The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study
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The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  356 ratings  ·  84 reviews
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 chil...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 6th 2000 by Hyperion Books (first published January 1st 2000)
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Katie
This is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it to everyone, even if you don't think it could possibly have anything to do with your life. The fact is, divorce is such an overwhelmingly prevalent part of our society now, and our culture, and a lot of us are working with some serious misconceptions about just what its full implications are, especially for children. People who grew up with divorced parents will find this book both validating and troubling. People who work with divorced familie...more
Reb
basically it goes like this:
people had a theory that divorce wasn't so bad for the kids.
apparently it's pretty bad for the kids.
so much so that, psychologically in later years, people are still dealing with their feelings.
these feelings come in systematic packages.
to wit: difficulty having faith in the endurance of relationships.
...
i confirm all the above, but unfortunately the substance of this book is about enough to fill a NYT mag article. so many nonfiction books are like that! read the firs...more
Inder
This is an extremely interesting, sometimes harrowing, book about the issues that children of divorce commonly face. Seeing some of my own angst so clearly described on the page was scary at times, but also eye-opening. I'm still a little freaked out, but I've been recommending this to everyone I know whose parents are divorced. Maybe we can make our own children's lives a little better.
Sara
Read this book. If you're divorced, read it. If you're thinking about getting divorced, read it. If you're the child of divorced parents, read it. If you're married to a child of divorced parents like I am, read it. Honestly, if there's one issue that looms like an 800 lb gorilla in our culture today, it's the way marriage and family has fallen apart, been shifted, reassembled and redefined. The ramifications of the social upheaval of the family absolutely underlie *everything*. I honestly belie...more
Becky
Greg recently downloaded this book that my sister-in-law, Mackenzie, recommended. Because it was about the impact of divorce on the kids in the family, I wanted it all to reflect me and my experience. There were some things that did (like the divorced parent taking center stage instead of the kid being her own center stage in her own life or not getting much financial support for college) and some things that didn't (like becoming the care-taker for a parent or getting lost in sex and drug addic...more
Rachel
Recommended to me by a grown child of divorce as a key to understanding so many of his own hang-ups and difficulties in starting a family of his own, I couldn't help but find this an important read. Wallerstein advocates beautifully for the children of divorce whose rights, needs, and wishes are set aside by angry, distracted and/or overburdened parents and the bureaucracy of the courts. She makes a good case that children do not recover easily from their breaking up from their family and can ta...more
Rachel
This book was very interesting and insightful. The author followed families that had divorced for 25 years and compared them against a group of families in similar situations but didn't divorce. The effect of divorce on young children right through the effect on their development into adulthood was reported.

This book should be required reading for any parent thinking about divorce. The author is very balanced but realistic about the effects. She also gives advice for how to handle telling your...more
Leif
Wallerstein and her colleagues run a family counseling practice in Marin County, and this book presents several case studies of children whose families were divorced 25 years ago -- hence the 25 year landmark -- to try to chart out the long-term future that children from divorced families might be expected to face. Unfortunately, the case studies and conclusions presented in this book were either composites or otherwise drawn from the population that came through Wallerstein's practice, and, as...more
James
This book was informative, to be sure. If nothing else, it alerted me to the ways that divorce affects children which, of course, should be of paramount concern when one considers whether or not to divorce a spouse. However, this book is, specifically, about the effects of divorce on children, not the effects upon the divorcing parents. It is not a book about whether the decision to divorce is a right or wrong one and the author makes no attempt to offer an opinion about the importance of a divo...more
Carol Simpson
This is GROWN UP reading. Unfortunately, in spite of their chronological age, most of the folks who need to read this lack the maturity. This is based on a 25-year longitudinal study. As another commenter stated, this book presents "harrowing" findings.

To paraphrase Flannery O'Connor (I think), the truth does change based on our ability to stomach it.

If we want to help children affected by divorce, the first step is to acknowledge how they and our society are impacted.
Histteach24
Enlightening. I highly recommend it for children of divorce, partners for divorced children, educators, parents, court workers, people contemplating divorce...it was eye opening. I agree that more needs to be done to change how we see family and the impact of divorce. I'm not sure the schools can take on more of the family role than they already do-really this needs to be taught in the home. But I do agree as an educator that I would love more workshops on dealing with children of divorce-many o...more
Katie Dubik Schwarz
A sobering, invaluable read.

I read this as a child of divorce, to better understand myself and the so-called baggage I bring to adulthood. As many introverts have said that the book Quiet really spoke to them, this book spoke to me, though my parents divorced when I was a senior in high school, so I escaped the custody battles and had a very stable childhood. In many, many ways, I was and am lucky. Reading this book made me realize that, in comparison, I am very lucky to have had the divorce exp...more
Brian Nwokedi
My big revelation from this book is the "waiting for the other shoe to drop" feeling and the constant feeling of walking on eggshells that children of divorce bring into their adult relationships.

I was unaware that children of divorce constantly feel as though their adult relationships can crumble at anytime, a direct result of the insecurity that the trauma of divorce caused. This avoidance of conflict is something that I have experienced first hand with past significant others but haven't bee...more
Anne Hawn Smith
This was an incredible and very surprising book. The author did a longitudinal study of divorces using matched families with similar structure and comparing them to families where the behavior was similar, but the parents did not divorce. I thought the study was well documented and the book was extremely readable. It is important for counselors, teachers, and especially people who are contemplating divorce. The results of this study were startling and contrary to what we usually see in print, bu...more
Emily
I read this book at the urging of my husband, who is a child of divorce. It was really fascinating and insightful, but I feel like I can't talk to anyone about it. My parents are still happily married after recently celebrating their 30th anniversary, so what the heck do I know about divorce or being the child of it?

The book was written after the researcher, Dr. Wallerstein, corresponded with a previous study subject who was herself a child of divorce. She had been a subject in a previous study...more
Kate
This book blew me away. It was riveting and taught me a lot. Dr. Wallerstein does not really profess her opinion on divorce, she reports her findings of studying over 200 people from divorced families over 25 years. She clearly supports marriage but there is a good reason. She sees what divorce does to people. I learned a lot about myself and that many other people from divorced families are just like me. Unmarried into their 30s and 40s, struggling with the concepts of relationships in general,...more
Rochelle
This is a unique book in that it is a longitudinal study of children of divorce. While it is exhaustive, the author does a good job of condensing what must have been a lot of notes from numerous interviews. Careful editing made it very readable. I recommend it to her target audience, (children of divorce), and parents who are considering divorce. Those adults whose childhoods were marked by divorce will find a therapist who is sympathetic to their experiences and supportive of hopeful outcomes....more
Mitzi
This was a valuable and thought-provoking book, although difficult and often heartbreaking to read. Divorce is not just a temporary crisis for children... It is a life-changing event that affects them in multiple ways for the rest of their lives. Many adults believe that although a divorce may be traumatic for children in the short term, in the long run it's for the best if it means they no longer have to observe their parents in a miserable relationship.... However, this book challenges that be...more
Nichole
This book is a little hard to read but I was determined to finish it. It's a series of case studies on children in similar living situations (alcoholism, physical abuse, loveless marriage, etc.) where the parents divorced compared to parents that stayed together. Reading the case studies I was able to pick out exactly who I closely realted to. It made me understand a little better why I am the way I am with relationships. I was also able to pick out who my brother related to also. As much as alw...more
Brent Fremming
This book is a gem, and quite unique. Five stars? No, but this should not detract from the value of the book, being the only longitudinal book on divorce I know of. Essentially, there are instances that require divorce but are all circumstances equal if a marriage is empty and unfulfilling? Wallerstein suggests not - and that we might work harder at our marriages for "the sake of the children" (which she admits is a trite phrase), because, essentially your kids will be more screwed up otherwise....more
Kievette
As a child of divorce (oldest of three kids and definitely "The Caretaker" kid), this well-researched and sensitive book has given me great relief and assurance over the years. I reread portions of it at least once a year
Michael
The most fascinating thing about this book for me in particular was how much I related with the kids discussed in this book and my parents never got divorced. I found my own thoughts put into words so many times that I had to start underlining passages (and I never mark my books). The studies in this book are insightful and while I don't agree with all of her proposed actions as a result of her findings, I agree with enough of them to wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone--not just anyone...more
Elly
If you know or are anyone who was raised by divorced parents or is contemplating divorce in a marriage with children, this is worth reading. I haven't read the other books, but this one is very relevant for people my age as we try to figure out relationships. Very approachable writing for being based on university research. :)
Chris Comis
The authors do a great job dismantling any notion that divorce is healthy for society. This was a 25 year study showing the effects of divorce on the divorcees themselves, their children and society as a whole. They followed several children from divorced families through the 25 years of post-divorce life. The attitudes towards marriage; the cynicism towards any kind of lasting relationships; the corrupt behavior that followed all these children through their lives should make anyone seek marria...more
Cara
Wow. If you are an (adult) child of divorce, or are a parent considering divorce then get this book now. I'm serious. Log the F off right now and go read this book.

At times heart wrenching, often surprising, and consistently compelling, this was a 25 year study from children of divorce through their 30's.

What this study found was the effects of divorce are far reaching, usually manifesting itself when the grown adults went in pursuit of relationships.

The book is absolutely accessible and an ea...more
Tracy
Started reading and I think I will continue at a future time, but just a bit heavy for me at this time. I think it will be valuable to me to understand some of my own idiosyncrasies stemming from being a child of divorce, but more introspection than I could give during summer with small children at home. I think this book will have many "ah ha" moments for any one who has, is going through, or contemplating divorce; mainly that divorce isn't something you just get over and it has lasting, perman...more
Harmony
this is a great book for childrenof divorce to read with their spouses to understand a little more about them selves and for spouses to understand where their partner is coming from and why certain reactions are there that seem non logical otherwise.

I would say this is a must read. Even if you don't completely sympathize with some of the characters talked about then you will gleam a bit of insight from every person discussed.

Again a must read for those that this issue affects.

Mary
I read this book when I was trying to save my marriage, but things I learned from it have been instrumental throughout my divorce process, namely keeping my children's perspective and needs foremost in my mind. Highly informative and based on tons and tons of research and interviews spanning 20 years of the lives of children of divorce. The author is foremost in her field. I'm sorry if this is how some of you are learning that I am getting a divorce. Feel free to call or email.
Nancy
Interesting and thought provoking book about the consequences of divorce on the children involved. Lots of insight. Though the edition I read was published prior to 9/11 and I am sure that custody and travel visitation has changed since then. As a child of a divorced couple, I found a lot in teh book to identify with. It was interesting to me to view my parents relationship with an adult perspective, and as a married person myself, with children.

Id recommend it.
Gloria Evans
Excellent researcher. According to Judith S. Wallerstein and colleagues, those children of divorce often end up marrying and staying married for their life time. Mainly because they don't want their own children to go through what they did. So there are some positive things about divorce, however it devastates families. She has some great suggestions as to how to help kids get through it. Excellent study and read.
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