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The Unexpected Legecy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study [Hardcover]

Sandra Blakeslee , Julia M. Lewis
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 6 2000
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 over-came 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.


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From Amazon

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Karen James's visit drove me to continue probing the long-term effects of divorce on children. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars be careful with reviews May 30 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I mostly decided to write this review to warn others not to trust reviews by people they don't know...
For example, martinlady from Pennsylvania rated this book two stars, although it is plainly obvious that she did not read the entire book because otherwise she would understand that the book was written in such a way that each TYPE of family was REPRESENTED by the "story of one child of divorce's life" (ie. Karen, Larry, etc.). The author makes clear in the beginning of the book that these are her best/extreme/generalized cases. They are not real people, but a conglomerate of many children's lives who were all raised in similar familes. Obviously, there are divorced families in which one or both of the parents aren't emotionally unhealthy and/or don't slack on parenting after divorce. The author recognizes this, and states numerous times that children of divorce who had one parent who recovered well and kept parenting as their main concern did indeed adjust better as adults. People who skim books should not write reviews.
I did read the book cover to cover, and I in fact am a child of divorce who had a WONDERFUL childhood. Even though I didn't have to take over as caretaker as "Karen" did, or witness violence/disrespect between my parents as "Larry" and "Paula" did, I still found the book to be extremely comforting and eye-opening. I also found it to be very well-written - the idea to personify different types of extreme divorce situations in separate characters makes the book very easy to read. How else would you put together and generalize the results of a 25 year study on over 100 unique individuals from over 100 different families? A must read for all children of divorce.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal!! May 18 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Like many others who have read this book, I always wondered what was wrong with me. I connected with this book and was in tears by the end of the first page. I finally had answers for the reasons that I did so many of the things that I did to sabotage relationships. This is an honest look at how my parents divorce 27 years ago is still affecting me, and my relationships with others.
I agree with other reviews that have stated the demographics of the test group are skewed, but as someone who grew up in this affluent area of California, it made my connection to the book even stronger.
I also agree that not all children are as negatively affected as the book states, but there are always exceptions to the rule, and I think that this book takes a look at how the majority of children are affected.
It may not be the most scientific study on the subject, but it is fabulous in what it does offer. I highly suggest it as a must read for any child of divorce, and as a guide for their parents to help them overcome some of the negative psychological effects of divorce which affect the majority of children.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Audio Cassette
I stumbled upon this book while doing research for a paper I was writing about the advantages and disadvantages of single parenting. So many people quoted this book that I decided to buy it and read it for myself. It came yesterday and once I opened it, I could not put it down and read the entire thing in one evening. The book has been criticed as unscientific because it only followed about 100 people for the full 25 years of the study. However, I'm 25 now, and I can safely say that the book was right on target with absolutely everything. Wallerstein described her findings of following children from divorced families from the time of divorce through their adulthood - a full 25 years! I never thought I was affected by the divorce of my own parents - just really accepted my reality as quite normal. I identified with each section of the book and was shocked to find myself crying on many pages. Most psychological studies use statistics and questionaires withe check-boxes to compile data. Wallerstein got to actually KNOW each child/adult and was able to share their experiences with the world. Usually, I find "self-help" books to be corny, and not really useful in any way. This book was definitely not a self-help book. It is written with several audiences in mind. Any parent contemplating a divorce should read it. Period. If they do get divorced, they will have a MUCH better understanding of how it might affect their children and will therefore have a basis for mitigating those problems. ALL adult children of divorce shoudl read it. We've got a nation of 20-and30-somethings that are figuring out that they all have strange quirks when it comes to life and relationships, and can't imagine the connection to thier parents. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Divorce Culture's Lies Revealed!! July 24 2003
By TLS
Format:Hardcover
The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce is an important book. Using a twenty-five year study the author debunks all of the myths of the divorce culture in which we now live. These lies: that children are resilient and will 'bounce back', that little children don't know what's going on, that when parents are happy their children will be happy, that not fighting in front of children shields them from the effects of divorce, that divorce is a temporary crisis in the child's life, and that as soon as the splitting parents stabalize their lives the children will recover, are demolished point by point.
The author demonstrates, through examples in her case studies, that: very little children experience very big feelings about divorce (including rage and fear), that each lifestage a child goes through causes them to re-live the divorce again in some new way, that divorce causes personal and relationship issues for the children well into adulthood, and that the divorce culture is creating a new generation of people who choose not to marry and risk reliving their parents mistakes.
The author also takes on the important, if uncomfortable, truth that parents do not usually want to do the work of taking on the issues that their divorce creates for their children. Not fighting in front of the children isn't enough. Children need to be given opportunities to express their anger at having their lives torn apart, their homes and friends snatched away, and time with their parents disappear. The author points out that parents are usually more concerned with dealing with their own issues surrounding the divorce, working on new relationships, and rebuilding their personal social lives. The children of divorce are typically left on their own emotionally, sometimes literally.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-rending, Moving
Though not strictly "scientific", i.e., based on large samples, the book covers each case history in depth, and revisits each person over a time-span of decades. Read more
Published on July 30 2011 by StraightShooter
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking Of Getting Divorced?
If you are, you may want to (should, MUST!) read this book first. Even if you are divorced, it is a great source of information for dealing with all the "stuff" that getting... Read more
Published on March 14 2011 by Greg L
5.0 out of 5 stars Hands down the single best book on divorces' effect.
I am a fast reader usually completing a book this size in one or two days, yet I have spent two weeks reading the re-reading this volume. Read more
Published on July 10 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
I would strongly suggest anyone going through a divorce or anyone being a child of divorce to read this book.
Published on Oct. 4 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A sorely needed perspective
This book offers a sorely needed perspective of the children's. It's for parents who are divorced or considering it, children whose parents are divorced and spouses of children of... Read more
Published on Sept. 2 2003 by Cameron Alverson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Paradigm Shift
As a child of divorce who is the same age as Wallerstein's test subjects, I was particularly interested to hear what she had to say. Read more
Published on June 16 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading
I believe Dr. Wallerstein's work and conclusions are misleading and potentially harmful to children and families if taken as gospel. Read more
Published on March 23 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A 25 years review with a bok worth reading
First and foremost to the divorcing parents I advise this book. It can help you see what is most important to you- your prioraty as a parent or as a husband or wife. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2002 by Milena Gomez
5.0 out of 5 stars This book will break your heart.
As a special education teacher in the public schools I face the legacy of divorce, in all its stark, naked and painful reality, each and every day. Read more
Published on Sept. 23 2002 by Rocco B. Rubino
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