The Divorce Revolution Has Failed - By J. Bailey Molineux
"America`s divorce revolution has failed, "states the Council on Families in
America in their March 1995 publication, Marriage in America: A Report to the Nation,
"with devastating consequences for the well-being of children." Many of the social
ills we face today - poverty, drug abuse and violence - can be attributed to the
breakdown in marriage.
In strong, impassioned language, the council calls upon all segments of society,
public and private, to do everything possible to strengthen marriages and prevent
divorce. Its goal is "to increase the proportion of children who grow up with their
two married parents and decrease the proportion of children who do not."
By many indices, child well-being has decreased in the United States during the
past thirty years:
Violent juvenile crime has increased six times from 1960 to 1992.
Child neglect and abuse has increased four times since 1976.
Teen suicides have tripled.
Childhood poverty has increased from 15 percent in 1970 to 22 percent today.
In the face of these statistics, one must ask in anguish, "What are we doing
to our children?"
Other data show clearly that children are stressed by the divorce of their parents:
Seventy percent of youth in juvenile correctional facilities did not live with
both parents while growing up.
Children whose parents divorced are two to three times more likely to develop
psychological problems than youth from intact families.
Eighty percent of psychiatric admissions for children are from divorced homes.
Seventy-five percent of teen suicides experienced the divorce of their parents.
The statistics are worrisome but make sense. The marriage is the keystone to
how the family functions and the family provides emotional security and love to
the children. If we continue at this rate, with 50 percent of children expected
to experience the divorce of their parents and 30 percent born out-of-wedlock, we
are a society in trouble.
Not only has divorce contributed to a decrease in child well-being, the report
goes on to say, it has not delivered on its promise of greater adult happiness.
Divorce is painful. The higher the divorce rate goes, the less likely people are
to invest themselves fully in their marriages, and so the more likely they are to
divorce. It is a snowball effect. Till death do us part has been replaced by as
long as we remain happy, and yet people who remarry are more likely to experience
Maybe, the report suggests, we ought to put the welfare of our children ahead
of our concerns for personal happiness.
This would not necessarily entail a return to the stay-together-for-the-sake-of-the-children
attitude which kept people trapped in miserable marriage, however. There are some
divorces, the report recognizes, which are necessary and healthier for parents and
their offspring. In cases of chronic abuse, addictions, infidelity, fighting and
marital misery, divorce is a better option than staying married.
But many marriages can be saved if people are willing to work on them. And society
should do everything possible to help those distressed couples save their marriages.
J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D. is a
licensed Clinical Psychologist and author of the book Loving Isn`t Easy Copyright
2002 J. Bailey Molineux and http://selfhelpbooks.com,
all rights reserved. This article maybe reprinted but must include author`s copyright
and website hyperlinks to http://selfhelpbooks.com.
Birthparent Loss and Grief - By Patricia Roles
In the last decade, there has been a growing acceptance that a loss occurs
for birth parents when adoption takes place. In the past, the emphasis in the adoption
process has largely been on the reception of the child into the adoptive family
rather than the reciprocal loss of the baby for the birth parents and extended family.
The bonding process for the birth mother, who carried the baby inside her during
pregnancy and experienced the miracle of birth with this baby, had not been previously
acknowledged in society at large or by the professionals working in adoption and
Adoption relinquishment involves a grief process not unlike other types of grief
such as death or separation. There are, however, some significant differences for
birth parents, due to the nature of the loss, which will be noted during the description
of the grief process.
1. Numbness and Denial: During the initial phase of grief, the birth mother is
trying to cope with the realization that the birth has become a reality. In the
midst of the physical and emotional strain of having given birth, she faces the
decision of relinquishment and the loss this decision involves, all in a very short
space of time. Trying to make such a painful decision in the middle of all this
change and intense emotional upheaval can lead to a period of shock, numbness, confusion
and at times denial. Denial is a very primitive defense mechanism that can be effective
in protecting a person from emotional collapse. Denial may have been a mechanism
the birth mother utilized to cope during the pregnancy. Defenses such as denial
need to be respected.
Numbness, confusion, shock or denial can result in birth mothers having little
recall of events such as the baby`s birth, or they may forget significant details
such as the day or time of the baby`s birth. These episodes can result in terrible
guilt and can, as well, diminish her already-limited store of memories of the baby
and events to validate the birth and the ensuing loss.
2. Eruption of Feelings: As the shock and confusion lessen and the denial or
numbness recedes, floods of intense feeling may erupt without specific triggering
events; this eruption can be an overwhelming experience involving a range of feelings
such as sadness, emptiness, anger, fear, panic, anxiety, despair, guilt, shame,
helplessness, hopelessness, loneliness, irritability, fatigue, or difficulty concentrating.
Feelings might get expressed indirectly through physical symptoms such as headaches,
sleep disturbances, nightmares, back pain, stomach pain, or bowel problems. As emotions
find avenues for direct expression, they gradually decrease in intensity and become
more connected to triggers associated with the memories and loss.
Secrecy, shame and lack of public acknowledgment of the loss by family, friends
and society mean that the fact of the loss is never validated. What follows, then,
is a subsequent lack of natural opportunities for expression of feelings and therefore
diminished opportunities for support.
3. Accepting the Adoption Decision: The fact that the adoption process involves
a birth mother`s active choice in determining the course of events sets this loss
apart from other losses such as death, aligning it instead to the loss experienced
when an individual decides to separate from a spouse. In a marital separation, the
initiating spouse is motivated to the decision because of some type of untenable
situation and may feel anger toward the spouse, allowing emotional distance. In
contrast, the decision resulting in loss of an innocent baby or child only brings
sadness and guilt, even when others try to reinforce that it is "in the best interests"
of the child and that the child will be "loved." The love of others for the child
does not cancel out the pain of the loss for the birth parents.
This aspect of decision-making is complex, as birth mothers may have experienced
coercion, pressure or lack of support for options other than adoption, reducing
their effective control of the adoption decision. This can leave birth parents with
a great deal of legitimate pain, anger and regret. Ensuring that birth parents are
in charge of their decisions and that they retain control of their choices is vital
to the process. However, it is this very act of making a conscious and informed
decision that then provokes the birth parents` feelings of responsibility for their
own and their baby`s loss. It is painful to feel responsible for such a difficult
choice. However, birthmothers and birthfathers who have retained control of their
own decisions, rather than surrendering to the influence of others, find it easier
to accept responsibility for these choices and are less likely to hang onto anger.
This sense of responsibility does not necessarily lessen the grief process, but
birth parents who have retained contro l may be less likely to find themselves stuck
in anger and blame in years to come.
4. Accommodation to and Living with Uncertainty: If feelings are granted expression,
then the feelings gradually become more manageable, and emotional reactions are
in manageable response to natural reminders of the loss. Birth parents can find
ways to live with the repeatedly sensitive areas: the child`s birthdays, others`
pregnancies, their own future pregnancies, baby showers, meeting children with the
same name, and other losses. Birth parents have to find ways to answer such questions
as, "Don`t you want to have any children?" or "You`ll know what being separated
from a child is like when you have children of your own." Birth mothers listen in
silent pain to other women`s stories of labour and delivery, often unable to join
in this connecting female discussion.
Living with the unknown can be one of the most difficult aspects of this type
of loss. Birth parents with closed adoptions live in a state of limbo, forced to
create fantasies as they envision their child growing up with the adoptive parents.
False hope can also be created if it is suggested to the birthmother that an open
adoption will result in only a temporary and transient sense of loss; expectations
born of such misinformed counseling can lead to disappointments later in life. Open-adoption
contracts or potential reunions do not come with guarantees.
When loss comes from death, the survivor may still feel an impulse to search
for something. However, this sort search is eventually recognized as irrational,
as the individual comes to appreciate the permanence of the loss and move past the
behavior. But in loss through adoption, the search behavior is not irrational. The
form of search that birth parents may undertake may include checking birth dates
of children the same age as the child who was relinquished; looking for children
who look similar to birth parents, scanning faces in a crowd; seeking more information
about the child or adoptive family; or seeking out the relinquished child. In part,
searching allows birth parents to form a mental image of the child, validating that
the loss indeed occurred; it also provides reassurance that the child is doing well
in the adoptive home.
5. Re-evaluating and Rebuilding: The secrecy, shame, guilt, self-blame, feelings
of selfishness and loss leave scars on birth mothers` self-esteem. Birth parents
may struggle as they re-evaluate their decisions later in life. Birth parents might
feel incapable of making decisions, feel unlovable, or feel unable to handle having
another child. At such moments, they need to realize that they made the decision
at a particular time and place, perhaps as a vulnerable teenager without adult skills
or resources. Restoring self-esteem is an ongoing process, and rebuilding self-esteem
also depends on the degree of self-esteem possessed prior to the pregnancy crisis
Resolving birth parent loss and subsequent grief is an individual process. The
issues highlighted here are only a guide illuminating the complexity of loss through
adoption, a lossthat interweaves with other elements in a context of diverse societal,
cultural, religious, and family values. It is, however, important to encourage birth
parents to focus on this issue. By attending openly to the grief of this loss, those
working in the adoption field and those personally affected by adoption can acknowledge,
validate and value this experience and its losses. This process, though painful,
is hopeful as well, helping to break down the barriers of judgment, secrecy, and
consequent shame for birth parents. It can enable private grief to be publicly acknowledged,
providing the context for grief`s expression, highlighting the need for increased
support, and ultimately increasing respect for the voice of birth parents in the
Patricia Roles, MSW, RSW, BCATR:
Patricia Roles is a registered social worker in British Columbia, Canada, and is
a registered art therapist. She has a master`s degree in social work and a post-graduate
certificate in art therapy. She has worked as a clinical social worker for over
25 years in a pediatric teaching hospital, including 15 years as a clinical supervisor
in the social work department. She offers e-counseling via e-mail through her website:
www.e-mailtherapy.com. Her work with
children, youth and families has includes expertise in family therapy, art therapy,
adolescents and eating disorders as well as children and youth with chronic and
life threatening illnesses. She also has extensive experience in the adoption field
and is a reunited birthmother. Her publications on teenage pregnancy and birthparent
loss and grief can be viewed on the Books and Links page on her website.
Patricia Roles also presents workshops in a variety of areas including: birthparent
loss and grief, birthparent counseling, eating disorders and family therapy, art
therapy with loss, art therapy with children and youth, art therapy and eating disorders,
and family art therapy using a narrative therapy framework. You may contact Patricia
Roles through the feedback email on this site to inquire about workshop presentations
or speaking at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Children articles index
- Brains on Fire: The Multimodality of Gifted Thinkers - By Brock Eide
- laying Baby Computer Games ? The New Parent-Child Tradition? - By Emma
- Book Excerpt: Einstein Never Used Flash Cards - By Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph
- Putting Fun Into Parenting - By David Stoepker, Psy.D., & Erin Brown Con
- Preparing Your Child for a High-Tech Future - By Sue Sato
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - Predominantly Inattentive
- Abandonment - By Sonya Green
- Explaining Suicide to Children - by Tracy Pierson
- Our Children`s Needs - by Robert Elias Najemy
- How to Develop Self-Esteem in Children - By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.
- Helping Children Overcome Stress and Fear - By Debbie Milam
- Do you Shout at YOUR children? - By James Middleton
- Book Excerpt: Helping Children with Autism Learn - By Bryna Siegel,
- SPEED SPELLING: Another way to use speed reading skills for "schoolwork&q
- Children and Stress - By Laura Silva Quesada
- Boundaries- Why Are They Needed? - by Derek Randel & Gail Randel M.D.
- Juggling Home
- Explaining World tragedy to Children - By Chick Moorman and Thomas Ha
- Children and Pessimism - By Carol Tuttle
- Loving Yourself, Loving Your Children - By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
- Social Manners for Children - By Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach
- The Sexual Abuse of Children - By J. Bailey Molineux
- A Few Simple Truths About ADHD and Stimulant Drugs - By Steve Edelman1,
- DYSLEXICS and A.D.D. KIDS BECOME GIFTED SPEED READERS - by George Stanc
- Using Feng Shui for Better Behaved Children - By Kathryn Weber
- Book Excerpt: Helping Children with Autism Learn - By Bryna Siegel,
- Five Keys to Raising Nonviolent Children - By Tammy Cox, LMSW
- The Best Way to Reduce Stress: Start Young - By Zach Brull
- Your Child?s Self-Esteem is in The Cards - By Susan Howson
- Calming Tips for Hyperactive Children - By Jeannine Virtue
- What is ADHD? - By Jeannine Virtue
- Talking to Your Children About Sex - By Jan Andersen
- How Our Children Really Learn And Why They Need To Play More And Memo
- HOW DO WE PROTECT OUR CHILDREN FROM PREDATORS? - By Linda J Alexander,
- Teach Children Positive Self-Image Through Fitness - By Lynn Bode
- No Invitation Needed -- Part 3 of 3 Sacred Children Series - By Skye T
- Helping Our Children Feel Good About Themselves - By Dr.Barbara Becker Hol
- Unidentified Stepfamily Zones - Discoveries Made at a Stepfamily Confer
- Divorce and Children: Things To Consider When You`re Staying Married
- Six facts you should know to empower your teaching. - By Emmanuel
- Are You in an Abusive Situation? - by Colin Gabriel Hatcher & Randall
- The Divorce Revolution Has Failed - By J. Bailey Molineux
- Is Your Child Well-Mannered? - By Mary Jesse
- Jesus` Birthday -- Part 2 of 3 Sacred Children Series - By Skye T
- Empty Nesters: What Should You Do Once the Children Leave? - By Mary Guar
- We should celebrate the diversity of children and adults - By Robyn M
- How to Cope with Back to School Stress - By Debbie Mandel
- HIS KIDS: BECOMING A W.O.W. STEPMOTHER - by Julie Donner Andersen
- ADD / ADHD Children : Being Your Child`s Best Friend - By Kate Hufst