Why Some Divorced Fathers Are Estranged From Their Adult Children

Why Fathers Are Estranged
Blend Images/Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images


Why Divorced Fathers Choose a New Wife Over Their Children


There are new study results from the Center for the Demography of Health and Aging University of Wisconsin-Madison about divorced fathers and their relationships with adult children.

Using data from 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2008, the study extends the existing literature on post-divorced fathers and their relationships with adult children. Specifically, the study contrasts late to midlife divorced fathers and their relationships with their adult children from a prior marriage or relationship after they have entered into a new relationship.

What did the study find?

Preliminary results from the analyses suggest that:

  • Divorced mid- to late-life fathers who repartner have notably less contact with and are less likely to transfer money to their adult children from a prior union than divorced fathers who remain unpartnered.
  • Cohabitation has similarly negative implications for divorced fathers' relations with their adult children as does remarriage.
  • Although new (step)children reduce contact with and financial transfers to children from a prior union, changes in remarried and cohabiting divorced fathers' family structure do not account for the effect of repartnering.
  • There is some suggestive evidence that new step-children have a smaller negative effect on ever divorced fathers' ties with their adult children from an earlier partner than new biological children.
  • The hypothesis of 'family swapping' is not supported as findings indicate that new (step)children reduce fathers' relations with adult child from prior union to a lesser or a similar extent as do additional children from a prior union.

    What does the study tell us about divorced fathers who remarry or cohabitate?

    1. Fathers make their new mate a priority over their relationship with their children.

    2. Second wives or partners drive a wedge between fathers and children and fathers allow this to happen.

    3. First wives drive a wedge between the fathers and adult children.

    Fathers either consciously or unconsciously choose to do this when they become involved with a new partner. 

    4. A mother's parental instinct is more keen than a fathers. This will anger some men but, it is true. Very few mothers make a new relationship a priority over their children. Could that be because mothers are more secure in their relationship with their children?

    5. Fathers have a problem separating their relationship with a new wife from their relationship with their children.

    6. Some fathers make bad choices when it comes to picking a new spouse. If a new wife isn't encouraging a father to maintain a close relationship with his children, she was a bad choice.

    7. New children from second or third marriages take the place of children from first marriages. 

    Whatever the reason, some divorced fathers are failing to meet their responsibilities to their children after divorce. Adult children of divorce long for a stronger bond with their father but, until it is understood that a new wife isn't more important, those adult children will continue to suffer the loss of that bond.