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Sample One: Disagreement Using Research
SPECIAL NOTES: This paper uses MLA style, but no
bibliography was added because there is only one source and it is mentioned in
the introduction. Many students, if they disagree with the point of view
in this sample, tend to consider this essay one of the best in this textbook. This sample also is labeled to show its parts as follows:
required parts in the introduction and conclusion are labeled in brackets and in bold,
topic sentences are underlined,
required transitions in the body are in bold,
other required features in the body also are
in bold (in this paper, two quotations per body section).
You may disregard this labeling unless otherwise directed by your
University of Minnesota
Eng 1011, Honors College Composition
© 2000 by Karen Mountain
Divorce Not Harmful to Children
According to [authors] Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, authors of the
[essay title] article
"Divorce Harms Children" in [book title] Family in America: Opposing Viewpoints,
[authors' main arg.] todays children are very traumatized by divorce. Furthermore, based on a study that
Wallerstein and Blakeslee facilitated, they found that [required quote] "for virtually all the
children [of divorce], it exerts powerful and wholly unanticipated effects . . ."
(109). However, others argued that it is not the divorce itself that impacts
childrens emotional health but rather the unstable family situation. In fact,
[my response] when
handled appropriately, divorce has proven to initiate positive responses among adult
children of divorce. Thus this [type of paper] response paper challenges Wallerstein and Blakeslee.
Summary of "Divorce Harms Children"
Wallerstein and Blakeslee argue that divorce is detrimental to the development of
children involved. They conducted a study that tracked 60 families and their 131 children
for ten to fifty years after the divorce. After the completion of this experiment, they
found several striking results. For instance, they found that children living with both
biological parents had between 1/3 and 1/2 as many incidents of emotional and behavioral
problems. Older women who had been children of divorce seemed to suffer from delayed
feelings of a fear of commitmentcalled the sleeper effect. Children of divorce were
often overburdened and suffered severely from this added stress. Boys of divorced families
often had fewer goals and a limited education when compared to boys of a similar age who
had been living with both biological parents. Thus according to Wallerstein and Blakeslee,
it is easy to see that todays children are feeling less protected. The authors claim
that because divorce is so traumatizing, it is societys duty to create better
relationships and stronger families.
Behavioral and Emotional Problems
First, Wallerstein and Blakeslee present a graph that fails to portray the emotional
standing of these before the divorce. Their graph addresses the percent of children
between the ages of 3 and 17 who have had emotional and/or behavioral problems. The graph
shows that 25% of children living with their biological mother and their stepfather suffer
from severe behavioral and emotional problems. Similarly, approximately 20% of children
who live only with their biological mother suffered from the same problems. By displaying
this graph, Wallerstein and Blakeslee attempt to prove that children who have not
experienced divorce are not exposed to such trauma. The graph shows that a mere 7% of
children living with both biological parents have comparable problems.
However, when looking closely at what this graph actually represents, it could be said
that the graph does little to defend the writers stance that "divorce is
traumatic for the developing child" (108). The graph fails to portray the sort of
emotional problems these same children were experiencing prior to the divorce. For
example, in "Divorce May Not Harm Children" found in Family in America:
Opposing Viewpoints, Diane Fassel points out that "in a large number of stories,
the divorce was far preferable to staying together through years of dysfunction"
(116). In this statement, Fassel suggests that divorce itself is a neutral act, and a poor
family situation is what causes distress. While the emotional and behavioral problems that
children of divorce tend to face admittedly is very real, this does not prove that the
divorce itself causes the pain. Rather, the unstable family environment promotes such
The Sleeper Effect
Another issue to address is the so called "Sleeper Effect" which
Wallerstein and Blakeslee naively claim makes women suffer from a fear of commitment due
to their parents divorce (111). In actuality, children of divorce often develop much
stronger relationships than do children raised by both biological parents.
On the other hand, the authors found that 66% of women between the ages of 19 and 23
experienced the sleeper effect (Wallerstein and Blakeslee 111). According to the authors,
this sleeper effect affects women when they are beginning to form opinions regarding
commitment, love, and sex in an adult context. These young women tend to fear commitment and are "in awe of people who stay together"
(111). This response by women may
be very real and very common. However, Wallerstein and Blakeslee seem to have
inappropriately placed the blame for it on divorce.
It is quite possible that divorce does not cause the sleeper effect, but rather that
the poor marriage itself contributes to the condition. In fact, there is evidence that
indicates adult children of divorce often possess much healthier relationships than those
children who are raised in a traditional healthy family. According to Fassel, this may be
due in children of divorce to their increased awareness of relationships and the problems
that can occur within them (119). Says Fassel, "[T]he experience of divorce, an
experience that most of us would wish to avoid, is one of the processes that best equip us
to be healthier in our relationships in the future." Thus it is clear that
Wallerstein and Blakeslee fail to consider the positive aspects of divorce, especially
when divorce is an option to living in a dysfunctional family.
The Overburdened Child
Next, Wallerstein and Blakeslee address the overburdened child by assuming falsely
his/her added responsibility must be a negative side effect. Rather, it can be argued that
this added responsibility actually helps the overall health of a child of divorce. As
Wallerstein and Blakeslee characterize it, many divorced parents "leaned heavily on
their children" (111). The authors argue through the entire paper that divorce causes
childhood trauma. Yet in speaking of the overburdened child, they add, "[T]he divorce
itself may not be solely to blame but, rather, may aggravate emotional difficulties that
had been masked in the marriage." Here, even the authors contradict their main thesis
in their own essay.
It is undoubtedly true that children of divorce often feel the added weight of their
parents mistakes. With the single parent being forced to work, children often take
over the role of housekeeper. They take on the responsibility of cooking and cleaning and
laundry and sometimes even carry some of the financial burden. According to
because children of divorce learn greater responsibility in the household, they gain a
strong sense of independence and resilience. She says that "they began working at an
early age, and they realized they had to take responsibility" (116). This
understanding of personal responsibility is an important character trait to develop and is
one that most children of divorce learn at an early age. Therefore, while the added burden
may not always be an enjoyable experience, when handled correctly it can have a positive
What about boys
Wallerstein and Blakeslee also argue incorrectly that divorce harms the emotional
security of children. They say that due to divorce, boys have "no set goals, a
limited education and a sense of having little control over their lives"
authors also address feelings of rejection after a divorce and, by introducing this topic,
try to prove that divorce itself causes those feelings. If handled in a positive manner, a
divorce will not induce such responses and can, in fact, be healthier for children than
living in a dysfunctional family situation. Studies have suggested that adult children of
divorce have an increased sense of resilience. According to Fassel, "[T]hey feel that
they witnessed things in their families that were deeply disturbing, yet they find that
they go on" (116). Once children gain the understanding of their own ability to
handle life, they are more likely to discover their resilience.
Furthermore, the experience of divorce presents children with the idea that it is okay
to fail at something; even when circumstances do not turn out in the most favorable way,
positive aspects of them will prevail. Boys who witness a positive divorce are exposed to
such success through tribulation. Those who have learned this important life lesson are
going to be much more likely to set high goals and take ambitious chances because they
have accepted the idea that it is okay to not always succeed. It is clear that when a
divorce is handled in a positive way, boys are able to overcome the difficulties and turn
this, as any, difficult situation into a positive growing experience.
The argument made by [authors] Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee in their article
[essay name] "Divorce Harms Children" is invalid. [authors'
arg.] They improperly claim that divorce is an
evil that harms childrens emotional and behavioral development. When Wallerstein and
Blakeslee say, [required quote] "[D]ivorce was the single most important cause of pain and anomie in
their lives," [my arg.] it appears that they have not carefully considered the repercussions of
living in an unhappy home (114). Perhaps they should have addressed the importance of
individual responsibility--and placed the blame of emotional and behavioral problems on
those getting the divorce, rather than on the divorce itself.
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