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The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study Hardcover – September 6, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

During the last 40 years, our society's views on how families are created and how they operate has undergone a tremendous shift. In The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, authors Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee have assembled a variety of stories from people of different ages and life stages. Some are children of divorce, some are from families that stayed unhappily intact, but all of them offer valuable information important to all of us as parents, children, and members of society at large. Separate chapters focus on the different roles children take on in the event of a divorce or unhappy marriage, ranging from positive role model to deeply troubled adolescent. In many cases, the people interviewed continue to define themselves as children of divorce up to 30 years after the occurrence; this is described by one subject as "sort of a permanent identity, like being adopted or something."

Both encouraging and thought-provoking, the final chapter questions how we maintain the freedom made possible by divorce while, at the same time, minimizing the damage. The authors' response to this question begins with pragmatic suggestions about strengthening marriage--not bland "family values" rhetoric but practical how-to ideas combined with national policy initiatives that have been making the rounds for years. With fascinating stories and statistics, Wasserstein, Lewis, and Blakeslee have illuminated the improvements within reach while our society experiences these massive changes in it's most fundamental relationships. --Jill Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

Twenty-five years ago, when the impact of divorce on children was not well understood, Wallerstein began what has now become the largest study on the subject, and this audiobook, which McIntire reads with compassion and warmth, presents the psychologist's startling findings. By tracking approximately 100 children as they forge their lives as adults, she has found that contrary to the popular belief that kids would bounce back after the initial pain of their parents' split, children of divorce often continue to suffer well into adulthood. Their pain plays out in their relationships, their work lives and their confidence about parenting themselves. Wallerstein argues that although the situation is dire, there is hope to be found at the end of good counseling and healing. Unfortunately, in her desire to communicate a lot in a highly accessible format, Wallerstein verges on oversimplification at times. Nonetheless, hers is an important contribution to our understanding of what is a central social problem. Based on the Hyperion hardcover (Forecasts, July 17, 2000).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (September 6, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786863943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786863945
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #621,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I highly recommend for adult children of divorce AND their parents.
McCullers
Longitudinal studies with comparison groups are a pretty valid methodology in social science research, and that is exactly what she has done.
SR
All of the books are "must reads" for those who are considering divorce or have divorced.
Thomas M. Loarie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

136 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Loarie VINE VOICE on June 23, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having suffered through an unwanted divorce twenty years ago, and having taken on the full responsibility for raising my two children (ages 10 and 13 at the time), "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce" was a welcomed book by me and my children.

My children have continued to experience divorce related issues as they have moved into adulthood. Maturity, relationships, marriage, and parenting have been catalysts for the emergence of feelings that were buried and denied. Judith Wallerstein's excellent book provides the context and structure for my adult children to explore and understand their "new" feelings (and behaviors) enabling them to move-on, happier and emotionally healthier.

My children, their spouses, and I have all read "Unexpected Legacy of Divorce." We have and will continue to use the book as a resource in our on-going effort to get closure. We have all come to understand that the feelings and behaviors that are surfacing are not unique but, rather, are quite "normal" for children of divorce. This has been of great comfort for them - allowing them to cleanse the shadows of divorce and move forward with greater confidence that they are not weird.

Wallerstein has conducted a longitudinal research study of divorce dating back to the late 1970's. "Unexpected Legacy" is the third and most recent book based on the study. In previous books, she has studied the effects of divorce, not only on children, as she has in this book, but also on the divorcing parents. All of the books are "must reads" for those who are considering divorce or have divorced.

Over the years, I have had a number of people confide in me that either they or their spouses were considering divorce.
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123 of 127 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the latest in a series of books written by Wallerstein about children and divorce. It provides excellent insights into what children are going through. As the child of divorce myself, I found myself thinking "YES" when reading each page. Her observations about what kids are feeling were brilliant and right on target. It's an uncomfortable book -- many parents won't want to know what they're putting their children through, and children won't want to live again through feelings that they might very well not wish to examine. Nevertheless, this is an absolute must-read for anyone who cares about a child of divorce. Since adults are so much more articulate and well-connected than children, it is often only their perspectives that are heard when divorce is discussed. But children must be heard too! Wallerstein's comparisons of the children of divorce and the children of "intact" families who grew up in the same neighborhoods is also invaluable, highlighting the unique problems children of divorce face. I recommend that anyone who finds this book useful should also read THE DRAMA OF THE GIFTED CHILD and THE NARCISSISTIC FAMILY. Both books deal with similar themes, and can be similarly useful in dealing with children of divorce, adult children of divorce, or adult children of dysfunctional families.
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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By "ravreader" on October 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A long but worthy book recommended for anyone touched by or considering divorce. I read it as an adult child of divorced parents, looking for further clues to heal the past and become a more emotionally secure person. This book helped. It offers four in-depth case studies of two women and two men, relating the childhood and teen experiences of these four to each other and to additional observations about divorce. This manner of presentation demonstrates the kind of close personal attention and genuine interest in these children and their development(over a 25 year span) that I always wished had come from my parents. The authors do a good job of being clear about the need of children for secure parenting and give tips on how to provide it without making pronouncements about whether divorce or staying together is definitely better in a given case. (Though they do state that divorce is ultimately more detrimental to children, especially as they come of age and attempt to form their own committed relationships, than we have thus far believed.)
In addition to the compassionate voice of the authors, the real benefit of this book is the longevity of the studies undertaken. The passage of time in these children's lives and the lessons learned therefrom are a perfect counterweight to the impatient tendency of some parents who divorce to say "oh, the kids will adjust," and go right ahead doing what they think will satisfy themselves. In a tangential way, the book also opens for discussion the topic of who should be a parent, given the sacrifices and ability to put another above oneself that it almost always takes.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By debeehr on November 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
Wallerstein's central thesis is that despite what adults would like to tell themselves, divorce is *not* a simple, minor, or transitory matter in the life of a child. Divorce is a profound trauma that *forever* alters a child's life, often in ways unexpected. It does not at all lessen the impact that so many children nowadays are from divorced parents, either; as Wallerstein puts it, "children come single file." The divorce is just the beginning. After losing their childhood and family home, the child then has to deal with reduced--often severely reduced--parenting time from the custodial parent, who is devoting energy toward maintaining a home and rebuilding their shattered life and has correspondingly less time to spend with the child. The non-custodial parent's investment in the child often drops to a minimum--every other weekend and a month or so in the summer is no substitute for the time and attention of a live-in father or mother. On top of that, both parents are often dealing with profound emotional pain in the context of a reduced support network and often come to rely on children for support in inappropriate ways.

And the effects of divorce don't end there. In addition to losing the familial home, and (often) being forced to relocate, change schools, make new friends, etc (another traumatic event for children), the child is then often exposed to another series of transitions as one or both parents try out a rotating shuffle of new dating and/or live-in partners. If/when the parents settle on new marital partners, then the child faces yet another transition of trying to integrate the new adult/s (and possibly assorted children) into the new family. The complexity of this process increases logarithmically if stepchildren are involved.
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