Lesson 6 of 7 - effective parenting

Study Says Broken
 Homes Harm Kids
More


By The Associated Press

The New York Times
January 24, 2003

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The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/parent/news/kids_of_divorce.htm

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

      Thanks to Dianne Sollee of http://smartmarriage.com for this article. This Swedish study seems to indirectly support Lesson 1 in this self-improvement Web site. See the original (full) report by Gunilla Ringbck Weitoft, Anders Hjern, Bengt Haglund, and Mns Rosns in the Lancet, v. 361, No. 9354, 1/25/03.

      This brief YouTube video offers perspective on nine key things kids need their family adults to provide for them. Single and divorced parents may have a harder time providing them. The video references eight self-improvement lessons in this nonprofit web site - I've simplified that to seven lessons.

 

      See my comments after the article. The hilights and links below are mine.

 - Peter Gerlach, MSW

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LONDON (AP) -- Children growing up in single-parent families are twice as likely as their counterparts to develop serious psychiatric illnesses and addiction later in life, according to an important new study. Researchers have for years debated whether children from broken homes bounce back or whether they are more likely than kids whose parents stay together to develop serious emotional problems.

      Experts say the latest study, published this week in The Lancet medical journal, is important mainly because of its unprecedented scale and follow-up -- it tracked about 1 million children for a decade, into their mid-20s. The question of why and how those children end up with such problems remains unanswered. The study suggests that financial hardship may play a role, but other experts say the research also supports the view that quality of parenting could be a factor.

      The study used the Swedish national registries, which cover almost the entire population and contain extensive socio-economic and health information. Children were considered to be living in a single-parent household if they were living with the same single adult in both the 1985 and 1990 housing census. That could have been the result of divorce, separation, death of a parent, out of wedlock birth, guardianship or other reasons.

      About 60,000 were living with their mother and about 5,500 with their father. There were 921,257 living with both parents. The children were aged between 6 and 18 at the start of the study, with half already in their teens. The scientists found that children with single parents were twice as likely as the others to develop a psychiatric illness such as severe depression or schizophrenia, to kill themselves or attempt suicide, and to develop an alcohol-related disease. Girls were three times more likely to become drug addicts if they lived with a sole parent, and boys were four times more likely.

      The researchers concluded that financial hardship, which they defined as renting rather than owning a home and as being on welfare, made a big difference. However, other experts questioned the financial influence, saying Swedish single mothers are not poor when compared with those in other countries, and suggested that quality of parenting could also be a factor.

      "It makes you think that what you're seeing is just the most dysfunctional families having these problems, rather than the low income. The money is really an indicator of something else,'' said Sara McLanahan, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, who was not involved in the study.

  ``  "If you really thought that it was the income that makes the difference, you would think that Swedish lone mothers would do a lot better than the British or those in the U.S., but they look very similar,'' she said. Other experts agreed.

      In the last 20 to 30 years, poverty has been greatly reduced everywhere in Europe, but psychiatric problems in children have not, said Dr. Stephen Scott, a child health and behavior researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, who also was not involved in the study. He said that in previous studies, once researchers have adjusted their results to eliminate the influence of bad parenting, any increased risk of emotional problems shrinks markedly. This, he said, indicates it is not so much single parenthood but the quality of parenting that is at issue.

      The kind of people who end up as single parents might not have done well by their kids, even if they hadn't ended up alone. They tend to be more critical in their relationships, more derogatory toward other people,'' Scott said, adding that it is also harder to be a warm, non-critical parent when you're bringing up a child alone. However, he noted that there are plenty of children from single-parent families who don't end up with serious emotional problems.

      There may also be a genetic element: More irritable people are more likely to become separated, but they are also more likely, whether they are separated or not, to have more irritable children, Scott said. "The whole field is highly debated. This is another piece in that debate that makes several important points -- firstly that there really is an increased risk in young adulthood of pretty bad things. It also indicates it's not all about the money but may be about the people themselves,'' McLanahan said.

Comments

      Note several things about this research and article:

  • The findings are similar to those in this UCLA research;

  • The article doesn't mention whether the single parents themselves came from "broken (low-nurturance) homes".

  • It offers no ideas on why Swedish kids in a single-parent home have greater problems than peers in intact families. My clinical experience with hundreds of divorcing families suggests...

    • legal and psychological divorce usually indicates psychologically- wounded, unaware parents, and

    • family-adult ignorance of minor kids' complex divorce-adjustment needs, and...

    • adults' inability to fill these needs effectively.

  • The summary doesn't comment about the influence of the other bioparent, if living, or the co-parenting relationship between ex mates;

  • It doesn't suggest whether the findings may apply to parents and children in other countries;

  • The language of this report reinforces the outdated "medical model" of "mental illness," rather than the current family-systems model of psychological and relationship problems.

  • This summary doesn't indicate whether any attempt was made to measure the nurturance-level of the children's families before parental separation, death, or divorce. Given the size and scope of the study, this may not have been  practical.

  • This research summary does potential harm by suggesting that kids' problems come from "broken homes" rather than from what caused their homes to "break": After 36 years' clinical research, I propose that most family (marital) breakups are caused by parents' inherited psychological wounds + ineffective communication + incomplete or blocked grief.+ unawareness of these factors

  • The summary doesn't note that "divorce" can be psychological but not legal - so kids in dysfunctional intact homes are also at risk of significant developmental and social problems.

      My research suggests that unaware, psychologically-wounded parents unintentionally pass on similar wounds to vulnerable descendents. Unidentified and untreated, these wounds are likely to contribute to many relationship, occupational, parenting, and personal health problems like those mentioned in this study.

      Whether these premises are true or not, this long-term Swedish study supports the need for typical couples (in all countries) to assess themselves for wounds and unawareness before committing and conceiving children. Lesson 1 in this nonprofit site shows how assess for and reduce inner wounds. The other Lessons provide a way to increase adult awareness.

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      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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