Streams

The Divorce Generation

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Susan Gregory Thomas, investigative journalist, former senior editor at US News & World Report, and author of In Spite of Everything: A Memoir, discusses the influence of parents' high divorce rates on Generation X children.

Guests:

Susan Gregory Thomas

Comments [29]

Elizabeth from NYC

Having the great benefit of a large and supportive community that raises children together....makes a huge differece. It would be nice to have that in American culture.

Jul. 12 2011 07:23 PM
Ramatu from Brooklyn

Maybe its just me... but everytime I hear these parenting type shows on WNYC, I am struck by how foreign it sounds to me. Maybe because my parents were West African immigrants and had no other choice to leave us alone because they had to work so hard to simply survive. Rather than feel unparented or abandoned, I am grateful that they managed to available to my brother and I despite this. We also had the great benefit of a large and supportive Sierra Leonean community that raised their children together.

These conversations feel ridiculously self-indulgent. Again, forgive me. This may be my cultural disconnect.

I am parenting my 13-month old daughter as a single mother, and sit at my parent's feet (although they would say differently) for advice on how to raise my daughter. This is mainly because the economic challenges of being a really well educated single parent is similar to being a married undocumented married couple in the 70s and 80s.

Jul. 12 2011 02:13 PM
Edward from NJ

Brian/Jim,
According to the CDC/NCHS National Vital Statistics System, in 1970, the average age of a mother at the time of her first child's birth was 21.4. This average woman would have been born in 1948 -- squarely in the Baby Boom. Obviously, there were older parents who gave birth to Gen-X kids. I'm a Gen-X child of Lost Generation parents myself, but when writing sociological texts, it just makes sense to go with the average numbers.

Jul. 12 2011 11:13 AM
Lynette from Brooklyn

What is the point of these statistics? How is a person supposed to process this information? Seriously, what good do they do if they induce fear in the general public? "Don't get married you might get divorced!" "Be afraid!" This stuff induced a heck of a lot of fear in me when I first got married. I lived with my husband for 8 years before we married. We just had our 10th wedding anniversary and have a 7 year old. My mother was divorced 2x by the time she was 30. I delayed marriage because of that. I never thought I would get married. But I did, and I'm glad I got married no matter what happens. Tune out the noise of this stuff and live your life. Don't live in fear.

Jul. 12 2011 11:11 AM
Jim from New Jersey

Some people just feel a need to bash the boomers. After all, she could've argued the opposite: that the Gen Xers aren't divorcing as much because their boomer parents influenced them positively to try to develop and maintain good marriages. Either side of the argument only deals with part of the story.

Jul. 12 2011 11:03 AM
Cat from Brooklyn, New York

I appreciated hearing the speaker- I identify fully. I was born in 1970. My parents divorced in 1973. My mother was involved in the women's lib movement, which was a large part of her decision that divorce was better. I was a latch-key kid, making my own lunch, doing my own laundry while my mother worked. I married later- when I was 35 and had a child when I was 37. It is challenging not to be a helicopter parent- because I (and my husband) want the absolute best for my child simply because my needs were not taken care of by my parents. But, I'd also like to think that I have a lot of awareness to check myself if I'm helicopter parenting- but, it sure is hard when your needs as a child were simply not met. I also am Jewish and so I have always found it interesting that I identify more with children of divorce of all ethnic/racial backgrounds, rather than intact, middle class Jewish families.

Jul. 12 2011 10:58 AM
Phil from Brooklyn, NY

Ice Cube was never an angry black man, your guest is confusing his "stage" persona and the "real" persona of many rap stars. Somehow I think this plays into the fear of "some" white people that black young men are all angry.

Jul. 12 2011 10:55 AM
Phil

Ice Cube was never an angry black man, your guest is confusing his "stage" persona and the "real" persona of many rap stars. Somehow I think this plays into the fear of "some" white people that black young men are all angry.

Jul. 12 2011 10:54 AM
Drew from W'burg

I'm in this generation and I've been thinking about this situation quite a lot lately - how so many of my 30 something friends (who live here in the city, as do I) aren't married and aren't having kids, and of those who are married - who are only recently doing so - they've been together for years and years, if not a decade or more. And even the married ones aren't having kids yet.
On the other hand, my suburban friends all have kids. Even if they only recently tied the knot the babies came shortly thereafter.
And then I read some of these comments, and I see how kids live in places like The Bronx and East New York and realize that kids are still living like that, being raised like that and were back then, as well. They just have no outlet to tell their stories.

Jul. 12 2011 10:52 AM
Brian from Hoboken

Commenter Jim is right: the guest seems to have her generations and demographics off by about 10-15 years. With the exception of the very youngest Gen X (Wikipedia puts this at late 70s), most Gen X kids have parents who are a little too old to be considered Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers have birth to Gen Y. So when she discusses the effects of "helicopter pareting", this really should be directed at Gen Y.
Demographics aside, the effects of helicopter parenting are being seen today. My wife handles a lot of recruiting for her employer and can't believe the sense of entitlement from Gen Y kids coming out college. From what I have seen of Gen X patents like myself (born in 1975), there is a definite rebellion against that type of parenting.

Jul. 12 2011 10:49 AM
Camille from Brooklyn

Ahem, when referring to Star Wars, I believe she meant a custody battle between Padmae (who actually died) and Darth Vader (aka Anakin Skywalker). Princess Leia was Luke's sister.

As for the boomers vs Xers, I just think the boomers were an extraordinarily selfish generation. My parents are boomers and I am a Gen Xer, my parents have both been married multiple times and I think they give marriage some sort of power that it never had. They are both trying to prove something or find something through marriages and divorces rather than actually focusing on being good people and good partners. I am married and I look at my husband as my friend and partner. I know sometimes things go wrong, but if I ever divorce, I'd never get married again. What's the point?

Jul. 12 2011 10:48 AM
Eric Smith from Brooklyn

I was born in 1982, (so I guess I'm a millenial, not gen x), and my wife was born in 1982. My parents are older-- not boomers-- my folks were born in '41 and '43. My parents are happily married still, for almost forty years. My wife's folks are boomers-- born in '50 and '52, and they divorced when she was very young. We cohabitated for a year and she was very surprised and taken aback when I proposed to her. But I browbeat her into it and we're both happy that I did! We plan on staying married forever. I love my wife and I'm so happy she agreed to share a life with me.

Jul. 12 2011 10:46 AM
Jess from London

I'm not sure if this guest really has her facts straight - could she compare, for example, how many hours the parents (read mothers) of the 1950s spent with their children to the amount of time spent with them in the 1980's? I would imagine that the latter is higher even though the author probably thinks of the former as a golden era.

She also seems to be blaming mothers for the "problem" (I'm a genex-er with divorced parents who does not feel inordinately screwed up, so I'm not quite sure what the problem is) that genex-ers face.

Jul. 12 2011 10:46 AM
josh

Generation X since it's "inception" has been the most self involved self important generation ever.
Only to do out done by the children they are raising. Which I see examples of on a daily basis.
This is also coming from someone who is technically GenX AND from a divorced family.

Jul. 12 2011 10:46 AM
Jeff from Manhattan

I'm gen X and was married at 29. What watching my parents' made me want to do is not not get married but not have children..

Jul. 12 2011 10:46 AM
david


one name casey anthony...go

Jul. 12 2011 10:45 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Ms. Thomas needs to check her "Star Wars" knowledge. Princess Leia is Darth Vader's daughter & would be the subject of the custody battle, not the one having it.

Now I'm picturing custody battles w/light sabers....

Jul. 12 2011 10:45 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Marriage was invented by MEN for the purpose of (1) knowing who their children are, and (2) having HEIRS to help them or to leave property to, and having witnesses i this ritual to the contractual agreement where his woman or women would not bear the children of other men while married to him. When women had virtually no hope of economic survival outside of marriage, except as prostitutes (though there were always some strong and exceptionally talented women and powerful enough to survive on their own, marriage was their primary hope.It meant they could have no recognized power, but only behind the throne of their titular patriarchs. Unless they were exceptionally beautiful and/or talented, they could not bounce from man to man to upgrade their economic status. Today, marriage is a meaningless, toothless contract to be used and discarded when no longer convenient. So it's on its death bed, and attempts to resurrect it are probably doomed, like trying to keep the gasonline engine predominant. Technology will doom both.

Jul. 12 2011 10:44 AM
robert from NYC

How about some clarity on these ever shifting generation titles? I was born in 1961 and used to be considered a Gen X, now they say I am a Baby Boomer? My parents, divorced, were Baby Boomers post WW2, correct?

Jul. 12 2011 10:44 AM
Gwen from Manhattan

Watching my parents divorce actually made me realize that we are all fallible and all make mistakes and I have made a conscious decision to approach my marriage with love and forgiveness. My husband does as well. This approach, more than "tough it out" or "fight through" rather be ready to forgive, has kept us together for 15 years.

Jul. 12 2011 10:44 AM
josh

Generation X since it's "inception" has been the most self involved self important generation ever.
Only to do out done by the children they are raising. Which I see examples of on a daily basis.
This is also coming from someone who is technically GenX AND from a divorced family.

Jul. 12 2011 10:44 AM
robert from NYC

How about some clarity on these ever shifting generation titles? I was born in 1961 and used to be considered a Gen X, now they say I am a Baby Boomer? My parents, divorced, were Baby Boomers post WW2, correct?

Jul. 12 2011 10:43 AM
Lynn from brooklyn

I'm a Gen-X-er born in the late 60s to one of the few conservative parents, who never got divorced. I was still latch-keyed. It wasn't so much a lack of nurturing, as anti-nurturing. And not centered on my mother's actions, but my father's, a self-absorbed jerk.

I'm not married. I will NEVER get married. You couldn't pay me to do that. If anything, I mourn the loss of my pack slowly fading into single family units.

Jul. 12 2011 10:43 AM
Emily

My parents split when I was 2. I'm 33 now. With no disrespect intended to my mom, I basically raised myself (I was making my own meals by 3rd grade, etc). Luckily, I always held schooling in high regard, and now have my law degree. I've been with my partner for 3 years and we're in the very early stages of wedding planning. I find myself entering into it very cautiously and analyzing everything, likely in order to avoid a divorce like my parents'. It is interesting to never have seen a marriage at work on a daily basis. My partner's parents also divorced when he was 2.

Jul. 12 2011 10:42 AM
Edward from NJ

A lot of people who live together and then break up would, in an earlier time, have been married and divorced. How does this factor into the statistics?

Jul. 12 2011 10:41 AM
Mary from East Side

Thank you Ms. GT for writing and speaking on this topic. I was moved by your recounting of the story of the boy whose parents put him in his own apartment after their divorce and his death by alcoholism by age 30. I'm not sure society still realizes how devastating the "first wave" of divorce in the 70's and 80's was.

Jul. 12 2011 10:40 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

How can it be one year divorce is up, then the next year it's down? Which way is the wind blowing today?

Maybe divorce is down because people are too broke to do it. I know of a few married couples who can't afford to get divorced so they live separately.

Jul. 12 2011 10:39 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

I had no idea that my Generation's divorce rate is lower, but it doesn't surprise me. Many of my friends - myself included - didn't get married until our late 30's, and we're also one of the first generations to have good friends of both sexes, therefore understanding the opposite sex (for heteros) much more than our parents' generation.

I myself was even against marriage based on what I saw of my parents' relationship in the 1970's - but by the time I seriously considered it, I thought about it from a much more practical, mature mindset than people who get married when they're younger likely do. I didn't view it as a romantic adventure, but as a partnership based on friendship, attraction, and common goals. If you marry a friend and you've also had plenty of life experience, you're much less likely to get into a marriage that's doomed to fail.

Jul. 12 2011 10:38 AM
Jim from New Jersey

You'd think she would realize that many if not most of the divorcing parents in the 1970s with kids were a bit older than the baby boomers. The parents of these Gen Xers were more typically born in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Jul. 12 2011 10:37 AM

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