Updated | Children's Commissioner misinterpreted my study on divorce' - psychologist

The author of a study on the effects of divorce on children cited by the Commissioner of Children has rejected the misinterpretation of the her work.

Updated at 4:26pm with Children's Commissioner's comments.

Joan B. Kelly, the co-author of the study cited by Commissioner for Children Helen D’Amato, rejected the anti-divorce interpretation given to the study, the Malta Humanist Association said.

Dr Joan B. Kelly

Contacted by the MHA, Kelly stated that “They have misunderstood the research. The comparisons have been made between groups of children whose parents remain married, and those children whose parents have divorced.

“There is no reason to expect that the psycho-social outcomes for children whose parents divorce, get an annulment, or legally separate would be any different. Divorce and legal separation are the same, from the perspective of the children.”

Her work was cited by D’Amato during a meeting with the anti-divorce movement Zwieg bla Divorzju, in which D’Amato quoted the study to attribute harmful effects on children by divorce.

“I don’t like my articles (or interpretations of the research of hundreds of researchers) to be misinterpreted or misrepresented,” the MHA quoted Kelly as saying.

The Kelly & Emery article presents research on protective factors for children following separation and divorce, which showed 75% of divorced children are functioning within average or better range on objective, standardized tests.

Parents’ behaviours make a huge difference, as do appropriate parenting plans that allow for continuity in the child’s relationship with both parents.

In her reaction, D'Amato said that during the ongoing debate, she has always said that children "do not separated, get an annulment or divorce but carry the psycho-social outcomes of such situations". She said she repeated this statement during her meeting with Zwieg bla Divorzju.
 
"During the same press conference when mentioning comparisons about risks, the Commissioner mentioned both groups of children, that is children whose parents remain married, and those whose parents have divorced. When she was specifically asked whether she attributes such consequences only to divorce, her reply was no, but that she attributes such consequences also to separations and annulments," the Commissioner's office said.

“The Malta Humanist Association is concerned that voters are being misled by the implication that divorce causes negative consequences different than those caused by annulment or separation,” spokesperson David Friggieri said.

“In cases where divorce follows separation, as is being proposed by the forthcoming referendum, the problems caused by a failed marriage would have happened at least four years before, and divorce becomes a formality that formally recognises the ending of the former marriage, allowing the couple to move on with their lives, and possibly to marry the person with whom they have built a new, healthy relationship.

“It does not create marriages that ‘expire’, on the contrary it favours marriages based on that which really binds families together – love and respect.”

D'Amato on Monday cited studies by clinical psychologist Joan Kelly and Prof Robert Emery of the University of Virginia, which she claimed "showed children in their first family are at reduced risk from emotional trauma or even developing mental health complications than those living with second (reconstituted) families through cohabitation or remarriage."

But a read through the same studies reveals that D’Amato was highly selective in her quotations:omitting entirely the main bulk of the researchers’ conclusions, and misrepresenting some of the salient findings.

In reality the study quoted by D’Amato suggests that the effects of divorce are actually minor, and in any case entirely analogous with the effects of legal separation. The researchers also underline that the vast majority of children from broken marriages are not permanently scarred by the experience.

In ‘Children’s Adjustment Following Divorce: Risk and Resilience Perspectives’ (2003), Kelly and Emery observe that “although we do wish to promote more happy marriages, we conclude that although some children are harmed by parental divorce, the majority of findings show that most children do well".

Significantly, they added: “To suggest otherwise is to provide an inaccurate interpretation of the research findings.”

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Yes, Debbie; would you explain that please? I doubt it very much that you are able to find a half-decent and acceptable explanation. Your motivation is most probably born out of the typical catholic indoctrination; if you are not in line with their teachings you are on the road to eternal damnation. If you follow the rules you are a GOOD woman and heaven is a safe ticket. Unfortunately it does not make you a good woman by simply repeat their sermons but to genuinely feel compassion for others. For those perhaps who were not so lucky in their first marriage?
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What do you expect from a person who is not qualified to occupy the job? She is there simply because she is an ex MP on hte PN side and when it comes to to jobs for the blue eyed boys or girls nothing beat the PN!
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@Debbie: Would you please explain how divorce is more harmful than annulments or separations? THIS IS THE CRUX OF THE WHOLE ISSUE. Nobody is disputing that happily married families are better for the children and for each other than couples whose marriage fell apart. The question is, does it matter to the children whether the parents end with divorce or an annulment or a legal separation?
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@Debbie Take it from another American. I have lived in both the US and Malta and your post simply shows you are oblivious to the realities here. Unlike the US, Malta is still a quasi- religious fiefdom or Vatican Satellite state. We do not have a Supreme Court to consider and issue judgements that even the President cannot ignore. The reality is that divorce will not be the magical cure for broken families. However it gives those unfortunate couples the right to start afresh and remarry - provided they want to. What is the alternative of the Maltese fundamentalists of MAD? Effectively nothing except to preserve a religious status quo where the church is kept in financial and political dominance. I try and draw parallels between the Archdiocese of Malta and that of Boston. Effectively they are two separate religions in both approach and attitude. Maybe once divorce is legalized the church in Malta will get off it's high horse and really start to act as a Catholic organization. But until then it continues to play at politics and ignores the fact that the resentment it is currently causing will have ripple effects for generations to come. People who, until some time ago, were indifferent to the church and what it preaches are now becoming antagonistic and hateful of it. This could spell out a quicker demise. Bottom line, instead of managing change, the church and it's political lapdogs have painted themselves into a corner where change will manage them.
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@ Debbie, Of course you are confused. All religious fundamentalists normally are. Prayer. A myth. There is no scientific evidence that prayer effects anything. If prayer worked, doctors wouldn't have a job to go to, every body would be millionaires. Sorry, but prayer is a fantasy for those who think they will get the help of a non-physical, supernatural, man made illusion in the sky. Get real, this is the 21st century.
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I think you all should be very careful before calling people failures! i wish everyone one of you criticizing this woman that during your live, you did some good of what this woman has done!
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Dear Ms Kelly You know that culture is basic and we like everyone else have our social transitions and transformations.We Maltese people are not the only people who cherished the traditional Christian family. Events and time have brought changes not always to the good of society for the whole of Europe. People like you should be admired for carrying out research to bring out the best of societies in spite of everything. One thing which is wrong in our debate is the way it has been cooked up leaving no space for community study apart from the misleading quantitative information unaccompanied by qualitative insight. Apart from being Catholic many feel that it is not an opportune time and it is rushed. Re misinterpretation just a few days ago a professional commented on the media that Christ has erred because in the professional's own experience, adultery was the easiest marital problem to resolve. In my view this could mean that sex and marriage do not always go like a horse and carriage. Would not that be universal?
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Sorry for the confusion. My last comment was in response to: Church worldwide insists on civil divorce before annulment http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/church-insists-on-civil-divorce-before-annulment
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That "practically every other Catholic diocese in the world" requires divorce before petitioning for annulment, is no reason to follow suit. Fr. Apap heard what we in the U.S. hear repeatedly--that divorce only deals with the "mere" civil affects of marriage. This is what canon law says, but it should not be used as an encouragement to get one. There are at least two reasons why this practice, which clearly goes against Catholic teaching, continues. We have been told it was started to prevent 'alienation of affection' lawsuits against the Church. By annulling marriages, unhappy spouses who are rightfully aggrieved, could sue the Church. The only problem in the U.S. is that in most states that law no longer exists. Too bad! If there is a divorce prior to petitioning for annulment, then the tribunal is off the hook. One other reason just as serious is to remove responsibility from the judge in trying to get a couple to reconcile. There are at least six canon laws requiring tribunal judges to urge reconciliation. They are required to take this seriously. It does not happen. Once there are divorce papers--which they require--then the mantra is that there is no longer hope for reconciliation. With a little effort from these priests, there is hope for reconciliation of any marriage. They are not listening to the Holy Fathers'--Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI's--corrections. It has been shown that there is much disobedience to Rome when it comes to jurisprudence and procedures. I urge Fr. Apap not to learn from our tribunals unless you know of the few that follow canon law, Rota jurisprudence, and the Pope's addresses closely. Please look up the work of Msgr. Cormac Burke, a former Rota judge and Edward Cardinal Egan, another former Rota judge. I encourage all to get copies of What God Has Joined Together--The Annulment Crisis in American Catholicism. It may be out of print, but can still be found. This is well-studied account of the annulment problem in the U. S. over the last 40 years that cannot be refuted as the evidence and facts are empirical. Do you think the same thing won’t happen in your country? Say NO to divorce!!!!! You will open the floodgates to evil and sorrow. Catholics, pray the rosary without cease. This prayer is the strongest weapon against family breakdown and divorce. From the U. S. Debbie
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The Commissioner is neither a psychologist nor a sociologist but an educator whose main concern is children. So many people are making mistakes about Catholic Doctrine because they are not experts but are simply quoting from perceptions and not expertly skills. That is being done all the time on the media.We are not experts in everything . It used to be noted by foreigners that our Maltese culture permits us to be the most liberal people on earth in speech and everyone hits back instead of taking it seriously.There is a kind of Maltese sense of humour in it. It surfaces often when in debate . Why bring politics in it ?
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Wake up, Malta. If you think divorce is harmless to children—think again. Take it from an American—Oppose this law with all you have! Divorce will only be the beginning of a culture that will implode. Divorce not only seriously harms children, it harms the spouses, families and more. It sets off a vicious chain reaction. More second and third marriages end in divorce than first. That should tell you something. Divorce is borne from nothing other than selfishness. Married love is not supposed to be romantic at all times so why search elsewhere? For Catholics, you are risking your salvation by breaking your vows. Studies have shown that those who stick it out and do not divorce, end up being even happier five years later. Do not be naïve! There is a long list of serious life-long emotional problems your children will suffer and then society in general. To those who think they know better then we here in the US, what do you base your faulty opinions on? We have proofs. Children of divorce/separation die 5 years earlier: study http://lifesitenews.us1.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=3b519162c561a81f1ee4736a3&id=01d9ba74dd&e=66051e9478 The Longevity Project http://www.howardsfriedman.com/longevityproject/
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I'm not really one to leave comments, but I felt I had to congratulate you Mr.Vincenti. Firstly for being such a prime example of a fundamentalist christian. You manage to put yourself in that box so effortlessly. Secondly for the free entertainment you so easily bestow upon us on this sunny friday afternoon. Also Ms.D’Amato, I would recommend doing some research before throwing statistics and quotations around like that.While you are at it, I suggest you reconsider your 'pick & choose to suit the mood' attitude. Quite immature for a lady of your stature.
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Ms. D'Amato should have stuck to the simple truth: That as far as her office is concerned, there is no difference between divorce, annulment and legal or de-facto separation, while encouraging couples with children to try hard to resolve any differences to save their marriage, and to avoid at all costs involving the children in their disputes, or arguing and fighting in the presence of their children.
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Unethical, irresponsible abuse of power against the general public, being the passive consumers of information.
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This is just one of the many times ZbD have been trying to fool people with inaccurate, incomplete or imaginative statements. This one was obviously the most telling to date. It's interesting to observe how attitudes of certain people have suddenly changed. A few days ago the Kelly research was the closest thing to a message from the Almighty himself. Now it has suddenly become a message from Satan. And what's more now the Humanist Association comes under attack from people with egg on the face. If anyone, with the exception of pv, needs a reason to vote Yes, just look at the systematic campaign of misinformation, moral threats, state,church and PN media that is being waged against a right recognized in practically the entire planet.
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Hadd ma stenna mod iehor minn persuna li giet impoggija f'kariga mportanti ghas-semplici raguni li hija nazzjonalista. Kif qatt dan l-imbierek pajjiz jista' jimxi l-quddiem, b'din il-medjokrita' ta' nies! Shame!
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The divorce law sooner or later will be introduced. And many of the crusaders against divorce (well crusaders :) I cannot imagine seeing them wears as Crusaders :P) Will be just dust , It is inevitable if not now the divorce will be in. banning umbrellas does not stop rain. Banning Divorce does not stop marital breakdown. Take away our hearts of stone, and give us a heart of flesh. A Yes Vote to implement a caring, concerned and compassionate response to marital breakdowns. I hope that you will make every effect to give a resounding YES on the 28th of May to civil rights, compassion,generosity and courageous concern
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Gladio
It was a either a mistake or a blatant misrepresentation .Is Ms D'Amato going to tell us? Is she hell!.
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Luke Camilleri
The Commissioner was commissioned to misinterpreted the study on divorce and wil never bite the hand that feeds her! That is why she was nominated as a Children's Commissioner ! She never even commented on abuse of children's data requested for the Group campaigning against Divorce! http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/children-should-be-used-in-anti-divorce-campaign-%E2%80%93-fr-joe-borg Children should be used in anti-divorce campaign – Fr Joe Borg By Matthew Vella Fr Borg is suggesting that parish chaplains forward them a list of separated couples and children from broken marriages to speak “intelligently” against a law on divorce. Media studies lecturer Fr Joe Borg suggests tapping of parishes for children from broken marriages who can speak out against divorce.
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@ -Raphael; I doubt it very much that Vincenti would ever seek psychiatric help. He clearly is convinced that he is a know-it-all. And as he stated in earlier posts on other articles he does not even wish to enter a discussion with other commenters.
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I'm not surprised about the misinterpretation. Afterall as an ex-nationalist MP and member of the NP she has to tow the party line so she found the one item from a whole report. Well if you are looking for the negative side that is what one will surely find. Never mind if it's quoted out of context.
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carmel duca
Interesting that Paul Vincenti pays such close attention to other people's opinions. In this case it is also a contradictory, because on Bondiplus in 2005, the same Paul Vincenti said (to me, as it happens) that "other opinions do not exist" when it came to the issue of abortion. It seems Mr Vincenti finds it difficult to accept the fact that not everybody shares his own extremist views on the subject. It seems even the existence of a tiny pro-choice minority is simply too much for him to bear. Not that this has anything to do with the May 28 referendum, which - last i looked - was about the introduction of divorce under a set of very specific circumstances. But it bears pointing out that Paul Vincenti has time and again proved utterly incapable of discussing any subject under the sun without somehow dragging the unborn child into the picture... even when the issue at hand is totally unrelated. The comment below is in fact a good example: not once did he address the actual substance of the abovepress release, which was about the Children's Commissioner having distorted research about the effects of divorce on children, and the researcher's rebuttal. Clearly there is a post-traumatic pathology at work here, and my honest advice to Paul Vincenti would be to seek psychiatric help.
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Paul Sammut
@PV gol What makes you believe that Noners Moaners like you have the right to tell others what to when all they want is to let in some sunshine into their life. No body is pressing you into doing things their way so why do you have to be so bigoted in demanding that others, who do not see it your way, refrain from exercising their rights? Gift of Live have a life and leave others to have theirs. s have every right to carry on doing it the way they like it. However they should stop moaning and leave others free to choose how they want it done. What a bigoted lot these Noners are. Do they really believe that they are the only ones going to heaven? Fat chance.
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@-Luke Howard: You nailed it. The children suffer from hostility, arguments, violence between parents. That is the root of the matter and certainly that happens before any break-ups, separations, anullments or divorces.
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@ Paul Vincenti: Apparently you literally did LITTLE research. Here you will find the answer to all your nonsense: http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/blogs/raphael-vassallo/divorce-abortion-and-all-that-crap
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yes ofcourse it is the bad marriage/bad cohabitation with children , that does more bad to children and to couples themselves. One have to be a moron not to understand this.
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tatux kazu dak Mr PV , dak sabiex jizgwida, min fuq dak lin ghaddej bhalissa. Ahna qed nitkellmu fud id-divorzju SUR PV, Ara vera kolha l-istess ta intom .
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Studies have shown (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/405852_8) that behavioural problems in children of divorced couples START up to 4 YEARS BEFORE the couple get divorced. This is because it is not the act of divorce which causes these problems but the hostility (and sometimes violence) between the parents that the child witnesses on a daily basis. By forcing the parents to stay together against their wishes, we are also forcing the child to continue to witness this misery. On the other hand if we allow the couple to get divorce and move on to other relationships, we give the child the chance to watch a loving relationship in action, which surely has to be better for their overall mental health
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@ Paul Vincenti: All that barrage of nonsense you wrote aside, what have you got to say that is relevant to the above article? To be more specific, what have you got to say about all this lying for Jesus which you seem to find no problem with at all?
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Congratulations Commisioner of children of Malta. only in Malta :)
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Why are you so surprised? What do you expect from someone who has no qualifications for her post except being a failed Nationalist MP? For more info on divorce and hypocrites log on: mazzun.wordpress.com
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@ -P. Vincenti - GOL; Get a grip, Paul!! You havent got a clue about abortion and what it really means. You bring it into context with divorce which clearly shows that you are a fanatic zealot. Your crusade against Humanism is founded in your own frustration that creates the grim moralizer that you are.
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Ippruvat tati daqqa t'id, ma ghamlitx jew ma ghamluliex il-homework tajjeb, u gietha hazina. X'trid taghmel!!!!!
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@Paul Vincenti: I'm flattered that you're so infatuated with me that you keep a scrapbook of everything I've said since at least 2001. If I were paranoid I'd think you were stalking me. . Apparently I said "you persist in thinking of a fertilised egg or a fetus as ‘a child’. It isn’t." . Well guess what, I was right then, and I'm still right now. And secondly, divorce has nothing to do with abortion.
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Our Commissioner is as stupid as an ass. Ma ! She should resign immediately. Undoubtedly she will not because Uncle Gonzipn would defend her. Maybe after all she is not that stupid. Maybe she misinterprested on purpose, her being a teacher and a big, big LAQIJA.
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Humanists? The Humanists and divorce On the 26th April, The Humanist Association took a position in favour of a yes vote for divorce. It should be pointed out that some of the association’s members have been very public with their anti-life rhetoric in recent years. One need only do a little research to uncover what Raphael Vassallo and James Debono, both founding members of the Association, have had to say about life before birth. Both are journalists for a tabloid through which they are currently very aggressively promoting divorce. On the 1 April 2008, Mr Vassallo wrote a comment in the Times of Malta online section which read, ‘Personally, I think there are numerous instances in which abortion may be justified’. In his blog, James Debono recently wrote “My inner logic tells me that human life starts some time before birth, but surely not the entire nine months” (Oct 30, 2010.) Note that his conclusions are based on ‘inner logic’, and not on any scientific facts. Mr Debono also went on record to state that the great apes should be given the right to life but that human life should not be given the right to life from conception. Another Humanist, a certain Ramon Casha, is involved in the administrative aspects of the Association. On the 5th July 2001, he added the following comment on the Times of Malta website ‘’’…you persist in thinking of a fertilised egg or a fetus as ‘a child’ It isn’t. Once you understand that you’’ understand why most people worldwide have no problem with preventing a pregnancy from continuing’ The radical liberals will continue to frantically argue away any idea of there being a link between divorce and abortion. Experience from other countries shows that this drive will not halt at the point of attaining legal divorce. Many radical liberals are pinning their hopes that droves of pro-life people, duped by a heavily biased referendum question and deeply emotive arguments involving sad looking women with black eyes, will sleep-walk into voting for divorce without noticing this Trojan horse’s other unsavory gifts. One may argue that abortion is different from divorce as it involves the killing of a life. What many do not realize is that there are forces in Malta that have been long hard at work attempting to dehumanize the unborn child. They have been slowly paving the way to promote the legalization of abortion following divorce. Many will be surprised when they then hear them use the very same arguments for abortion as they use today to justify divorce with little objection from an apparently indifferent public. Divorce and abortion are sisters both born from an identically flawed logic. Those who promote the two, systematically repackage them as minority rights and individual choices. One will note that proponents of abortion and divorce will always try to avoid discussing children in both cases. They are fully aware that if they do, they lose their argument very quickly. We recently witnessed this when the IVA movement, who after initially objecting harshly to the NO movement having involved children in the debate, changed their mind and blundered into what can only be termed as a PR catastrophe. In their panic, they hastily set up a billboard which referred to all children born out of wedlock as ‘bastards’. The children are the true protagonists in both affairs. They are the real minority group. It is urgent for all pro-life people to wake-up from their stupor and realize what is at truly at stake on the 28th May.
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For the information of those interested, HUMANISTS are the followers of an intellectual movement which encourages the people to read the original texts for themselves rather than accept the interpretations of others.
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Aqghu iktar ghan-nejk lol
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Tad-dahq, izda ma nistghagibx, kont nistennieha
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Please note! It is not about remarriage (which is the question discussed in our referendum) ... the effects of remarriage are those which Emery discusses in her article. Pls note quoted from her article: The only paragraph discussing 'Remarriage and Reparenting' in the whole study goes as follows: "Divorce creates the potential for children to experience a continuous series of changes and disruptions in family and emotional relationships when one or both parents introduce new social and sexual partners, cohabitate, remarry, and/or redivorce. The effect of serial attachments and losses may hinder more mature and intimate attachments as young adults. Estimates suggest that three quarters of divorced men and two thirds of divorced women eventually remarry (Bumpass, Sweet & Castro-Martin, 1990) and 50% of divorced adults cohabit before remarriage, whereas others cohabit instead of remarriage. It is estimated that approximately one third of children will live in a remarried or cohabiting family before the age of 18 (Bumpass, Raley, & Sweet, 1995). For some, these new relationships are accompanied by family conflict, anger in the stepparent-step-child relationship, and role ambiguities (Bray, 1999; Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992). Reparenting may be stressful and problematic for children when entered into soon after divorce (Hetherington & Kelly, 2002)." (p. 355) Another mention of reparenting occurs at p.356 "The increased risk of divorced children for behavioural problems is not diminished by remarriage. As with divorce, children in stepfamily homes are twice as likely to have psychological, behavioural, social and academic problems than are children in nondivorced families (Bray, 1999; Heterington & Kelly, 2002, Zill, 1998; Zill & Schoenborn, 1990)." The rest of the study speaks of various arguments, an interesting study. I'm not arguing but just presenting the facts. I feel, Church, State and all must pull up their socks and invest more in family preparation, support measures, and all ... the problem is people entering abusive relationships in the first place ... I'm just saying I'd rather invest my energy, money, etc in something that in the long term might give better fruit for our society than opting for a solution which everybody agrees its not actually 'a solution'. If sincerely somebody finds any study speaking of the benefits of divorce for children, parents and society, would really like to have a look at it.