UT professor presents study analyzing conflict, stress of divorces on families

Evan Hoovestol

 In a lecture on Friday titled “She Won’t Let Me See My Kids!” human development and family sciences associate professor Edward Anderson, presented his new study about the conflict and stress that occurs during the divorce process.

Anderson analyzed the effects and changes a divorce can have on mothers, fathers and children. He said his primary interest was studying change in people’s lives, and divorce provided one of the most drastic examples of this.

Sociology junior Kristy K's parents divorced when she was 18.

Krista said her family still attends family events together, although Anderson’s study showed this sort of harmony is rare in a post-divorce family.

Anderson said that divorce is often a lengthy, bureaucratic procedure that can drag on for months if not years. He said even an uncontested divorce can easily dip back into legal problems thanks to the rigidity of custody laws.

He brought up the situation of a father or mother violating the terms of their custody agreement by picking their child up 15 minutes late, which is technically breaking the law.

Anderson said that he was putting off writing a paper on his findings due to potential political controversy.

He said he hoped to avoid the controversial “morality clause,” which is often included in divorce agreements by more conservative judges. The clause forbids a parent to have a partner spend the night when in custody of their children.

Critics point to the high level of control the clause puts on people’s private lives, but supporters say it is necessary for the welfare of the children.

Anderson said the psychological issues associated with a mother entering a new relationship could be particularly negative for older children.

“[One issue for children is the] growing awareness that your mother is a sexual being with special needs and desires,” Anderson said.

Margaret Borden, a senior administrative assistant who mediates domestic disputes at the UT Conflict Resolution Center, said her own experience with divorce gave her a unique understanding of the presentation.

“Because I am divorced, it wasn’t like I was listening to a theoretical presentation,” Borden said. “It was more real to me.”