Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Divorce, Iowa-Style?

Republicans in Iowa are proposing to make divorce more difficult for people who have children under eighteen:

Republican lawmakers in Iowa's House of Representatives have proposed a bill that would make it more difficult for a married couple with children to get a divorce. A subcommittee debated the bill Monday, Radio Iowa reported.
From Radio Iowa's report:
Under the proposed legislation, parents with kids under the age of 18 could not get a no-fault divorce. Instead, they’d have to show a spouse was guilty of adultery, had been sent to prison on a felony conviction, had physically or sexually abused someone in the family, or had abandoned the family for at least a year.
According to the report, state Rep. Tedd Gassman (R) said during the debate that he is worried about the negative effects of divorce on children. Gassman said his daughter recently got a divorce.
“There’s a 16-year-old girl in this whole mix now," he said. "Guess what? What are the possibilities of her being more promiscuous? What are the possibilities of all these other things surrounding her life that a 16-year-old girl, with hormones raging, can get herself into?”
Something unsavory about the Gassman comment.  I don't think talking about his own granddaughter that way is appropriate at all, and his focus on her possible sexuality also smells off to me.  If I was the girl I'd never talk to that particular grandpa again.

Which neatly segues into my next comment:  Sometimes married partners who hate each other wage constant warfare in the house, whether the children are present or not.  To grow up under those circumstances can be somewhat similar to growing up in a war zone.   But the list of "legitimate" reasons for divorce in that list do not cover that case at all.

The problem with many of the  studies of the impact of divorce on children is this: 

The proper comparison is not to children growing up in well-functioning "intact" families.  The proper comparison is to families where the adult partners have the same problems but choose not to divorce.  Everyone agrees that children from happy families do better (or at least no worse) than children from quarreling and unhappy families.  But happy couples are not contemplating divorce in the first place.

The best approach for reducing divorce is educating the young (before they are married)  about relationships and teaching them how to choose a good match and how to solve disagreements when they crop up.  Mostly the Republican approach seems to be to assume that all families are wonderful and then to demand that people  must be locked up inside them if they are not wonderful.