on May 30, 2003
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.
on May 18, 2004
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.
on May 7, 2004
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. This book goes a long way in explaining those things, and showing several "happy-ending" stories that came from rough starts. Anyone working in the legal profession (lawyers, judges, mediators, spouses) should read it because this book is written mostly for one purpose: to describe how divorce affects the CHILD in the long-term. Despite my own personal experiences, I was surprised to learn how much could be accomplished that benefits children (in the short and long-term) if the people in the legal system just had a deeper understanding of the effects of their actions. Finally, anyone married or seriously invovled with a person whose parents were divorced shoudl read this book to understand "where they're coming from". Only then, when tiny issues and larger issues are recognized, can they be dealt with. As I said, I'm not a particulary troubled person by any means, but this book was helpful beyond what I could have imagined- despite the other great reviews on this site!
on July 30, 2011
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. The resulting richness of detail is more convincing than bland statistics.
The marketing blurbs say this book should be read by children of divorce and by anyone contemplating divorce. Here's a bigger and more useful market: everyone who is married or plans to get married.
Why do I say this? As an engaged or married person, you will be so moved and horrified by what divorce did to the subject children, throughout their lives, that you will go to much greater lengths to ensure that your marriage succeeds, before any idea of divorce even arises. Most "relationship" books lack bite, and talk about various strategies for creating a happy marriage and/or avoiding divorce without really bringing to life the pain that a failed marriage inflicts on the children. By all means get those relationship books, plus this one, to scare you into actually following the relationship advice.
on July 24, 2003
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. She also addresses the issue of children having to adjust to new step-parents, lovers, and step-siblings.
The problem of competition between children and step parents is also treated with frankness. Children are far too often given short shrift when a new step-parent feels threatened or that the child is taking up too much: time, space, money, attention, etc. The author is admirably blunt in stating that if forced to choose, parents more often than not choose the new spouse over their child.
This is an important work that should serve as a wake-up call. Divorce hurts children. Children of divorce are more likely to get divorced, creating more hurt children. Our society cannot survive too many more generations of this cycle before we implode upon ourselves. Read this book.
on June 16, 2003
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. From the very first pages I was shocked at how groundbreaking and accurate her observations are.
She immediately debunks a commonly held theory, namely that children are resilient and quickly bounce back from a divorce. This is not at all the case, Wallerstein argues, rather the effects are not immediately apparent and come into play much later in life when those children look to form their own marriages. The insights continue from there.
Never before had I read a book that actually made me cry. That is exactly what happened as Wallerstein articulated ideas that helped me come to grips with thoughts and emotions that had largely lurked in the background for years. 'The day my parents divorced was the day my childhood ended' comments one of her subjects, a statement that resonated so deeply I found tears running down my face.
Any child of divorce should read this book, at the very least to gain some insight into some of the feelings you have, or patterns of behavior you exhibit. For me, there were so many examples that hit home, I cannot overstate the value of this study. Read it, you might just learn something about yourself.
I've read some critiques of this work which, to be honest, sound largely like they were written by people who divorced and don't want to feel guilty about the effects that it will invariably have on their children. Much of the criticism focuses on the perception that Wallerstein is urging people to stay in bad marriages for the sake of the children. Not only is this erroneous but, sadly, it misses the vast majority of the value that this work provides: the real life experiences of children of divorce and their attempts to deal with the impact of that life-altering event.
on September 23, 2002
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. Although I have personally encountered many students who voice the same issues as outlined in this book, Dr. Wallerstein's work still broke my heart.
Whenever the subject of divorce is raised, sides automatically are taken with regard to the rights of each partner, yet no one ever thinks of the children. This book needs to be required reading in every psychology, social work, or counseling program so that practioners are exposed to another side of divorce; the side that is not typically portrayed in academia, as well as in our popular culture.
This book may be considered "politically incorrect" to many because Dr. Wallerstein does not proffer the tired, shopworn feminst perspective. Yet her voice is an important one because it advocates for the party who has the least power, yet is most effected by the decision to divorce; the children.
on July 22, 2002
Thank You for writing this book! I'm an adult child of divorce and this book is gospel truth!! In it's pages are contained the exact feelings and experiences of myself, my siblings, and my friends who are from divorced homes. My parents divorce has messed my whole life up and even in my 30's I'm still trying to recover from its effects so I can have a happy life someday finally. It's so nice to know that I'm not alone in what I experienced. Divorce is just another ill that the baby boomers have unleased upon the nation in their constant selfishness. Our generation is left with the results and will have to clean up their mess (like so many other unethical messes the baby boomers have caused.) Judith makes a good point a few times in the book... how is the nation going to deal with all these aging baby boomers in a few year? My parents don't even bother to be caring grandparents and yet I know someday they will come whining to me for help. I can't wait to see their generation finally reap what they have sown. They were never there for us... they will find nobody there for them. My siblings and I have discussed it and we all agree... let our prodigal step-sister take care of our parent and step-parent in their old age... although they better hope that she doesn't have her own issues and anger with them.
on April 15, 2002
Anyone involved with children of divorce should read this book. First, let me say that I am not at all a conservative family values type person who has an axe to grind against all divorce. But I thought this book raised some very hard issues that society has not looked at enough when it comes to how much divorce hurts children. Some reviewers have made it sound as if Wallerstein were against all divorce. One of the things that makes her book so thoughtful and compelling is that she is not. She clearly understands the damage that staying in a really bad marriage can do to kids and acknowledges that sometimes divorce is best for the kids. But what she focuses on mainly is the middle ground of marriages that are less than ecstatically happy, but not catastrophes either -- which, if we are honest, probably describes most peoples's marriages at some point in their lives. She also looks at effects of divorce most researches have neglected: the effect on kids of simply being shuttled around from one house to another a lot, of less time with parents as a result of parents' new love lives, new work lives, etc. She does not lay a mindless guilt trip on parents, but she does make you think about things that many people have not thought about enough.
on November 13, 2001
Uncovering the lie, that divorce is ok for the children, Now what do you do about it!
Having just gone through the break up of a 7 year relationship, I wanted to understand what the impact was on my 5 year old daughter. After searching through several books to read, I found Wallerstein's presentation of a series of comparisons of children growing up in the divorced culture versus intact and even problem marriages to be unique. It was like looking in the mirror and seeing your relationship with your ex discussed from the childs perspective. Case studies that are lacking in many of the other books addressing this subject are presented in detail so that you can understand the initial problems and later stages your child is going through, AND HOW and WHY your child will hide it from you. It does not matter if you have recently divorced or divorced 10 years ago, you will find information that will help you in improving your relationship with your kids. Most importantly I wish someone had recommended this book to me when I was in counseling with my ex. We would have focused harder on what was important to both of us, knowing some of the consequences of what we were about to do(...). This was so important to me that I bought a second copy to give to my ex. I don't want to be one of those parents, whose kid won't talk to them or see them when my child becomes an adult.
Wallerstein's book is a litmus test. If you are getting divorced with kids and going to counseling, you need to read this book. After you have read it you need to ask your counselor if they have read it. Your lawyer should read it too, then maybe they would focus on the real issue, the ones that need the most help after a divorce, the kids.
Better yet, read this book and don't get divorced in the first place.