Kathleen Parker

This just in: Children of divorce do better when both parents live in the same general vicinity. Stunning, I know.

So go the findings of "new research" into divorce trends and their effects on children. When it takes "new research" to confirm the obvious, we might figure we've run out of things to explore.

And yet, what's obvious apparently isn't so obvious anymore. What should be clear without succumbing to Freud's couch is that children need and deserve both parents, a mother and a father. I realize heterosexual unions have lost some of their luster, but there it is. The original plan.

Even so, courts have been following a trend in recent years of allowing custodial parents to relocate following divorce. In 82 percent of relocation cases, the child was separated from the father, either because the custodial mother moved or because the father moved alone, according to the study. Other data cited show that about one-fourth of custodial mothers relocate within four years of marriage or separation.

Meanwhile, exhaustive research has confirmed what any nursemaid knows -as Freud once described his own findings -that mothers and fathers bring different gifts to a child. We also know from observation and research that children who grow up without fathers fall victim to a range of social pathologies.

Translated, that means they tend to do less well in school, are more likely to experiment with sex and drugs at earlier ages, to be delinquent and to have a variety of emotional problems.

Objectively, one might determine that keeping children from their fathers is not in anyone's best interest, including the custodial mother's.

Raising a child alone is no one's picnic, especially when said child is a father-hungry mess. But apparently, we need studies to tell us what we know and prefer to ignore.

And inevitably we hand over to courts increasing powers to make intrusive decisions that responsible parents ought to be making on their own.

This new study comes from a group of researchers at Arizona State University, including Sanford L. Braver, psychologist and author of Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1998). A longtime respected advocate for fathers in divorce, Braver has done much to dispel some of the demonizing myths that have pursued fathers in family court.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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