April 13, 2014

Children of divorce, invisible to Wikipedia

I was just reading about Amy Adams on Wikipedia and found out that her parents divorced when she was 11, despite belonging to the Mormon church which places a heavy emphasis on family togetherness (heavier than other religions).

While scrolling down to the bottom of the entry, I expected to see one of those offbeat Wikipedia category tags, like "Mormon children of divorce." Alas. But they didn't even have a generic category tag like "children of divorce," "father-absent people," etc.

They have a category for adoptees, something that most folks reading a person's biography would be interested in knowing. And something that could have shaped the way they turned out as adults. Adoption puts a happy face on the category of "unusual family structures," though. Things looked hopeless for the kid at first, but then they were rescued. Pointing out everybody who went through the opposite — things looked cheery at first, but then it all fell apart — would be a downer.

Wikipedia has all sorts of other category tags about a person's background and upbringing, from ethnicity to religion to being a military brat (like Amy Adams). That's the good kind of diversity — in the Wikipedian's mind, no ethnicity or religion or parental occupation is better than any other, so what's the harm in pointing it out? But whether both your parents were still together when you were going through adolescence... well, we don't have to air everybody's dirty laundry, do we?

And it is becoming "everybody" — see this earlier post about the still-rising rate of children growing up in broken homes.*

However, conveying how fucked-up the world is becoming, and pointing out who specifically has been hit, would go against the prime directive of the neutral point-of-view. You can read about it on a case-by-case basis, and assuming you soak up thousands of articles about living people, the pattern might strike you.

But there will be no larger picture that an abstract category tag could clue you in to at the outset. And no firm sense of there being this whole category of people out there, without a concise tag to reify them as a group. Some things were not meant to be understood, even (or especially) through The Free Encyclopedia.

* The trend for divorce is not the same, and has been declining since a peak circa 1980. But the rosier trend for divorce ignores whether or not there are any children involved, and married couples aren't pumping out babies like they used to. The divorce of a childless couple does not leave a broken home.


  1. Wikipedia seems to follow the principle of non-judgmentalism - a concept discussed over at Lion of the Blogosphere among other places. Unless you happen to be on the more conservative side of things - then a little editorial leeway is given to skew things in a certain light.

    We are also not supposed to recognize patterns, a la Steve Sailer. At least it's comforting knowing there are people like us out there who think a certain way, and can see these things. Coming here makes me realize I'm not completely crazy.

  2. Thought about adding the category, but it seems pointless. I'd need the support of a few sympathetic admins, and even then it would be an epic battle with insecure outcome. Had that too often.

  3. Actually, divorce hasn't necessarily gone down since 1980. The rate has gone down, but the age adjusted rate hasn't. 30 years olds are still breaking up at the same rate. Its just that there aren't lots of married 25 year olds that can break up (younger couples break up more often).


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