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The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  501 Ratings  ·  96 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, 347 pages
Published September 6th 2000 by Hyperion Books (first published January 1st 2000)
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Mar 22, 2009 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2008 Reb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 06, 2007 Inder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 25, 2012 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-sciences
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
May 19, 2016 Niala rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had promised a friend who is in collage that I would read this book and write a report on it since it was on her sociology professor's list. I don't like parenthood, and scares the crap out of me, or maybe I should say that I don't see myself fit to do it. but I personally think that this book should be a requirement for people who want to have children or those who already do and are planning on temporary separation or divorce. it's describes the whole situation and it's effects and aftermath ...more
Sep 16, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Four and a half stars. I borrowed this from my sister in law and am going to have to buy her a new copy, I've thumbed it so well these past two months. I took a college writing course my senior year of high school and the concluding project was a 25 page term paper. I chose the topic of how divorce affected children. My parents had divorced some years previously and at that time I knew very few people who were divorced. I had to dig much harder than I thought I would to find enough source materi ...more
Oct 06, 2012 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 06, 2011 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2008 Leif rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
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
Jan 19, 2013 James rated it it was ok
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
Mar 01, 2016 Annd rated it it was amazing
This book was packed full of awesome information. And when I say packed...I mean packed, the book barely had margins.

The basic premise is that children of divorce often have latent and unforeseen problems in interpersonal relationships due to their parent's divorce. A recurring theme is that children whose parents who are providing them a good, supportive and nurturing home might be better off if their parents remained unhappily married vs. getting a divorce and throwing their world into an upro
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.
Stephanie Holt
Nov 04, 2015 Stephanie Holt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book keeping in mind that it was published 15 years ago. I read it to learn more about the impact the divorce of my parents had on my own life. I found myself nodding my head plenty, recognizing my own experiences in the stories of the study participants. One section from the conclusions rang especially true for me, I quote it here "From the viewpoint of the children, and counter to what happens to their parents, divorce is a cumulative experience. Its impact increases over time and ...more
Jun 26, 2014 Histteach24 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enlightening. I highly recommend it for children of divorce, partners for divorced children, educators, parents, court workers, people contemplating 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
Kate 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
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
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
Nov 04, 2007 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 20, 2015 Rozana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an adult child of divorce, I have had many questions on the impact that the divorce had on me. The book answered all those questions and it also shed light on important areas such as fear of divorce (myself), or sustaining a marriage motivated by fear rather than love. The longitudinal study makes sense as many children of divorce do not encounter its effects until their adulthood. They also make comparisons between boys and girls, as there are gender differences to take into consideration.
Jul 08, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 17, 2011 Rochelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 04, 2012 Mitzi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 15, 2008 Nichole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 10, 2012 Brent Fremming rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tara Lindahl
Jan 27, 2016 Tara Lindahl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Personal accounts backed by extensive research make this a must-read for (adult) children of divorce. It's surprising how many universal situations apply to such an individual experience. The book contains excellent insight.
Mar 04, 2014 Kievette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 28, 2010 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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
Mar 23, 2014 Elly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. :)
Bob Conder
Jan 28, 2016 Bob Conder rated it it was amazing
Interesting look at the long and ofttimes overlooked consequences a divorce has on children.
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