Baun (2006), conducted a study on how post divorce paternal disengagement may be rooted in the father's tendency to link his children and ex-wife as a single entity and the consequences of his failure to adequately mourn the loss of his ex-wife and redefine his paternal role and identity in distinction from his spousal role and identity. He also suggest that the ex-spousal conflict and disengaged fathers whom are often blame for their disengagement is the product of specific failures. The contribution of the article lies in it's effort to draw a coherent picture of the fathers' perceptions and behaviors, which are generally treated separately in the literature. The article focuses on a small number of factors in the behavior disengaged fathers, namely their perception of their wives and children as a single entity and their concomitant inability to separate their spousal roles and identities from their parental ones. These behavior claims stems from these men failure to mourn the loss of their wives and to redefine their identity without reference to their former wife.
An extensive body of research has investigated factors that contribute to the quality of divorce father's involvement with their children. These factors include sociodemographic variables (e.g., education and income, Arditti, 1992, 1999; and number and age of children, Buchanan, Maccoby, & Dornbusch, 1991; Dudly, 1991) and divorce variables (e.g., the length and difficulty of the legal proceedings, Madden Derdich & Arditti 1999; time since divorce, Shapiro & Lambert, 1999; and remarriage, Stephen, 1996). Also included are the quality of the ex-spousal relationship and the level of expression of conflicts. Research was conducted to identify factors that contribute to divorce fathers disengagement from their children.
Personal and interpersonal reasons have been adduced for disengagement. In one study disengaged fathers explanations of geographic distances from their children,were their children growing older, and their own personal problems, but suggests that these factors do not account for the disengagement of the bulk of the fathers in his sample. In another study observable difference in the age, length of marriage, length of separation and occupation and income of the engaged and disengaged fathers. In an ethnographic study of disengaged fathers, Arendell (1992) observes that most of them reported dissatisfaction with their visitation experiences, their ex-wives causing strain in the father-child relationship and/or ex-wives failing to intervene to ease the strain in the relationship. Grief (1995) in a qualitative study based on the responses of 14 fathers who chose not to visit with their children found that 64% blamed their ex-wives, 14% attributed their absence to distance, 29% ascribed it to their own (unnamed) issues and 29 % ascribed it to their children rejections.
This article takes these observations further to propose another possible explanation for post divorce paternal disengagement. It argues that this disengagement may be rooted in the father's tendency to link his children and ex-wife as a single entity in consequences of his failure to adequately mourn the loss of his ex-wife and to redefine his paternal identify in distinction from his spousal identify. This explanation does not obviate other factors that contribute to disengagement nor does it apply to all disengaged fathers. However, the basis of the citations provided in the studies illustrated through a case of disengaged father, this perspective, whether alone or in connection with other factors, may help understand, and possibly to remedy, the disengagement of a certain group of men.
This was a very interesting article. Some of the strengths in this article was the author provided a number of creditable resources to support his research. It was very easy to read and comprehend. Often times reading these kinds of articles the research can be such a broad topic it can be difficult to find out the current data to support the research. Many of the references were from years ago but the author also provided current data to support his topic. Although the article was well informed there were some weaknesses. A major weaknesses was the author could have provided more than one case study of a man who could not be a father. The author focused on two areas. One linking mother and children as one entity and the other was failure of mourning and redefinition of parental identity and his in his case study he focused more on linking mother to children. Since the research discuses in great detailed about two different types of disengagement it would have been more helpful to read two different case studies regarding the two. In addition, another limitation of this articles stems from the fact that neither argument presented nor the claims about mourning and redefinition preceded the argument that have been examined empirically. Most of the literature on which this articles draws theoretical or qualitative, based on clinical cases or interviews. In the absence of the empirical study, both the psychodynamic hypothesis presented and the claims that underlie it are nearly impossible to disprove.
This article will certainly be beneficial in my profession because of many reason. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly half of all first marriages end in divorce. Two thirds of these situations involve children and as a therapist I need to understand what affect will divorce have on children in both the short and long term? It's important that I understand the type of family dynamics I'm dealing with so that I can provide proper therapy. In the long term, approximately 80% of children of divorced parents become productive, well-adjusted, and successful adults (Grief, 1995). As they get older, their parents? divorce can become more and more a distant memory of a painful time, and perhaps less active influence in their lives. According to Grief, (1995), the other 20% of these children experience a variety of ongoing psychological and social difficulties that significantly interfere with their lives. As adults these people are twice as likely to experience mental illness, substance abuse, and failed relationships, Grief, (1995). In children, warning signs of coping difficulties can include problems in sleeping or eating, increased anger or sadness, fears, or regression.
The article could be practically applied in therapy by understanding the risk factors and what to expect at each stage of development. This will help the therapeutic process, promote successful adjustment and growth as the family goes through the process. It also provides a good foundation about two reason why post-divorce caused failed mourning and role confusion. The article provided me with more understanding about the dynamics of divorce couples and as a therapist thus, understand the reasoning behind the the disengaged father. A marriage and family therapy would be concerned with helping the couple gain some sense of closure regarding their relationship. He or she can help the parties grieve their loss by preparing them to move into the future, perhaps not as friends, but at least not as enemies.
Therapy would be a healthy alternative to a litigated how the father could remain divorce and continue the relationship with his children. Without assessing blame or fault, the therapist helps the divorcing parties develop alternative solutions for addressing their specific areas of conflict.
By choosing therapy, the parties talk to each other, rather than through their attorneys. This direct communication can resolve conflicts in less time and is less costly than traditional litigation. When children are involved in a dispute, the process encourages parents to focus on their children?s best interests and to maintain a relationship with their children while the parties design a parenting plan. Working in the middle school, it is so often you have children from divorce families and as their counselor my job is to support them and provide them with a sense of comfort. It's very difficult not to side with one parent especially when it's clear that one of the parents are handling situations inappropriately. I understand each party has control in a mutual, decision-making process. Mutual expression of perceptions, values and emotions are allowed, thereby reducing damage to important family relationships. This enables the parties to tailor a personalized agreement which resolves their individual and unique concerns and reflects the best interests of their children. An important goal for successful as a therapist is reaching a fair agreement. The parties decide what is fair, not the therapist, attorneys or a judge. Counseling can help couples get past their emotional divorce and learn to live productive lives.
In summary, it is important to treat the disengagement systemically. That is, the contribution of all parties who might be involved in the disengagement should be examined. Not only the ex-spouse, but also the children, extended family, and new partners. Their contributions, if any, to the disengagement should be probed, as should their desire for reengagement. For the ex-wife and children interpersonal work focused on mourning, redefinition, and other factors that might impair reunion is recommended. Finally, as part of the preparation for renewed contact, interpersonal work between the father and his children should be recommended to help them rebuild their relationship in accord with the current realities of their lives.