The Competent Divorce
Based on a thorough review of the literature and the research on
children of divorce, the following summary conclusions may be drawn and
used as guidelines to assist counselors and their clients in The
1. Non-Stigmatization Of The Single Parent Status And Divorce.
The manner in which parents approach divorce affects the way they
and children perceive the divorce. If people significant to them judge
the single parent home and the divorce process as a viable rather than
a pathological situation, adults and children do better.
2. Reduced Parental Conflict.
Parents who are able to reduce their marital conflicts and friction
and who have a tendency to get along with each other without turmoil
and aggression create better adjustment environments for their children.
3. Family Functioning.
Families that provide a sense of sharing and emotional support for
one another in a loving manner have better adjusted children. Single
parent families who maintain family rituals around birthdays, holidays,
etc., provide a sense of security for the children.
4. Stable, Loving Relationship With Both Parents.
Children adjust better if they maintain consistent, predictable,
positive relationships with both parents and have regular dependable
5. Appropriate Role Allocation.
Single parent families who have assigned chores and roles
appropriate to their childrenís abilities have better adjusted children.
6. Effective Parenting.
Effective parenting is defined as parents who have a good rapport
with their children, provide for open communication within the family,
have warm parent-child relationships in which discipline is stressed,
and who provide stable, predictable environments with clearly specified
7. Strong Support Systems.
Single parent families do better if they have strong support
systems, consisting of regular friendships with relatives such as
grandparents, etc., and peers.
8. Non-Adversarial Divorce.
Single parent families do better if they have a non-adversarial
post-divorce adjustment and a friendly co-parental relationship.
9. Parentís Own Sense Of Well Being.
One of the most important predictors of childrenís post divorce
adjustment is the single parentís sense of well being. If the single
parent mother/father has adjusted in a healthy way to the divorce, the
children will also. This process can be facilitated through counseling and
Probably the most important factor involved in the adjustment of
the single parent family, corroborated by recent research, is adequate
economics. If single parents have adequate money to support themselves
and their families, many of the problems associated with divorce
disappear. Given the current laws around child support and the associated
problems with the percentage of reneging fathers, it is difficult to
ascertain how this problem could be alleviated in the very near future.
Joan D. Atwood, Ph.D. is the Director of the Graduate Programs in
Marriage and Family Therapy at Hofstra
University. Dr. Atwood is also the Director of the Marriage and Family
Clinic located in the Saltzman Community
Center at Hofstra. Dr. Atwood is the past President of the New York
State Association for Marriage and Family
Therapists and was awarded the Long Island Family Therapist of the Year
award for outstanding contributions to
the field. She teaches courses in Couples Therapy, Family Therapy,
Gender Issues in Marriage and Family
Therapy, Sexual Issues in Marriage and Family Therapy, Families in
Transition, Social Construction Theory and
Therapy, Supervision and Advanced Supervision.
Dr. Atwood has published six books: Making Contact With Human
Sexuality; Treatment Techniques for Common
Mental Disorders; Family Therapy: A Cognitive-Behavioral Perspective;
Counseling Single Parents; Family Scripts;
and Challenging Family Therapy Situations. In addition, she has
published numerous journal articles on Social
Construction Theory and Therapy, Families in Transition, Human
Sexuality Issues, and Family Health Issues. Dr.
Atwood is a Clinical Member and Approved Supervisor of AAMFT; she
serves on the Editorial Board of many
journals in the field; she holds Diplomate Status and is a Clinical
Supervisor on the American Board of Sexology;
she has been elected to the National Academy of Social Workers; she is
a Certified Imago Therapist; and she has
served on the President's Commission for Domestic Policy.
Among her many projects, Dr. Atwood is the co-developer of the
P.E.A.C.E. Program (Parent Education and
Custody Effectiveness), a court based educational program for parents
obtaining a divorce and the L.I.F.E.
Program (Looking Into Feelings and Emotions), a school-based K-12
curriculum which helps children learn to
express feelings and emotions. Dr. Atwood has made numerous TV
appearances and Radio and Newspaper
interviews. She is in private practice in Rockville Centre, New York,
specializing in Individual, Marriage and
Submitted by: Joan D. Atwood Ph.D * †
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