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.
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.
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.
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 www.divorceinfo.com/judithwallerstein
Click on the image to find this book on Amazon.com