The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce



The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce:
The 25 Year Landmark Study

Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee. (2000)




What the Book is About:

This book is a long, powerful, and insightful study and report of findings mostly told masterfully through stories of children from divorced families. The results of the longitudinal study are mind-boggling as to the complexities and difficulties with which so many men, women, and children live.

Richard A. Gardner criticized Wallerstein’s study for focusing exclusively on middle-class Californians whose participants were pre-selected for therapy and psycho-analysis. See The Burgess Decision and the Wallerstein Brief, Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 26(3):425-431, 1998.

Keith’s Reflections:

There is so much in this book to consider for dads who are contemplating divorce, who are already divorced, and/or are from divorced families in their own childhood. If your life situation fits into any of those broad categories, this might be a challenging though extremely worthwhile read.

I found the stories both interesting and compelling, though I routinely found myself wondering if it was fair to point to (or at times seemingly blame) the divorce itself for the complexities of consequences and challenges adults from divorced families now find themselves dealing or coping with, or recovering from. That is, so many other factors such as bad marriages, angry parents, parents who did not divorce well (that is, who did not keep their children’s interests in focus), and parents, particularly fathers, who essentially or literally abandoned their children and their parenting role after the divorce, all seemed equally liable for blame as the actual divorce.

It is a complex problem. This book is very useful in sorting out the issues and examining long-term effects. I do believe the book requires some critical thinking on the reader’s part.

The Author:

Judith Wallerstein was a psychologist and researcher who created a 25-year study on the effects of divorce on the children involved. From 1966 to 1992, Dr. Wallerstein was Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Welfare, University of California at Berkeley. She died in June, 2012.

Target Audience:

It’s hard to say. There seem to be several (perhaps moving) targets. The book is certainly for adults who were themselves “children of divorce” (whose parents divorced when they were children). It is also for parents who are considering divorce, serving as a strong warning about the potential (perhaps likely) effects upon their children. It also seems to be written to legislators in defense of more stringent and perhaps more child-focused legislation. Wallerstein’s study did influence a California court on child relocation.

On the back cover, Judith Viorst (author of Necessary Losses) is quoted, “Finally, here is a book that every divorcing parent must read, and that no child of divorce should be without. An absolute must-read.”

For More Information:

See an interesting review of the strengths and weaknesses of Wallerstein’s study at



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When Our Kids Amaze us

Have you had one of those moments when one of your kids amazed you with how grown up they seem, how articulate they are, or how mature they’ve become, as if you missed a few years of their development somehow? And there they are now, standing before you as a wonderful young man or woman. Where did the time go?

Who is this lovely creature?

I had that experience last May when my two oldest boys, JD and Cal, now sixteen and almost fifteen, went to their spring formal dressed in sport coats and ties. I looked at these two handsome young men in wonder. And truly they looked like men, and they carried themselves that way. I shook my head, and I felt so proud of them.


I had that wonder-filled experience again a few weeks ago when a friend of mine, Dr. Lori, suggested she interview my youngest son, Kai, about an experience he and I had with one of my painting customers (I’m bi-vocational). She heard Kai tell the story earlier and thought it would be great for other dads to hear. They had so much fun planning it together, and the idea quickly grew to include several other subjects, all related to The Great Dads Project.

I shot the video, and stood there with my mouth hanging open most of the time. I could hardly believe this was my little twelve-year-old son still in braces. His thoughts, ideas, suggestions, insights, humor, and his way with words floored me. Seriously, this kid could be an actor. He was so comfortable on camera, and carried himself with such poise, grace, and presence. I’m not kidding. I know, I’m his dad, I’m bound to think he’s great. But seriously, check this out for yourself, and see if you don’t think he’s as great as I do. Enjoy.


If you like this, leave a comment below, and share
a story about a time one of your kids amazed you.


To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

Large Book with Outline


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