Indiana University Bloomington

IU Health & Vitality: Divorced parents dating, singles' break with tradition and a Valentine survey

Research and insights from Indiana University

  • Feb. 6, 2014


The February issue of IU Health & Vitality has a romance theme, discussing the following topics:

Dating after divorce: Keep kids' feelings in mind
American singles: Focusing less on 'outdated traditions'
Kinsey Reporter Valentine's Day survey

Dating after divorce: Keep kids' feelings in mind
Jonathon Beckmeyer

Jonathon Beckmeyer
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Finding love is hard enough as it is. Finding -- and maintaining -- love after a separation or divorce can be even harder, especially when bringing a new romantic partner into your kids’ lives. But parents should be sensitive to their kids’ feelings when bringing a new romantic partner into the home, especially if the divorce is still fresh in their memory.

“We know that the process of divorce is not a one-time event,” said Jonathon Beckmeyer, an assistant professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “It starts well before parents separate, and it’s ongoing into the development of these new relationships for the now-separated parents -- that’s all part of the process. And that process can negatively affect children.”

Following divorce, research has shown that kids and adolescents might later develop problems at school, display signs of aggression, or feel anxiety, stress or sadness.

A number of factors can depend on how kids deal with their parents’ new romances, or the divorce or separation itself. Beckmeyer, whose research focuses on how family relationships influence adolescents, said kids can show signs of stress from a change in family structure from as early on as infancy.

While kids younger than 13 tend to have different perceptions of what goes into a romantic partnership, they have limited outlets to cope with their frustration. Beckmeyer said once kids move into older adolescence and begin attending college, they’re more able to remove themselves from what’s going on at home. But literature shows that children who are in their early 20s can still struggle with their parents starting new romantic relationships following a separation or divorce.

Children who have strong relationships with their parents might also feel forced to choose a side or to start treating the new partner as a parental figure.

"Parents should keep in mind who they’re introducing their children to," Beckmeyer said. "You don't want your kid to form a bond with another adult caregiver and then have that caregiver be gone, and that's just going to create another family transition. More family transitions are usually not beneficial for kids.”

Beckmeyer suggests the following tips for parents to consider:

  • Communicate: "The real key is to maintain warm and supportive involvement from both the residential parent, the primary caregiver and the nonresidential parent to a degree that’s appropriate for the family," he said.
  • Manage expectations: Parents should communicate their romantic partnerships with their children in a way that's age-appropriate for their kids. "You’re going to tell a kid who is 4, 5 or 6 a different kind of narrative of what's going on than what you're going to tell a kid who is 13 or 14," Beckmeyer said.
  • Slow and steady: After re-partnering, parents might feel tempted to rush the dating process, but Beckmeyer suggests parents slowly integrate their new romantic partner into their kids' life, such as bringing them over for dinner a couple of times or having their kids meet them in a low-pressure situation. "It's going to take years for the family to feel like a 'family' again," Beckmeyer said. "So the more you're able to build those relationships over time, the easier it will be for the children to adjust."

Beckmeyer, who is the coordinator of Family Health Concentration in the Masters of Public Health program, can be reached at 812-856-4220 or Top

American singles: Focusing less on 'outdated traditions'
Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia
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American singles, according to a new study, are optimistic about love, celebrating diversity and focusing less on "outdated traditions," says Indiana University evolutionary biologist Justin Garcia.

Garcia, assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Gender Studies and research scientist at The Kinsey Institute at IU Bloomington, also is scientific advisor for the international online dating site, which recently released the results of its fourth annual Singles in America study.

Here are some of the findings:

  • Breaking barriers: 75 percent of singles would date someone from a different ethnic background, while 70 percent of singles would date someone of a different religious background. More than half of singles approve of partners having children out of wedlock (54 percent of men; 52 percent of women).
  • First dates are found online: Meeting online is the No. 1 way singles met their last first date (31 percent), ahead of meeting through a friend (25 percent). Singles are more than three times more likely to have met their most recent first date online than through work (8 percent) or a bar/club (6 percent).
  • Date around: Dating more than one person at a time isn't taboo for women; in fact, 72 percent of women think it's OK to casually date more than one person simultaneously (vs. 60 percent of men).
  • Ask him out: 92 percent of single men are comfortable with a woman asking them out on a date.

Garcia blogged about some of the sex-related findings, writing that "sexual satisfaction can predict a wide range of outcomes, stretching from one's sense of happiness, to health factors, and even the likelihood of breaking up."

Here are a couple of stats from his blog post and the study:

  • More, more, more: 68 percent of single men and 57 percent of single women want to have more sex this year compared to last -- just not every day of the week. Singles report they ideally would have sex two to three times a week, with only 15 percent of single men and 12 percent of single women pining for sex every day with a familiar partner.
  • What number? 21 percent of women and 23 percent of men have altered the number of sexual partners they’ve had in the past when asked, either by increasing or decreasing the figure. Nearly half of singles simply don’t want to know their partner's sexual history (56 percent of men and 48 percent of women).
  • First date do's and don'ts: More men than women find kissing (85 percent of men vs. 70 percent of women), oral sex (39 percent of men vs. 7 percent of women) and sexual intercourse (37 percent of men vs. 8 percent women) to be appropriate on a first date.

Despite some obvious differences, the findings indicate that men and women are more alike than different when it comes to love and sex, Garcia said.

"The findings demonstrate that for a vast majority of the 111 million singles in America, across a wide range of demographics -- gender, age, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity -- dating, sex and love are an important part of their lives," he said. "If we want to know how to promote and maintain healthy and successful romantic relationships, sexual behavior is an undeniable part of that. We must continue to talk openly and honestly about human sexuality, with all its ups and downs and wonderful variety."

The study involved a representative sample of 5,329 men and women ages 21 to 70 plus.

Garcia can be reached at or 812-855-7686. Top

Kinsey Reporter Valentine's Day survey: Tell us what you want
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What do people really want for Valentine’s Day? The Indiana University scientists who gave us Kinsey Reporter, the mobile app for collecting, reporting and viewing anonymous data on sexual behavior, are turning the day of romance into a laboratory via a timely new holiday survey.

The new survey, available after downloading the free app from the Apple iOS Store or Google Play (for Android), includes basic and broad questions like “What does one's heart most desire for Valentine's Day?” and “What happened on Valentine's Day?” It also gives visitors the opportunity to provide more details about sexual activities, from the desired to the experienced during the holiday.

Researchers with The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction and the IU Bloomington School of Informatics and Computing worked together to develop the Kinsey Reporter app, which allows citizen observers around the world to report on sexual behavior and experiences, and then share, explore and visualize the accumulated data. Reports made by anonymous citizen scientists are also used for research and shared with the public at the Kinsey Reporter website.

More information about the Valentine's Day survey is available in a recent news release. Stephanie Sanders, interim director of The Kinsey Institute, and Filippo Menczer, director of IU's Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research and a School of Informatics and Computing professor who helped design the app, can be reached by contacting Steve Chaplin at IU Communications, 812-845-1896 or Top

For additional assistance with these items, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 or Follow Health & Vitality news from Indiana University on TwitterGoogle PlusTumblr and the Health & Vitality blog.

Media Contacts

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