The Children of Divorce

The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being

series: Youth, Family, and Culture

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"This book beautifully integrates the ontological pain of divorce with the redemptive power of Christ and the church."--Kara E. Powell, Fuller Youth Institute, Fuller Theological Seminary
 
Divorce leaves a deep mark on children of all ages. But why does it cause so much strain and long-term distress? Andrew Root, a recognized authority on youth ministry and a child of divorce himself, explains that divorce is first and foremost an issue of ontology. When parents divorce, what it precipitates in children is nothing less than a questioning of root self or core identity. Since a child is the product of the union of a mother and father, when that union ends, he or she experiences a loss of his or her very sense of being. Exploring the issue from a theological and spiritual standpoint, Root redirects efforts for assisting children of divorce to address this fundamental experience and provides hope that communities of faith can offer a firm foundation to those affected by divorce. This is the first book to examine the impact of divorce from a practical theological perspective and also from a young person's perspective. Those who have experienced divorce and those who work with or minister to young people whose parents are divorced will benefit from this book.
 
About the series: The Youth, Family, and Culture series examines the broad categories involved in studying and caring for the needs of the young and is dedicated to the preparation and vocational strengthening of those who are committed to the spiritual development of adolescents.
 
Contents
Introduction
1. A History of the Family, a History of the Self
2. Marriage and Divorce in Late-Modernity: Being and Action in Giddens Social Theory
3. Divorce as an Issue of Being: Ontological Security and the Loss of Self
4. Divorce and Theological Anthropology
5. Divorce and the Image of God: A Conversation between Theology and Object Relations Psychology
6. What Is to Be Done: The Church as a Community for the Broken

Endorsements

"Andrew Root's insightful analysis gives voice to my own journey as a child of divorce, and to the experiences of countless others I've observed. This book beautifully integrates the ontological pain of divorce with the redemptive power of Christ and the church."--Kara E. Powell, executive director, Fuller Youth Institute, Fuller Theological Seminary

"What happens to a child when the source of his or her existence disintegrates? This fascinating study argues that the pain experienced by children of divorced parents cannot be healed by legal, psychological, 'religious,' or other techniques. An affliction that attacks the ontological foundations of the self can only be assuaged by the acquisition of new sources of being. And so Andrew Root probes how the Christian faith and community can help locate these sources. As in his previous books, Root here demonstrates an unusual combination of human compassion and theological wisdom."--Douglas John Hall, emeritus professor of Christian theology, McGill University

"Children of Divorce is an important and much-needed book. As a scholar, Andrew Root offers the guidance and perspective of a thoughtful practical theologian. As a young man whose personal life has been affected by divorce, Root brings readers into the heart and soul of the varied issues that accompany the dissolution of a marriage. I know this author as both man and scholar, and I'm thankful to him for giving us such a balanced and helpful resource."--Chap Clark, vice provost, professor of youth, family, and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Youth workers have always known that the impact of divorce on kids was substantially deeper than pop culture would want us to believe, and now, thankfully, Andy Root tells us why this is true. Reading The Children of Divorce felt like sitting with Root--precariously, uncomfortably--in the three-way intersection of history, psychology, and theology. I learned more about family in the first chapter than from any other entire book I've read."--Mark Oestreicher, speaker; consultant; author, Youth Ministry 3.0

"Our culture says divorce is 'normal,' but the existential consequences for children of divorce--like myself--are not a normal aspect of human development. With compassion, wisdom, and theological insight, Root calls for the church to become a community in which young people are able to ground their being and process the painful loss of family security."--Mark W. Cannister, professor of Christian ministries, Gordon College

"Divorce leaves a cloud of dust that never settles. And those of us who love and care for kids need to pay special attention to the growing number of children who undergo this experience. As one who has lived in the dust, Andrew Root raises the right issues, challenging us to think more deliberately and carefully about what it means to minister to, parent, and befriend the children of divorce."--Walt Mueller, founder and president, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding

"The Children of Divorce is winsomely written, achingly honest, and fearlessly hopeful. Root's analysis of divorce as an ontological--not just a sociological--crisis for children is dead-on, as is his advice for congregations who must name and address this soul-splitting reality. With his incomparable ability to blend story and theology, and his signature insistence on naming elephants in the room, Root delivers a beautiful and wise book that is for anyone touched by divorce . . . which means, of course, that it is for all of us."--Kenda Creasy Dean, associate professor of youth, church, and culture, Princeton Theological Seminary


The Author

  1. Andrew Root

    Andrew Root

    Andrew Root (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is Carrie Olson Baalson Chair of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of numerous books, including Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker, The Children of...

    Continue reading about Andrew Root

Reviews

"Too often we simply try to fix kids as they go through the transition of their family structure following a divorce without realizing the strain that divorce has on their very identity. . . . With compassion, wisdom, and theological insight, Root calls for the church to become a community in which young people are able to ground their being and process the painful loss of family security."--Mark Cannister, YouthWorker Journal

"Root, whose parents divorced when he was a child, addresses the experience of children of divorce theologically and shows that divorce is an ontological issue. . . . He provides an alternative to breezy 'the children are fine' dismissals on one hand and guilt-inducing blaming of divorced parents on the other. The book includes an excellent chapter on what churches can do."--Christian Century

"Root provides a challenging assessment of the adverse effects of divorce on children by articulating the damage in ontological terms. This thought-provoking book. . . . integrates history, social theory, psychology, philosophy, and theology into one sustained argument. . . . Root's text does well to challenge many readers to consider the lasting effects of divorce on children through a careful, interdisciplinary study. It provides two key additions to literature on divorce. First, by reframing the issue in ontological terms, he raises the stakes of divorce. Second, placing children at the center of his inquiry gives them a voice that is often lacking in assessments of the effects of divorce. Readers would do well to attend to these two significant contributions made by Root in hopes of strengthening current pastoral practice toward divorced families."--Daniel J. Olsen, Catholic Books Review

"A well-informed book about the deep effects of divorce on children's sense of being. . . . While Root's argument is theoretically grounded in several academic disciplines, it will primarily be used by, and useful to, those ministering to children of divorce. . . . Recommended. Graduate students, faculty, professionals."--B. Weston, Choice

"I . . . would highly recommend [this book] for the pastoral staff, especially those dealing with marriage and family counseling, or children and youth."--Rosalee Stent, The Lamplighter

"Root makes a strong argument that divorce is the break of community in which the child's identity rests. . . . Quite profound are his implications on how the church can become a new community within which the individual can find a new source of self. . . . Children of Divorce is a well written blend of philosophy, practical theology, and personal experience. A helpful and broad collection of disciplines are used to create a primary thesis. . . . The final chapter is very helpful for the practitioner, thus application of the thesis is strong. Root models good cultural reflection on current and important issues facing youth work. It clearly highlights the point that practical theological reflection is necessary to understand and face the challenges and issues of today."--Mike Severe, Journal of Youth Ministry

"The Children of Divorce is an interesting historical and socio-psychological immersion in a timely topic. . . . [Root] is deeply involved in [youth and family] ministry and from his writing one can deduce that he is highly capable of listening to, understanding, and counseling those who find themselves in the throes of existential distress. His vast hands-on experience with young people, in this specific case, the children of divorce, is quite evident. The book is well-researched, well-written, and filled with insightful and authoritative ideas. Even though at times the concepts Dr. Root presents are complex and profound in their meanings, he has done an excellent job of making the narrative easy to read for the general public. . . . Root is an accessible, knowledgeable writer, passionate in making his point, and successful in doing so."--George B. Palermo, MD, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

"A thoroughgoing study that builds a unified argument by using sources from history, social theory, psychology, philosophy, and theology. He weaves into this academic line of reasoning the personal story of his parent's divorce as well as conversations with children of divorce and their perspectives. His work is aimed at Christian youth workers and churches but it would be a valuable, although difficult read, for anyone who ministers to divorced families or has experienced divorce. . . . The book is an important contribution to the literature on divorce and the ministry to children of divorce. First, the book as far as I am aware, reframes our understanding of the effects of divorce in ontological terms thereby helping all those involved to understand the cost and damage. . . . Second, by reframing the issue in ontological terms, he raises the stakes of divorce. Third, placing children at the center of his inquiry he gives them a voice that is often lacking in assessments of the effects of divorce. Readers would do well to attend to these significant contributions made by Root in hopes of strengthening current pastoral practice toward divorced families."--Steve Emery-Wright, Evangelical Quarterly

"Perhaps not since Frances Schaeffer first wrote How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture has a book challenged us to see where we are now and how we will determine to live. The Children of Divorce invites us to see how past decisions have affected our children. The book does not stop with a historical perspective, but goes on to outline roles, attitudes, and actions for church staff. . . . The great value of this book to Christians in social work is that a stage has been set for an informed community intervention where social workers can draw on the resources put forth in The Children of Divorce, which can provide a holy holding environment for clients experiencing divorce in their families."--Sandra S. Pate, Social Work and Christianity