Sticks and stones, family quarrels, divorce and the economy

Today’s economy is having another somewhat unanticipated effect: more couples on the road to divorce are opting to stick together–sometimes for better but more often for worse. The high cost of attorney’s fees combined with the poor housing market and cost of setting up two households is just more than some can manage. In fact, one divorce attorney says 25% of her clients are living together until their house sells.

At the same time, a researcher at Florida State University has been looking into verbal abuse and its effects on kids. Natalie Sachs-Ericsson found nearly 30 percent of her subjects reported being sometimes or often verbally abused by a parent. Over time, kids begin to believe the negative things they hear about themselves, she says, especially when the message is conveyed over and over by a parent.

Divorce is challenging enough. But when two adults who have decided to call it quits continue to live together under the same roof for the sake of economy, harsh words, quarrels and arguments are inevitable.  Psychologists define verbal aggression as “communication intended to cause psychological pain” including name calling, nasty remarks, stony silence and sulking. Even if children aren’t the direct target, family arguments impact them in other ways. For example, family quarrels can promote headaches in children, one group of researchers found.

Disagreements are a fact of life for all families. When combined with the desire to divorce but the economic need to stay together, divorcing parents need to pay extra attention to the words they use. Sticks and stones may break a bone but parents’ sharp words cut even deeper.