Stephanie Coontz is the media’s favorite go-to-gal when they are looking for pollyannish commentary on the family issue du jour. But she reaches a new nadir in her comments to ABC News today on the Gore split. She thinks the upside to the Gore split is that it is one indication that Americans–especially women–never need to feel constrained in a marriage, and can always look forward to a new start in life. Money quote:
“It’s a success that they have the option to move on and not be stuck.”
But there are at least seven people–the Gore’s four children (Karenna, Kristin, Sarah, and Albert III) and three grandchildren (Wyatt, Anna, and Oscar)–who probably won’t be able to “move on” from this divorce. Studies, such as this one from Penn State, suggest that children of low conflict divorces (like the Gore’s) are much more likely than their peers whose married parents stuck it out to lose faith in marriage and to end up in divorce court themselves. Studies, such as this other one from Penn State, also suggest that the ill effects (e.g., family discord, higher risk of divorce, strained family relations) travel across at least three generations, from grandparents to grandchildren. In fact, after studying the intergenerational effects of divorce, sociologists Paul Amato and Jacob Cheadle conclude that
“divorce has consequences for subsequent generations, including individuals who were not yet born at the time of the original divorce.”
In other words, the sins of the grandparents shall be visited on their grandchildren and, possibly, generations yet to come.