Wednesday, November 28, 2007
• Children of depressed moms are more likely to be anxious or depressed or to engage in disruptive behavior. (Parenting Magazine, Dec. 2007) I imagine this would be true for depressed dads, too. I include this statistic not to create more depression, but because I believe the current trend has been to negate state of mind in favor of “biochemical” causes for almost all untoward behavior on the part of children. I do believe that the feeling state in the home has a foundational impact on children in the home. If there were no way to change one’s state of mind, this would be distressing news indeed. However, as Sydney Banks (“The Missing Link,” “Second Chance,” “The Enlightened Gardener,” and et. al.) has said, mental health and happiness for every human being on the planet is “just one thought away.” Take care of yourselves, Moms, Dads, Foster Folks, Grandfolks, Loving Others! … You will find a way.
• There is no greater risk for emotional problems among adopted kids (adopted as infants) than among non-adopted children. In fact, adopted teenagers scored higher than their non-adopted siblings or samples of their peers in connectedness, caring, social competency, school achievement, optimism and “support” (available support from others) measures. Search Institute, Minneapolis, 1994.
• Less Guilt! There is no correlation between time spent watching TV (for children) and time spent exercising, playing sports, or engaging in other types of physical activity. In other words, there is no negative correlation. In other words, “there was no statistically significant difference in the amount of time light, moderate or [even] heavy TV viewers reported spending in physical activity.” Actually, heavy TV viewers registered nearly 10 minutes more physical activity per day than light TV viewers. However, in both 1) houses with TV “rules” or 2) without a TV in the home, kids on average, engaged in reading 16 minutes more per day. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005, www.kff.org, see executive summary #7250 or full report #7251.)
• The Kaiser study did find a correlation linking kids who reported as “discontented” and/or kids not doing well in school to increased/high media use, including playing video games (one to two hours more, on average, per day). This makes perfect sense to me—an escape. Overall, despite increasing and more variegated media use, “most young people report being largely happy and well adjusted.” Hurrah! (They’re not just saying that, are they?)
Like Spiderman shoots a web at the world,
So you spit and seethe your Fury
But this web keeps you from seeing, changing, moving, growing
It binds you tight.
Who knows if your victim has been damaged, or hurt
Or made stronger?
Have you evoked fear
Only one thing is certain.
Like a cocoon wound too tightly,
Or the spider's sticky shroud
Anger will kill you, first.
Unless you emerge from your chrysalis
and beat your sudden wings
damp with your second--& most significant--birth
into Newness, the vast & tremulous Unknown
full of tenderness,
full of rhythm
In ecstatic flight
through the Infinite night.
In Hawaii, in the old tradition, when there was an argument or a disagreement or bad feelings, all the people involved would come together and listen closely to each other as each person shared from their heart.
When this was all done, and everyone had a chance to speak and everyone felt heard and understood, they would all have a Lomi Lomi massage and jump into the ocean for a swim.
In most cases, I cite the relevant sources. Corrections welcome.
Families & Couples
- In a 2002 study of “unhappy” marriages and spouses from such marriages, researchers found that divorce did not ensure that spouses, overall, became more happy. It was more likely (two-thirds of “unhappy” marriages/spouses studied) that spouses became more happy staying in the marriage and weathering various marital storms—including having children, depressive episodes, infidelity, financial stress and what the researchers called “men behaving badly.” Spouses who divorced, on average, showed no significant improvements in well-being, self-empowerment, personal efficacy or depressive symptoms and showed an overall increase in use of alcohol. (I’m guessing alcohol use may increase as a result of more time spent out in public venues like bars.)
- Marital counseling, especially secular marital counseling, did not play any significant role in helping couples to stay married. Couples, and especially men, were wary of couples’ counseling and especially “value neutral” counseling that was perceived as not valuing the institution of marriage itself. More helpful—according to spouses interviewed—were invested outsiders, such as family members and clergy, who encouraged couples to “stick with it.”
- Almost 8 of 10 spouses who had reported that their marriages were “very unhappy” reported themselves as happily married (to the same spouse) five years later. (In other words, the most unhappy marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds.)
- No significant differences were found in education and income levels between those reporting themselves as happily or unhappily married after five years.
- Often, only one spouse in a marriage reports as “unhappy.”
- Wives were most often the “barometers” of whether the marriage was happy or not … Although men in marriages that “became happy” reported making significant changes or shifts in their thinking and behaviors to create a better marriage. (In other words, men had little awareness of how their behaviors impacted their marriages, but were able to gain awareness and make changes.)
- The birth of first and second children significantly impacted marital happiness for the worse. However, dedication to the well-being of children was a potent force in keeping marriages intact. Enjoyment of children together was then cited as one of the many benefits in marriages that eventually become happy. (This is a very touching section, with quotes from participants, in the study report.)
- The threat of divorce, when seen as real, was a major incentive to many spouses—especially men—to “get it together” and change.
- Commonly cited reasons for why a marriage improved: time passing, or just “sticking it out” (number one!); a “marital endurance ethic”; improved communication/adjustments.
- Researchers found that “commitment [to marriage] is not just a side effect [of a happy marriage], but is also a cause of relationship happiness.” Entertaining the idea of divorce or separation over time, or “continually wondering whether your marriage is good enough to keep can be exhausting … When people are intensely committed to their marriages, they invest more in the relationship, they minimize the importance of differences they can’t resolve … they have a powerful incentive to understand their partner’s actions in the best possible light, and to be an advocate for their spouse as well as themselves.”
- One wife in the study said: “I just had to try to ride it out and not bitch so much.” One man said his father (who lived in
) told him: “It’s not any easier with another wife!” Ghana
- When marriages were extremely bad and involved physical conflict and violence, there was a benefit in divorcing for spouses interviewed. This was a very small number of all marriages studies (four to six percent).
--“Does Divorce Make People Happy?: Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages,” 2002, Institute for American Values (this study is available as a highly readable 39-page document online).
- “Good” divorces are not necessarily better for children than two parents staying in a somewhat unhappy (or “low-conflict”) marriage. A study by author
Marquadt (“Between Two Worlds”) and Dr. Norval Glenn at the Elizabeth at Universityof Texas shows that divorce, no matter how amicable “still takes a toll on children’s overall well being, as well as their own future marital success.” Impact on children includes “much less ability to trust and little idea of what a lasting marriage looks like” (from U.T. Austin website article, “The Divorce Dilemma,” 2006). According to Dr. Glenn, “Even by being good people and marrying good people, [these children of ‘good’ divorce] feel they cannot assure that their marriage will work.” Austin
- The study also found that “if the marriage is so bad it leaves the primary parent, usually the mother, so depressed she can’t parent effectively, the children are usually better off after the parents divorce. However, only a minority of divorces of couples with children is of this nature …”
- “The separation of parents bifurcates children’s inner lives, forcing them to become navigators, conciliators and emotional caregivers at an early age, all of which leaves them with a sense of tentativeness and isolation even as adults … Children whose parents remain in somewhat unhappy, low conflict marriages … fare better in certain crucial spheres than children of divorce.” –from “Straight Talk about Happy Talk: Is there such a thing as a good divorce?” online article in OpinionJournal.
I am raising perhaps controversial points here about divorce and marriage not to make divorced parents feel guilty (which is never helpful), but to help currently married or coupled parents come to grips. Ultimately, one’s inner wisdom, one’s “sense of knowing,” which arises from a calm feeling state, is one’s best guide and last word in all life matters. However, I believe these statistics point to state of mind as the essential variable, more than “externals” in our lives, as the main determinant of we are “happy” or not. It is our state of mind that our children bathe in, and breathe in—from which they nurse. Is it possible that your state of mind, within your marriage, could shift?
More curious family stats to come ...