Samlivsbrudd utvilsomt skadelig for barn

At sam­livs­brudd er ska­de­lig for barn, er noe “alle vet” men som like­vel er omstridt mel­lom fors­ke­re. I Norge har f eks fami­lie­so­sio­lo­gen Kari Moxnes etter min opp­fat­ning bidratt til å baga­tel­li­se­re opp­fat­nin­gen av skade­virk­nin­ge­ne. Se hen­nes bok “Skånsomme skils­mis­ser”. Den ame­ri­kans­ke pro­fes­so­ren Paul R Amato var nylig i Oslo og la fram resul­ta­te­ne av sin forsk­ning. Disse viser at den sam­le­de virk­nin­gen av skils­mis­ser for barn er klart neg­a­ti­ve. For å nå fle­re, er artik­ke­len skre­vet på engelsk , men jeg håper vårt nors­ke pub­li­kum også vil ha inter­esse av å lese den.

Divorce Detrimental to Children

Paul R Amato is a dis­tin­guis­hed pro­fes­sor at Pennsylvania State University in USA. September 22nd he gave a lectu­re at the University of Oslo and answe­red ques­tions.

Not only pro­fes­sio­nals had found their way to the audi­to­ri­um this Tuesday after­noon. Other peop­le with an inte­rest in the field were also the­re. We can say so, not only becau­se we were the­re ours­el­ves, but becau­se non-pro­fes­sio­nals with a stab­le inte­rest in the field are limi­ted in num­ber, and we know many of them by face.

Was pro­fes­sor Amato to pre­sent new and radi­cal views? No, accor­ding to the announ­ce­ment he was to give a gene­ral over­view of the field. But peop­le with aut­hority some­ti­mes speak more frank­ly in an oral set­ting com­pared to their books and papers. This September Tuesday’s meeting was well worth atten­ding, we think.

In the following we shall pre­sent some of the facts and views as we heard them from pro­fes­sor Amato. You will also find our com­ments, cle­ar­ly dis­tin­guis­hed from our notes on the lectu­re itself.

Increasing divorce rates — globally

Already high divor­ce rates grow hig­her. Divorce rates are increas­ing, and not only in North America and Europe, but also in Asia and Latin America.

Consequences detrimental to children

The out­co­mes for child­ren are in gene­ral neg­a­ti­ve. Some child­ren suf­fer short-term pro­blems, others long-term.

Comment: Between the lines we often hear a sad, but rea­li­s­tic, point rec­og­nized: parents’ divor­ce is seen as a “too ear­ly ordeal” for the child­ren. Some over­come the dif­fi­cul­ties, pos­sibly strengt­he­ned, others just suf­fer.

The neg­a­ti­ve out­co­mes are as follows:

  • Children exter­na­lize pro­blems (pro­bab­ly aggres­si­ve or simi­lar beha­viour)
  • Children inter­na­lize pro­blems (pro­bab­ly depres­sion and simi­lar)
  • Children per­form poorer aca­de­mical­ly
  • Peer rela­tions suf­fer (children’s rela­tions to fri­ends)

When child­ren of divor­ced parents grow up, they still car­ry the traits of a child­hood with extra dif­fi­cul­ties. The list of pro­blems is much the same as the abo­ve, but a height­e­ned divor­ce risk and weaker rela­tions to parents add to it.

Is the divorce itself a cause?

Yes, the divor­ce itself, not only the under­ly­ing pro­blems, has a neg­a­ti­ve impact. Children of divor­ced parents can be com­pared to child­ren whose parents have the same risk factors as divor­ced parents, but did not divor­ce. Negative con­se­quen­ces are seen in the lives of child­ren whose parents divor­ced.

Average vs concrete

Even if divor­ce is detri­men­tal to child­ren, the degree of dif­fi­cul­ties varies. The out­come for child­ren does not only depend on their own “too ear­ly tested” abi­li­ty to cope, but also on how the parents hand­le the divor­ce and their child­ren in that con­text.


Divorce gives the child­ren a poorer child­hood becau­se of:

  • Economic hardship
  • Parenting qua­li­ty (har­der job, less resources)
  • Loss of rela­tion­ship to fat­her (fat­hers “abdi­ca­te”, they loo­se moral aut­hority and don’t talk with their child­ren about dif­fi­cult mat­ters)
  • Feeling caught in the midd­le (when parent’s fail to hand­le children’s loyal­ty to both parents proper­ly)
  • Multiple tran­sitions (rem­ovals and new part­ners are qui­te com­mon)
    Mr. Amato sug­gests edu­ca­tion, even just a week­end-cour­se can be qui­te use­ful, for parents. In the US cour­ses are offe­red both for the pro­mo­tion of healt­hier mar­ria­ges and for bet­ter paren­ting if divor­ced. Attending a cour­se could be made com­pulsory for divor­cing parents.

Joint custody

Some sta­tes in the US encoura­ge joint custody. Other sta­tes have “the best inte­rest of the child” as the basis for judgments, and some have the “pri­mary parent pre­sump­tion”.

Professor Amato pointed out that parents can have joint custody regard­less of equal or unequal time with the child/children. Time may be divi­ded by 40/60 or even 30/70 and joint custody may also then be feas­ib­le.

Joint custody reached by volun­ta­ry agreement comes out well for the child­ren. Joint custody impo­sed by judgment may ren­der pro­blems.

Comment: When compa­ring joint custody reached volun­ta­ry with impo­sed joint custody, the for­mer, then, obvious­ly comes out best. However when a mot­her and a fat­her stand against each other in court, and the fat­her claims the court to impose joint custody upon the mot­her, against her will, and the mot­her, on the other hand, claims the court to impose mater­nal custody upon the fat­her, against his will, is the­re any scien­ti­fic proof that the one is bet­ter for the child­ren than the other? We have yet to see this ques­tion answe­red by rese­ar­chers.

Judges hate these cases

We asked pro­fes­sor Amato if the pro­blems seen when joint custody is impo­sed, might not depend on the poli­ti­cal and cul­tural set­ting the judgments were given in. In other words: isn’t it just as impor­tant what poli­ti­ci­ans say on this mat­ter, as how jud­ges rule? Professor Amato answe­red somewhat drea­ri­ly “jud­ges hate these cases”. He later added: poli­ti­ci­ans tend to step back too.

Comment: This adds to our prior impres­sion that pub­lic aut­hori­ties, inclu­ding legis­la­tors, act too dra­s­ti­cal­ly and think too litt­le in child custody. There is “unre­fined action” and the­re is unre­fined ideo­lo­gy, which is incon­gru­en­ce.

Works by pro­fes­sor Amato avai­lab­le in Norwegian rese­arch libra­ries

Dette innlegget ble publisert i Barn og foreldreskap, Familie. Bokmerk permalenken.

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