Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Divorce's Toll on Children

Karl Zinsmeister - Divorce's Toll on Children

In Karl Zinsmeiseter's article "Divorce's Toll on Children", he explains why divorce is such a horrible event for the children involved. He claims that young children involved in divorces become "passive watchers", "dependent, demanding, unaffectionate, and disobedient". Zinmeister uses specific language tools to discuss the negative effects of divorce on the children including tone, specific statistics, and overstatement.

Throughout the entire article, the author uses overstatement as a tool to pursuade the audience of the long-term negative effects for children created by divorce. He uses phrases like "very rare" and "most often" to accentuate the gravity of a situation. The interesting thing is that he uses this terms so often that it loses its effect. Zinmeister uses overstatements in order to persuade the readers that divorce is such a horrible experience for the children.

For example, he says that "fully 15 percent of all teenagers living with divorced mothers have been booted from school at least temporarily". He uses the words "fully", "all", and "booted" which makes the reader feel like this is a big deal (157). However, we could rewrite it to say that 15 percent of teenagers living with divorced mothers have had in-school suspensions. It'd be interesting to look up the percentage of all teenagers who have been booted from school and compare. The argument Zinmeister presents is very one-sided.

However, even though they only come from his side of the argument, Zinmeister uses specific statistics to build ethos. He tries to build credibility with different studies sponsored by reliable institutions and people such as the University of Pittsburgh, National Survey of Children, and University of Hawaii psychiatrist John McDermott. The direct quotes from these sources and people actually experienced with divorce. It's hard to disagree when he quotes psychologist John Guibubaldi, past president of the National Association of School Psychologists and says "the weight of the evidence has become overwhelming on the side that [the adjustments kids make] aren't [healthy] (154). Another example of pure fact being presented is when he says "indeed, Gallup youth surveys in the early 1990s show that three out of four teenagers age 13 to 17 think 'it is too easy for people in this country to get divorced'" (153). All of these examples show how he builds credibility by using specific examples and numbers to prove his point.

Tone is the most important language tool used in the article. Word choice is crucial and Zinmeister makes sure to choose words and phrases to lead his readers a certain direction. His words have certain connotations and feelings attatched. For example, he calls divorce a "marital rupture" and that the children "feel torn in two" (152, 153). The imagery in these phrases describes divorce as a breakage or as something destructive. He also uses words like "youngster", "only", "all", "surprisingly large", and "overwhelming" in order to exagerate or draw attention to something. The word "youngster" makes the children seem really young and innocent. This, in turn, causes the reader to be sympathetic to the plight of children with divorced families.

Because Zinmeister is able to use language tools so effectively, he's able to convince his readers that divorce does create long-term negative effects for children. He builds pathos, logos, and ethos by using overstatement, word choice, tone, statistics, and imagery. All of this works together to create a solid argument that divorce is definitely not a good thing for the children involved.


  1. This analysis is excellently organized and structed. You have made it clear that you understand logos, ethos, and pathos very well and that you are able to pick them out in an artice. You very accurately picked out the correct words for different language tools he used and explained them and their effectiveness very well. Great job!

  2. It is clear that you know what you are talking about. You set up your analysis very well with your thesis, preparing readers for what type of language tools Zinsmeister uses. Another great thing is that you recognized how he builds his ethos, logos and pathos with his argument. Good job!