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Study digs into importance of parents: 3 takeaways for those going through divorce

An anthropologist and emeritus professor of education and human development at Harvard University recently published a book digging into the importance of parents. It examines parenting styles from different cultures around the world. The book, reviewed by The Atlantic, provides a number of interesting takeaways for parents in all walks of life.

Three particularly important lessons for parents going through a divorce include:

  • Take a breath and relax
  • Focus on quality over quantity
  • Remember, you matter

Having a basic understanding of these lessons can help ease the transition into two separate households after a divorce.


The overall crux of the book is the fact that parents don't really matter. This may come as a shock, but children are resilient.

The authors share a story of a Muslim community from Nigeria to illustrate this point. This community believed that the mother should provide very little attention to the child. She should feed the baby, but pay no attention. After the baby was done nursing, the child should be passed along to the grandmother.

One of the authors noted that she was concerned the children would grow to have social issues. Yet, the authors note the children grew to be socially healthy members of the community. Even though the mother was not providing socialization skills to the child, the child was able to learn these skills from other members of the community.

What can parents going through a divorce learn from this? It is important to meet the basic survival needs, but beyond that parenting styles will likely differ. These differences are not likely to impede the child's development. It is okay for parents to have different focuses. Some may focus on providing attention and social skills while others may focus on playing sports and physical skills and still others will put the utmost importance on religion and spiritual needs. The lesson: do not stress about meeting every single possible need for your child.

Focus on the quality of the time you have with your children

This tip is not a novel concept. The quality of the time spent with children far outweighs the quantity of time. The application of this lesson to parents going through a divorce may seem clear, but often bears repeating - even parents with a shorter custody arrangement than they desire can make an impact on their child's life. Ultimately, what matters most is what you do with the time you have together.

Your role as a mother or father does matter

It is important to clarify the main theory of the book that parents don't matter. The authors appear to be making the point that parents today put too much pressure on themselves. Do not worry about being the perfect parent. Do the best you can, with what you can.

Make the most of your custody arrangement

Although these theories may provide some level of comfort to parents facing divorce, it is important not to downplay the seriousness of the split.

A child custody arrangement will need to be crafted that meets everyone's needs. Parents in these situations are often wise to seek the legal counsel of an experienced child custody and visitation lawyer. This legal professional can guide you through the process, advocating for your rights and working to better ensure a more favorable outcome.

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