A 25 Year Landmark Study
Twenty-five years ago, Judith Wallerstein began talking to a group of 131 children whose parents were all going through a divorce. She asked them to tell her about the intimate details of their lives, which they did with remarkable candor. Having earned their trust, Wallerstein was rewarded with a deeply moving portrait of each of their lives as she followed them from childhood, through their adolescent struggles, and into adulthood. With The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, Wallerstein offers us the only close-up study of divorce ever conducted-a unique report that will change our fundamental beliefs about divorce and offer new hope for the future.
Wallerstein chooses seven children who most embody the common life experiences of the larger group and follows their lives in vivid detail through adolescence and into their love affairs, their marriage successes and failures, and parenting their own children. In Wallerstein's hands, the experiences and anxieties of this generation of children, now in their late twenties to early forties, come to life. We watch as they struggle with the fear that their relationships will fail like those of their parents. Lacking an internal template of what a successful relationship looks like, they must invent their own codes of behavior in a culture that offers many models and few guidelines. Wallerstein shows how many overcame their dread of betrayal to find loving partners and to become successful, protective parents-and how others are still struggling to find their heart's desire without knowing why they feel so frightened. She also demonstrates their great strengths and accomplishments, as a generation of survivors who often had to raise themselves and help their parents through difficult times.
For the first time, using a comparison group of adults who grew up in the same communities, Wallerstein shows how adult children of divorce essentially view life differently from their peers raised in intact homes where parents also confronted marital difficulties but decided on balance to stay together. In this way she sheds light on the question so many parents confront-whether to stay unhappily married or to divorce.
The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce should be essential reading for all adult children of divorce, their lovers, their partners, divorced parents or those considering divorce, judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals. Challenging some of our most cherished beliefs, this is a book that will forever alter how we think about divorce and its long-term impact on American society.
The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce:
"This book reads like a compelling novel. Judy Wallerstein and co-authors take us on a courageous and objective confrontation of the aftermath of divorce as it affects children from childhood to adulthood. A must for anybody dealing personally or professionally with the issue of divorce."
-PAULINA F. KERNBERG, M.D., PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, WEILL MEDICAL COLLEGE OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY
"This book shakes us all into recognizing the long-term effects on children of a broken family. It reveals the adult's myths about divorce and the adult's expectations for their children's outcomes. Studying children of divorce 25 years later destroys these myths, and gives us new, important insights."
-T. BERRY BRAZELTON, M.D., AUTHOR OF TOUCHPOINTS
"This book, both tough-minded and extraordinarily compassionate, unflinchingly lays out the difficulties, terrors, and hard-won achievements of young adults who are trying to make a good marriage without a model of how it's done. An absolute must-read."
-JUDITH VIORST, AUTHOR OF NECESSARY LOSSES AND IMPERFECT CONTROL
"Parents and children experience a different divorce, Judith Wallerstein shows, and our legal system and the parental behavior that it sanctions and generates only increase this difference. This remarkable, sobering book is must reading for anyone concerned about divorce and children."
-NANCY J. CHODOROW, PSYCHOANALYST AND AUTHOR OF THE POWER OF FEELINGS: PERSONAL MEANING IN PSYCHOANALYSIS, GENDER AND CULTURE
"Dr. Wallerstein knows more about the effects of divorce on children than anyone else. This book is invaluable to adult children of divorce, their spouses, judges and professionals who work with divorcing parents, and perhaps most important of all, to parents considering whether or not to divorce."
-JUSTICE DONALD B. KING, CALIFORNIA COURT OF APPEALS (RET.)
"Wise and profoundly compassionate. Because it compares the life prospects of the children of divorce with those who grew up in intact families, this book is required reading for parents confronting the question of whether to stick by their marriage vows for the sake of the children."
-SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT, CO-AUTHOR OF THE WAR AGAINST PARENTS; FOUNDER, NATIONAL PARENTING ASSOCIATION
"Judith Wallerstein had a simple, brilliant idea. As the divorce revolution began, she would begin listening to its children. Now these children are adults, and they have something to say. Judith Wallerstein has produced the first authoritative account of divorce's long-term effects on children. We are greatly in her debt." -DAVID BLANKENHORN, PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE FOR AMERICAN VALUES, AND AUTHOR OF FATHERLESS AMERICA