Research Associate

Formerly a staff writer at The Heritage Foundation, Tina Korbe Dzurisin is a research associate at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Research Associate

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As a mother and a conservative, I hold these two commitments simultaneously: (1) Society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members, including children, and, so, we do have a collective responsibility to meet the needs of children and (2) A limited government is more conducive to human flourishing than an expansive one.

In her recently released single “Love Triangle,” country singer-songwriter RaeLynn expounds and explores her experience as the child of divorce.

The song is refreshingly politically incorrect, especially with its explicit reference to “mommas and daddies,” an implied reminder of the biology of parenthood. (Spoiler: It requires gender complementarity!)

More than that, though, it is raw and personal and, so, irrefutable. RaeLynn reveals her own hurt and heartache, the division of heart and self that she experienced as she shuttled back and forth from her mother to her father.

“I run, to him / Big hug, jump in / And I cry for her / Out the window,” she sings, and, then, later, “I run, to her/ Wrap my arms, around her skirt / And I cry for him / Out the window.”

This was and is, as one review put it, “her truth.”

It would seem, though, that it is not only her truth, but also an eloquent indication of an oft-forgotten fact: The children of divorce frequently suffer as a result of the decision of their mother and father to sever their marriage – and society bears the costs of their suffering.

As the song puts it, “Some mommas and daddies / Are loving in a straight line / Take forever to heart / And take a long sweet ride / But some mommas and daddies / Let their heart strings tear and tangle / And some of us get stuck / In a love triangle.”

Whether and how much a child suffers from divorce varies with specific circumstances, of course, but, in general, statistics bear out that it’s rarely ideal to be caught in such a love triangle.

Compared with peers whose parents remain married, children who experience parental divorce tend to face more psychological and socio-emotional challenges, according to research cited on FamilyFacts.org, a site managed by the Heritage Foundation.

More precisely, they’re four times more likely to exhibit psychological affective disorders, ranging from hyperactivity and irritability to depression.

As adolescents, they’re more likely to use illicit drugs, carry a weapon, fight and engage in risky sexual behavior.

Based on these statistics, it seems probable that many children subconsciously seek to sublimate the traumatic pain of divorce in unhealthy ways – and, in light of them, RaeLynn’s experience begins to look almost idyllic. In songwriting, at least, she found a healthy outlet for emotion.

Society bears the costs associated with these unhealthy coping mechanisms, of course. Think, for example, of the costs to taxpayers of the juvenile justice system, public rehabilitation programs for alcoholism and public assistance to teenaged, unmarried mothers (infinitely preferable to the costs to taxpayers associated with the contraception-and-abortion-pushing Planned Parenthood).

Even when children sidestep self-destructive behaviors as RaeLynn appears to have done, they do so not only through their own efforts and the efforts of their parents, but because somebody else stepped in to assist their parents in the monumental, all-consuming task of raising them.

After all, as George Gilder writes in Men and Marriage, no one person is able to meet all the needs of an utterly dependent, wholly vulnerable child. Every child needs a primary caregiver – and every primary caregiver needs a secondary caregiver to provide, er, relief from the relentless demands of childrearing.

Even Hillary Clinton concurs: “It takes a village” to raise a child.

As Jennifer Roback Morse put it in an interview with National Review’s John J. Miller, “There’s no such thing as a single parent. They’ve become dependent on other people in commercial transactions, such as their employers and child-care providers. A single mother may look like she’s doing so much ‘on her own,’ but she has merely commercialized the things the father would have done.”

Commercialized – or bureaucratized. These parents, not surprisingly, are also more likely to utilize public assistance.

As a mother and a conservative, I hold these two commitments simultaneously: (1) Society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members, including children, and, so, we do have a collective responsibility to meet the needs of children and (2) A limited government is more conducive to human flourishing than an expansive one.

Those who share either commitment would do well to reexamine the casual cultural acceptance of divorce. A robust defense and promotion of lifelong marriage between “mommas and daddies” still remains the best policy around to simultaneously meet the needs of children and to reduce dependence on the state.

Research Associate

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