable and enduring love and attention . . .’ (p. 197). The third proposition is that for men, marriage and parenthood are strongly interlinked’ (p. 198).  In other words, without marriage, men have a hard time staying involved with their children. The fourth proposition is children need to feel recognized and accepted by their fathers; they need to feel that they are special’ (p. 198).  The fifth proposition is that biological fathers are more likely to be committed to the upbringing of their own children than are nonbiological fathers.

The first actions implication is ‘marriage must be reestablished as a strong social institution.”  To achieve this Popenoe summarizes the suggestions of ‘The Council of Families in America’ document entitled, Marriage in America: A Report to the Nations. The document gives suggestions to employers, religious leaders, organizations, social-worker, health-care and other human service professionals, marriage counselors, family therapist, family-life educators, pregnancy health-care providers, teachers, principals, leaders in education, family scholars, entertainment industry, print and broadcast media journalists and editors, civic leaders and community organizers as to how to foster a society strong on marriage.

The second action implication is ‘redefining the father’s role’ (p.209). Popenoe first gives several reasons why we can’t go back to the ‘traditional view of the family (husband works and the wife stays home).  He then lays out what he says the new father should do. However, to get this information, once again, you’ll have to buy and read the book.  I strongly suggest this part to all readers.

Overall, the book is great. Thriving Couples does not endorse all of Popenoe’s suggestions or views (particularly his view on cohabitation), but compared to what else is out there right now on fatherhood, this books gives some a breath of fresh air.

Effects of Fatherless Children

The Effects of Divorce on Children and Parents

Review of Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a Decade After Divorce, by Sandra Blakeslee and Judith Wallerstein

Reviewed for Heart to Heart Communication, LC, by Staff Researcher, Brandon Wall, MA

Many of you are coming to this website because of concerns about your marriage. Perhaps you are considering divorce or are already divorced and are trying to rebuild your life. Seeing as this site is dedicated to keeping marriages together and thriving, we want to give you as much information and advice as humanely possible about the effects of divorce on men, women, and children, so that you can be better informed. One of the best ways to do this is for us to point you to appropriate literature and research dealing with this topic. In what follows is my review of Judith S. Wallerstein’s bestselling book Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a Decade After Divorce. When published in 1984, it was the largest study ever conducted on the effects of divorce. They have followed up this study with The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study, published in 2000 (look for review in a later date).

This book is a summary of a decade long longitude study of 60 families with 131 children from the periods of 1971 to 1981 on the effects of divorce.  The couples, as well as the children, were studied during a six-week period near the time when one of the parents left permanently from the house.  At 18 months, 5 years, and 10 years, a reexamination interview was performed to record the effects post-separation. While the book was being written, many of the adults and children had already been reexamined for a 15 year interview.[i]

The study attempted to “describe what happened to the parents in the years after the breakup as they struggled to rebuild their lives” (p. ix), so that “parents [could be informed] about each child’s short-and long-term reactions to divorce, so they will know how to best to support their children during their growing-up years” (p. ix) The study shows, divorce is not an event quickly forgotten or effects abated. As Judith and Sandra say, “the men, women, and children whom we interviewed were still deeply affected by the divorce ten and fifteen years later” (p. xiii).  They continue with “the breakup and its aftermath were life-shaping events” (p. xiii)  Only about half the men and the women in the study considered the divorce a dead issue, the opposite was true of the children. For them, “not one considered it a dead issue. They remembered the day that one parent left home with a vividness that took [Judith and Sandra’s] breath away” (xiii).

The book is divided into five sections. The first section gives a general overview of the nature of divorce and what the study says. The next three sections focus on three families (the Moores, the Burrelles, and the Catalanos) that Judith and Sandra see as archetypes of the data. Each family represents an aspect of the study.  This method brought a personal aspect to the impersonal data.  Instead of reading just statistics about how divorced mothers’ struggle to put their lives back in order, you learn about Betty and the tremendous courage she has to provide for her children. Instead of reading about how lonely children are without their fathers around, you read the gut-wrenching story of how Jarrett idolizes his dad, who doesn’t even recognize Jarrett when he showed up at his father’s front door unannounced. Story after story the data is brought to life. Some of the stories are encouraging, others are some of the saddest I have ever read. In fact, it took me several weeks to read the whole book, because I could only handle a chapter at a time emotionally. The last section is dedicated to self-help suggestions. It gives many helpful “tasks” parents can do to minimize the damage on themselves and their children when divorcing.

This book is recommended to all couples pondering divorce, and especially if they have kids.  The book will also be beneficial to people who have already divorced, for the research shows how to minimize (not eliminate) the damage of divorce on each other and the kids. If there is one suggestion that stands out more than any, it is the importance of fathers to both girls and boys. As the study shows, the children who have a truly active and present father tend to do a lot better than children who’s father are inactive and not present (see statistics below for more information).  Newlyweds (or those engaged) could benefit from the book by being scared into strengthening their marriage now, so they don’t have to face the bitter effects of divorce later. Lastly, marriage and family therapists, psychologist, social workers, counselors and ministers would benefit from this research, for it gives many helpful suggestions on how to lead people back to a fulfilling life. Furthermore, parents and professionals will benefit from Judith’s discussion on joint custody (chapter 16), for it has some suppressing results.

Some Salient Facts from this study

(Note: This list is a result of direct quotes and paraphrasing. I did not use quotation marks, but the reader should assume the content is Judith’s. Also all these facts took place within the 10-year mark unless otherwise noted)

Effects of Divorce on Husband and Wives:

  • Most young fathers (b/w ages mid to late 30’s) feel they are no longer centrally important to their children and don’t maintain a relationship (pg. 224-5).
  • After ten years, ½ of the women and 1/3 of the men are still very angry at their former spouses (pg. 29).
  • 1/3 of women and ¼ of the men feel life is unfair, disappointing, and lonely (pg 29).
  • 65% of the women and 35% of the men actively sought to end the marriage even though the other opposed it.
  • In only 10% of divorces do both partners achieve “happier” lives (pg. 40).
  • The quality of life in ½ the women and 2/3 of the men is no better off or even worse 10 years after the divorce.
  • ¼ of the older men remain isolated and lonely (pg. 45).
  • Every women over 40 remained unmarried (pg. 45).
  • ¼ of the families reported violence in the marriage (pg. 117).
  • Many of the fathers are unaware that their children feel rejected (pg. 150).
  • 1/5 of the fathers have their children living with them (pg. 224).
  • 10 to 12% of the parents engaged in bitter litigation over the children (pg. 196).
  • 2/3 of the men and over ½ of the women remarried (pg. 226).
  • 10% of men and women after divorce are living in cohabiting relationships (pg. 227).
  • ½ of the men and ¼ of the women who remarried where divorced for a second time (pg. 228).

The Effects of Divorce on Children:

  • ½ of the boys (between the ages of 19-29) are unhappy, lonely, and lack lasting relationships with younger women. (p. 67)
  • A whole group of girls were attracted to older men, which they see as a parent they never had (p. 65-66).
  • At the time of the divorce, boys’ ages 6-8 have a difficult time adjusting to the changes (p. 77).
  • ½ of the mothers and daughters maintained a healthy emotional dependency during the girls’ adolescence (p. 98).
  • At 15 years after the divorce 40% of the young adults have been in therapy at various times to deal with relationship issues (p. 107).
  • 20% of young women were in abusive relationships 10 to 15 years after their parents divorced (p. 120).
  • 1/3 of the men and women (between the ages of 19-29) have little or no ambition 10 years after their parents divorced (p. 148), and most have not pursued higher education, nor make long-term goals (p. 149).
  • Many of the fathers are unaware that their children feel rejected (p. 150).
  • 1 out of 3 young men and 1 in 10 young women (between the ages 19-23) are delinquent at the 10 year mark (p. 153).
  • 20% of all children of divorce were drinking heavily (p. 154).
  • 1/3 of the fathers who could afford it helped pay for their children’s collage (p. 156).
  • ¼ of the girls became sexually active in middle school.
  • All but one of the young women who married before 20 are now divorced (p. 171).
  • After 10 years, over 1/3 of the children have poor relationships with their fathers (p. 187).
  • During the marriage 10% of the children have poor relationships with their parents. After the divorce and 10 years later, 35% have poor relationships.
  • 70% of men pay irregular and partial child support (p. 222).
  • More than 1/3 of the boys and girls saw their fathers at least once a month, 10% saw their fathers twice a week, and 10% were visited less than once a year. Few fathers dropped out completely (p. 237).
  • 55% of the boys and girls lived with a stepfather (p. 245).
  • 9 in 10 feel their lives are better because of the stepfather, 2/3 fell they can’t love their stepfathers and their fathers the same, and 1/3 are struggling with loyalty conflicts  (p. 247).
  • 68 children had stepmothers and very few lived with them.  Less than 10% where close to their stepmothers (p. 254).


Wallerstein, J. S. and S. Blakeslee (2004). Second chances : men, women, and children a decade after divorce. Boston, Houghton Mifflin.

Wallerstein, J. S., J. Lewis, et al. (2000). The unexpected legacy of divorce : a 25 year landmark study. New York, Hyperion.

[i] For more information on method and sample, see Appendix in the end of the book.

Part Four On Communication: Anger Will Get My Point Across! NOT!

Part Four On Communication: Anger Will Get My Point Across! NOT!

It’s better left for emergencies.  For the first in the series click here, the second click here and the third, click here.  For the entire series click here.

Be angry and sin not.

Ephesians 4:26

Anger’s gotten a bad rap.It’s destroyed so many families and individuals and marriages and careers that it’s easy to think we oughta just chuck the whole thing.But be careful.Anger is a great motivator.

On an international level it’s why Hitler’s cronies aren’t running the world right now and on national level it’s why we don’t have slavery in slave states anymore. We still have slavery. It’s just not legal. Sex slave traffic is a worldwide problem. If we ever got rid of that, it would be because enough people got mad about sex being used outside of marriage as an object for one’s personal desire. The porn industry is running billions and billions of dollars in profit with no end in sight, so it’s going to take more than a few bloggers, ministers and counselor types to squash all that. We’d pretty much all have to get mad enough to say freedom does not mean license to do whatever. Unfortunately, we’ll probably self-destruct before anything is done about that.

On a personal level anger can motivate you to study for a test instead of flunk, stop drinking, lose weigh or get out of debt.

It’s also very handy if your child is in danger and you yell to get his attention so that he doesn’t hurt or kill himself. Very handy.

So, hey, anger’s not all bad. But use it wisely. If you yell at your kids everyday, they will learn to tune you out and when a dangerous event is about to occur and you yell to warn your child, he may very well ignore you and plunder on and get himself killed. Wouldn’t that be ironic that your lack of self-control on anger caused your child’s death? Don’t worry, anger lies and will tell you your kid just never listened to you. You probably will never figure out that your misplaced anger taught your child to ignore you.

Anger as an everyday, normal, communication tool is a complete waste of time and just sucks whatever love you have left out of your marriage and fills your soul and your brain with a slurry of resentment and hurt and confusion and self-righteousness and a bunch of words on the other side of slang to boot.Pretty soon you are spouting threats of divorce and leaving or cheating or looming over her all threatening and imposing like.It ain’t no marriage enhancer.

And when you use anger as a tool to defend yourself from your spouse’s suggestions or to attack your spouse for not heeding your suggestions, anger changes the subject to whatever it is that the two of you were talking about to you causing your spouse think to herself that “I’m married to an ass.” If you had a sane point you were trying to convey, it got totally lost in the meanness and hurtfulness and despicableness of all the cruel things you said and the threatening and imposinglike nonverbal cues you were sending with your puffed up chest and your curled up lip and throwing your hands in the air in superiority and smashing your fist against whatever is handy and hopefully what you are smashing is not your spouse or your kids, but you better watch out, because anger will tell you to cross boundaries and once boundaries are crossed it’s hard to differentiate between smashing a teacup and smashing a loved one’s face. But anger is also very subtle and you hear about people who only smash their loved ones’ faces once because it leaves marks that the public can see, so then after that mistake they only smash their loved ones in places that are covered by clothes so that no one else will know. This is the kind of self-control that will land your loved ones in the psych ward at the hospital or worse. You communicated all right. Anger did help you communicate. The message that you communicated is that you are mean, and hurtful and despicable and your loved ones are thinking you are an ass.

And then, later, of course, you are sorry you said and did all those things and you didn’t mean them and you were just so angry and you were pushing my buttons.When anger gets this insane it is really good at passing the buck and making your own stupidity and selfishness and cruelty someone else’s fault.Your spouse is going to have a hard time believing you didn’t mean those things, because she just heard everything you said and you sounded pretty believable and sincere to her.Your face was red while you said it, for heaven’s sake.That’s pretty passionate.And how is she supposed to believe you now when you take it all back?And now you are crying on bended knee that you didn’t mean those things.Is she just supposed to have a switch that goes on when you say you are telling the truth and turn off when you start saying (yelling!) those things?How is she supposed to sort that all out?The good and the bad came out of the same mouth.Are you purposely trying to make her crazy?It’s a good plan.I’m sure our mental hospitals are full of people who were on the receiving end of misplaced anger.Then when you divorce her after she’s a ward of the state rocking back and forth saying to herself “he didn’t mean it, he didn’t mean it” and “it’s all my fault, it’s all my fault” you can tell everyone you divorced your first wife because she was crazy!What a plan!

So whose life are you going to destroy next?Here’s one way to do it:Divorce your spouse because you are just so mad at her making you so mad.No one else makes you mad like her and you don’t like yourself when you are mad.If you divorce her, you think, you won’t be mad any more!Another great plan!Right.

Do you know what happens to you when you divorce somebody because you are trying to escape resentment or anger or an inability to forgive or a cold heart because you’ve shut your spouse out of your heart and refuse to reach out and love your current spouse anymore and you say to yourself you love him, you just aren’t in love with him?Do you know?Do you know?

You’d think you’d have figured this out by now:Whatever negative spirit you have when you willingly dump your spouse, that negative spirit gets set in cement in your heart.You will carry that into all your future relationships.You’ll turn into Jesse James and leave a wake of Sandra Bullocks wherever you go.

Keep in mind I’m referring to the dump-er not the dump-ee.If your spouse dumps you, in my view, you have a much better chance of overcoming negative hurt in your previous marriage than if you are the one that casts your spouse to the curb and cinches up his pants and says, “I’ve done nothing wrong.”A lot better.

Marriage, by the way, is a great place to learn self-control, but if you didn’t learn self-control on anger or choosing to love and giving and forgiving and sacrificing and bucking up and going the second mile in your first marriage, you won’t have a clue where to start in your second marriage and marriage will not survive unless you learn to develop these things. When you divorce you shut off your ability to learn these things in the crucible of marriage, short of some miracle. Now I believe in miracles, but I also don’t believe in borrowing trouble. Divorce borrows trouble. It tests God to see just how big of a jerk you can make yourself before He intervenes. I suggest you don’t test God to see how far He will go before He steps in and saves you from your insanity.

Anger is fine if it tells you you need some help and you can’t figure this out and we seem to be doing the same things over and over again and it just doesn’t seem to get anywhere or it tells you maybe you should get a book about this or bone up on that or maybe read your Bible for a change and seek the Lord and grow spiritually and become a bit more patient or the two of you sit down and brainstorm solutions and come up with some pretty creative things to try to solve whatever and over time you figure things out. Anger is really good about motivating people to change. It’s really good for that.

But if you don’t listen to the constructive side of anger, pretty soon the destructive side of anger will rear its ugly head and it’ll tell you to get even, to hurt back. That’s when you shut down anger. Enough already. Ain’t goin’ there. No way. When anger tells you to hurt your loved ones that’s a boldfaced lie and it’s time to say no, to stop it already. Don’t use anger as a communication tool unless your plan is to leave a trail of tears wherever you go.

Just stop it.

For a humorous look at this check out the link my son Brandon sent me with a comment that my education was all in vain. I just needed Bob Newhart’s therapy technique. The clip is six minutes long. Hang in there. The punch line doesn’t come until the end:

Part Four On Communication: Anger Will Get My Point Across! NOT!

Lessons From Ben Roethlisberger: Character Counts, Part 2 of 2

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,

He who does these things
will never be shaken.

Psalm 15: 1, 4, 5

After reading my last blog, I imagine a skeptical reader thinking that my examples of Ben Roethlisberger and Tiger Woods are so over the top as to be completely irrelevant to a typical family situation. Roethlisberger makes over $12 million a year and his little 6 game ban will cost him personally nearly $2 million. He had two sexual assault charges and got out by a hair when the charges are dropped. He goes to bars with a posse of his own paid bodyguards for heaven sakes. Tiger Woods has a estimated net worth of $600 million, was making $85 million a year at one time, and was headed for the Billionaire club and out of the millions of golfers in the world, he’s the best. He married a Swedish model and ends up having affairs over and over again. What does the lack of integrity of these celebrities have to do with me?

Integrity is no respecter of persons. It know no extremes. The word “integer” comes from the late Middle Ages (14th-15th Century) Latin word integrite, which is where we get the word, integer, or whole number, such as 1, 2, 3.  A whole number is UNDIVIDED.  Dictionary.com says “integrity” has 3 meanings:

  1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

2.the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.

3.a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.

Using the latter example, if the integrity of a ship’s hull is compromised, the whole ship sinks.  The ship may be 99% perfect, but the 1% hole causes the whole ship to fail.  It does no one any good on the bottom of the ocean.  No one is going to care if the ship was 99% fine.

Let’s bring this down to a simple marital relationship, and no one makes $12 million or $85 million a year.  Let’s say a husband and a wife are discussing their upcoming plans.  His mom wants them to come for the weekend, but they have made other arrangements.  The couple is sitting in the kitchen discussing this when his mother calls.  She asks them when they are coming this weekend and he says to his mother, while he winks to his wife, that he’s not feeling well and they won’t be able to come. Instead of truthfully saying that he and his wife had already had other things going on, he point blank lies to his mother.  In front of his wife.  What has he just done?

He’s just planted a seed of doubt in his wife’s mind.  She will think: My husband lies to his mother.  Who does that?  If he’s capable of that, what else is he lying about? When he tells me he’s late at the office, is her really late?  Is he lying to me, too?  Does he have a lover he winks to when he talks to me on the phone?

The same doubts would go through the husband’s mind if she calls in sick for work when she is NOT sick.  When you are NOT WHOLE your spouse will doubt your integrity.

Lack of integrity doesn’t only introduce doubt.  It introduces a loss of trust, fear, worry and insecurity…to everyone in the family.  And when people feel this way, all bets are off on normal behavior.  Pretty soon the couple and the family starts to have trouble.  When integrity is broken, chaos isn’t far behind.

This same doubt will infiltrate your children, if you are not a man of your word.  If your kids doubt your integrity, they will quit talking to you.  Or be surly when they do.  Why talk to dad?  I never know when he’s telling me the truth.  One of the main needs of children is to talk with their dad as they sort out their teenage years: Why am I here?  What am I good at?  Where do I fit in?  How do I fit in?  What is important in life?  Who should I marry?  What will I do for a living?  How do I handle that crazy teacher?  How do I handle failure and success?  How do I not give up?  What is the meaning of life?  These are the questions of adolescence.  They are the questions every teenager longs to ask his father.  But if his dad isn’t a man of his word, his child will not ask.

You think you can divorce and this will be fine and your kids will recover, kids are resilient?  When you divorce, you have broken your promise to your wife or husband.  Your kids know this.  They know that mom and dad are supposed to love each other.  They know what a marriage vow is.  They’ve heard mom or dad say that they would be there for them.  Oh, yeah?  I need dad today and I won’ see him until Saturday and it’ll take a day or two just to feel comfortable with him because he’s never around and then I have to go home to mom and…and why would I ask advice from someone who has made a promise to me and mom and then broke that promise?  So teenage boys and girls from divorced homes grow up without one of the most important developmental needs: Chats with dad.  Is it any wonder many of them flounder?

Sometimes I think if people had integrity, I’d be out of work.  Surely people need therapy after traumatic events, like an accident that is nobody’s fault, but most of the issues that people bring to my office have to do with a lack of integrity: Lying about schedules, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling, affairs, falling out of love.

Falling out of love?  This is an integrity issue?  Yes.  You made a promise.  You said, til death us do part.  Now you say you just don’t have those feelings any more.  You can’t change your feelings.  Your feelings tell you that I love you but I’m NOT IN love with you.  I don’t love you THAT way.  There’s no passion.  It’s just not there.

So?  You made a promise.  Your promise is only as strong as your feelings?   Really?  That’s it?  All I mean to you is the buzz I give you and if I don’t give you a buzz then you are out the door?  You are this fickle?  Blown too and fro by the wind?  We have no foundation?  Commitment means nothing?  Your word means nothing?  Patience, perseverance, sticktuitiveness, fortitude, none of these are in your character?

Let me get this straight.  You don’t operate any other aspect of your life this way.  You don’t feel like going to work in the morning and you still go.  You don’t feel like paying your bills and you pay them anyway.  You don’t feel like exercising and you exercise anyway.  You don’t feel like flossing your teeth and you floss your teeth anyway.  I’m below work and paying bills and exercise and flossing?

And now you are not only going to divorce me, you are going to take the kids away from me for half of the time (or more) and you are going to put me at or near the poverty level and you are going to rip my heart out and trample all over it in the street and then you want to be friends?  AHHHHHH!

Whole.  Undivided.  We could use a few more good men and women of their word.  Men and women who do the right thing even when they don’t feel like it.  Women and men who CHOOSE to love, CHOOSE to give,  CHOOSE to keep their word.  CHOOSE to do the right thing, even when it hurts sometimes.

If you follow your feelings instead of your principles, I feel sorry for you.  I feel more sorry for your loved ones.