Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Divorce Culture Hurts Children

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Divorce Culture Hurts Children

Article excerpt

All of us owe a debt of gratitude to Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, whose Atlantic Monthly article, "Dan Quayle Was Right," first focused the public's attention on the scholarly evidence against divorce.

Whitehead's new book, "The Divorce Culture," is an elegant dissection of the ideas that have brought us to our current predicament: where more than half of our marriages fail and one-third of our children are born outside of wedlock. (Full disclosure: "The Divorce Culture" was partly funded by the Institute for American Values, where I am an affiliate scholar.)

That is why Whitehead's recent high-profile attack on no-fault divorce reform in The New York Times is so disappointing. "Ending no-fault divorce," she opines, "won't solve the problem," and indeed "will only make (things) worse." I wish I could tell you that so eminent a scholar had some new and original evidence to offer in support of the legal status quo. Has some new study shown that stronger marriage laws somehow encourage domestic violence? Is there any credible evidence that no-fault has helped remake divorce into a kinder, gentler and less conflict-filled institution? But ironically Whitehead offers only the same kind of warmed-over cliches that critics tried to use to discredit her own central thesis: that too much divorce is hurting too many American children. Reforming no-fault, she asserts, will somehow "shred" the "safety net for battered wives." Domestic violence is always Exhibit A in the defense of the divorce culture, and I'm surprised Whitehead succumbs to these specious claims. Don't get me wrong: Domestic violence is a real and serious problem, but there is no reason to think the fine print of our divorce laws affects it one way or another. Remember Hedda Nussbaum? Joel Steinberg beat her black and blue and tortured their adopted daughter, Lisa, to death, all without benefit of clergy. …

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