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Israelis whose parents divorce late in life are able to view the institution of marriage positively and strive to build strong family units, despite their parents' negative role models, according to the preliminary findings of a study conducted by the Department of Psychology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The research, carried out by doctoral student Ravit Steinman and scheduled to be presented Thursday at a conference examining the growing phenomenon of late divorce, contradicts findings in other Western countries, where, traditionally, children of divorce have trouble in their own relationships, view marriage negatively and end up divorcing more frequently than children from two-parent families.
"The traditional belief is that children of divorce have poor attitudes towards their own intimate relationships," Prof. Solly Dreman, a clinical psychologist and lecturer at Ben-Gurion, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Wednesday. "In Israel, however, children who are already adults when their parents divorce seem to maintain a strong commitment to marriage and work harder to avoid the mistakes of their parents."
One reason for the difference between attitudes of adult children of late divorces here and elsewhere, explained Dreman, is that Israeli society is more focused on family values. A combination of religious beliefs, fewer concerns over geographical locations, and stress due to the security and economic situation in Israel explain that focus, he said.
"Despite the negative role models of their parents, even adult children who are on the brink of marriage when their parents break up attempt to create good, strong relationships for themselves," reiterated Dreman, adding that the long-term effects of late divorce on adult children still could not be determined.
Dreman, who will explore the advantages and disadvantages of late divorce in his presentation Thursday, said that very little research has yet been done on divorce later in life and its effects.
Close to 30 percent of divorces in Israel today involve spouses who are over 45, compared to 2-3% in the 1970s, he said.
"The question of aging and what happens later in life is very important," said Dreman. "Divorce in later years is usually less emotional - there are no battles over custody, and the older the couple, the more financially established and independent they usually are."
Divorce in later life has become increasingly common all over the world for several reasons, including "empty nest syndrome," which causes people to feel bewildered and confused after their children leave home; increased economic resources for women that allow them to branch out on their own and a desire by women, who have been content with staying home and raising children, to explore their own identities.
"Women, who have traditionally been at home looking after the children, tend to flourish in late divorce because it frees them up to pursue their dreams. This is in contrast to men, who at this stage in life are not looking for new challenges but for the anchor of a home environment," Dreman continued.