The long-held belief that divorce is the root cause of a host of troubles children face may not entirely be true (Howell 14). It turns out that any child’s behavior may not be a function of his/her parent’s marital status as has been assumed in the past. Allen Li, Associate Director of the Population Research center at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica and author of this contradictory opinion, summarizes his finding by stating that bad behavior is an isolated trait that depends on individual marriages and the family, and has nothing to do with divorce. He refuses to classify parents’ split as either good or bad.
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This line of view on divorce and bad behavior may be new but appears to have received backing among notable figures. Robert Emery from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, though not entirely supportive of the new conclusion, is in agreement with the line of thinking. He believes that past researches have been overly simplistic in assuming that divorce is a cause of behavior problems.
Li’s study carried out on 6,332 children examined their conduct before and after their parents split. He notes that there is a slight increase in bad behavior in post-divorce period, which he evaluates as insignificant considering the large sample. He avers that the trend of misconduct that begins before divorce of parents might continue even without the parents separation. A famous social demographer Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, supported such opinion, too. As early as the 1990s, looking at children before and after divorce, he concluded from his findings that some of the problems showed by kids after parents’ split were well-apparent even before it. He concluded that in the long run most children are not affected with parents’ separation. Li appears to have borrowed some part from these early findings. All these researchers agree that as much as divorce raises chances of children having problems in future, when it comes to their behavior, there is little if any correlation with it.
In light of Li’s assertions, there are several gaps that remain unbridged. His conclusions leave more questions than answers. To begin with, unlike a majority of previous studies on the effect of divorce on children, Li chooses not to compare kids of married parents with those of separated parents. In his research, he only focuses on children’s behavior before and after split. In this kind of approach, as observed by Elizabeth Marquardt in her book, Li manages to control many things thus making the effects of divorce disappear. His sample may be large enough to obtain sufficient data. However, the objective of his research is skewed intentionally to fit his thinking. Many of these previous findings concur with the fact that Li’s work has extensively understated the difficulty that parents’ divorce causes for children.
Moreover, as noted by a study published in 2005 by the Brookings Institution and Princeton University, kids from full families feel more confident emotionally, socially and economically. What is more, Elizabeth Marquardt, Vice President at the Institute for American Values in New York, notes in her book published the same year, that even an unhappy parents’ life together but without a lot of conflicts is far much better for children than divorce. If to take into consideration these and many other findings then Li’s work scratches just the surface of the issue of parents’ separation being a function of kids’ behavior.
A majority of notable people who concur with Li also admonish about the same. They all agree that Li’s work does not represent a clear picture of the situation he is studying. Robert Emery from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, though concurring that past researches have overestimated the effect of divorce on children’s behavior, asserts that Li’s conclusions are ‘too strong’. Andrew Cherlin from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, whose early studies focused on a comparative analysis of kids before and after parents’ separation compared with those from stable families, noted that though not all problems shown by children after parents’ split are due to it. He concludes by stating that divorce has the effect of raising the risks of a child having problems.
For any interested party on this topic, Li’s work cannot be given up completely. His work is considerable important. However, Li needs to expand his sample to cover children from full stable families. With this adjustment in his study, he can get a clearer picture. By only comparing kids’ behavior before and after divorce, Li fails to capture the case if the parents may not have separated. Probably, the parents would have been able to detect the bad conduct early enough and be in a position to correct the child.
Children’s behavior is manifested in their emotional, social and economic performance (Gonzalez and Tarja 97). The research has indicated that kids from two-parent families perform better emotionally, socially and economically. By picking on bad behavior as a key element for his study, Li misrepresents the potential of children from such families. In doing so, he falsely indicates that kids can grow on their own and still pick the qualities required to be responsible adults. Children as we know, learn from adults and some of the traits they transfer to their kids are borrowed from their parents (Wilson 23). Thus, it is clear that divorce negatively affects a child’s overall behavior and, by extension, wellbeing.