Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Family Issues

By Joan F. Kaywell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
When Divorce Comes to Class
Bonnie O. Ericson& Shari Tarver-Behring
INTRODUCTION
Tolstoy is well known for commenting that happy families are all alike, but families in trouble are unhappy in many different ways. Extending the comment, divorces, too, are unique. Interestingly, divorce does not play a major role in Tolstoy's work or in other classic literature. Single parents, unhappy parents, and parentless children exist in the classics, but such situations are usually explained by death, illness, or social conditions other than divorce.Divorce itself is a relatively recent phenomenon and is one that warrants attention when the following statistics ( Levine, 1995) are noted:
One in every two marriages currently ends in divorce in the United States.
Every year a million new children will experience a family breakup because of divorce.
Forty-four percent of all children of the 1990s will be children of divorce.
Only fifty percent of fathers ordered to pay child support provide the full amount.
Eighty percent of divorced parents remarry within five years of divorce.

These are staggering numbers, especially when considered from a teacher's or school counselor's perspective. A high school teacher might expect almost half of her students to be coping with the aftermath of divorce, including perhaps a reduced standard of living or adjustment to a blended family. An upper elementary or middle school teacher might expect a

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