E. Mavis Hetherington is emeritus professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia. The results of her studies are most recently reported in For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, co-written with John Kelly.
On average, recent studies show parents and children in married families are happier, healthier, wealthier, and better adjusted than those in single-parent households. But these averages conceal wide variations. Before betting the farm on marriage -- with a host of new government programs aimed at promoting traditional two-parent families and discouraging divorce -- policy makers should take another look at the research. It reveals that there are many kinds of marriage and not all are salutary. Nor are all divorces and single-parent experiences associated with lasting distress. It is not the inevitability of positive or negative responses to marriage or divorce that is striking, but the diversity of them.