Dartmouth’s Divorce Anomaly: The 10 Percent Among Us
By Elizabeth Trager
Published on Friday, May 4, 2012
It is almost always an exciting, joyous and eagerly anticipated event when vacation from Dartmouth rolls around. However, a small number of students in the Dartmouth community must divide their time away from school between two different homes when they leave campus. These students have divorced parents.
Kurt Prescott ’12 said that in two of his classes, his professors indicated that about 90 percent of Dartmouth students come from families in which their parents are still married. This statistic stands in stark contrast to the national divorce rate, which is estimated to be as high as 50 percent. Many students are unaware that such a large divide exists between students with married parents and students with separated parents, which Prescott cited as one of the “main problems” with the campus dynamic.
“It becomes easy for students to assume that their home experience in this regard is the same as other students around them, even when this is not necessarily the case,” he said. “Understandably, this can be a bit frustrating at times.
Elizabeth Southwell ’15 and Chris Carvounis ’15, both students with divorced parents, said that many of their friends have similar family situations despite the low rate cited by Prescott.
“The 90 percent figure is something of which I was really unaware because interestingly, many of my friends here also have divorced parents,” Carvounis said.
It is possible that this specific family arrangement serves as a powerful unifying factor for students forming relationships at Dartmouth.
“With my friends who have divorced parents, we talk about the similarities and differences of our respective family setups,” Southwell said. “It’s always an experience explaining my own situation, especially when I explain my parents’ extreme lack of friendship.”
Some students who belong to this 10 percent said their parents’ divorce was amicable. For many of these students, move-in day, phone calls home and the division of vacation time do not prove especially difficult. Carvounis said that life at Dartmouth would not actually be very different if his parents were still married.
“As far as vacation time is concerned, it’s largely based on convenience,” he said. “I usually end up seeing both of them for most vacations, and the only reason we don’t usually travel together is that the two ‘camps’ like to do different things and go different places. But it’s safe to say that it’s never felt strained or awkward or difficult."
Kyleigh Williams ’14 agreed that her parents’ divorce has a minimal effect on her life at Dartmouth, mainly because their relationship remains fairly positive.
“The only difficulty I have is dividing my time between my mom’s side of the family and my dad’s side of the family,” Williams said. “You also have to put aside time and effort to make sure you’re in contact with both parents, which is hard considering our already busy schedules.”
By contrast, some individuals find that their parents’ divorce has had a tangible effect on their college experience.
“Having divorced parents puts some strain and stress on my life,” Southwell said. “I need to carve out time to see both of them separately and have to logistically deal with seeing both of them separately at parents’ weekend or at one of my theater events.”
Jessica Venturino ’15 said that she was negatively affected by her parents’ particularly rough and challenging divorce.
“Me and my three siblings were left to do a lot of things for ourselves with only our mom to take care of the four of us,” she said. “I made dinner a lot of the time, always had to find rides to places I needed to be and did my own laundry. These tasks are sometimes major changes for students coming into college, but the transition in this sense was easy for me.”
Venturino added that she finds solace in coming to Dartmouth, as she can remove herself from potential arguments between her parents.
“I really love being up here because I get to talk to both my parents all the time without having to be in the middle of some of their arguments,” she said. “It is very difficult when I come home, and I have to divide vacation time between two individuals who are not getting along.”
The independence and strength she gained from her parents’ divorce has inspired her academic and athletic life, Venturino said.
While it must be questioned why so few Dartmouth students come from families with divorced parents, the reasons are not particularly clear. The lack of awareness about this disproportion, however, is surprising.