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The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study

ISBN: 0786886161

Language: English

Publisher: Hachette Books

Lowest Price: $3.59

The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study


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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

Customer Reviews of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study

A must-read!

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.

Gem Of A Book For Those Facing Or Involved With Divorce !

The brand new 352 page book really spells out with great insight how children are affected by divorce. Written by a true authority in the field, Dr. Wallerstein's book should be required reading for parents in troubled marriages. Kids of such marriages are OWED this information. Through her many interviews with children of divorced parents, she has learned how they really feel, how they react to divorce and how it has affected their own married lives and their children years later. Just a few of the topics covered include: When a Child Becomes the Caregiver, What If They'd Stayed Together- and What If They Can't, Family Ties, Growing Up Lonely, Court-Ordered Visiting, the Child's View, The Stepfamily, and much, much more. Dr. Wallerstein shows how many children of divorced parents actually overcome their fears and sorrows, and become loving partners and parents. Of great importance is her coverage of whether parents should stay unhappily married or to divorce, a question routinely faced by couples. This is a great book that should be read not only by parents, but all of those dealing with potential divorce situations. A very important book, that can only help the situation.

If you've been touched by divorce, read this book.

Twenty-five years ago, my parents got a divorce. It happened early enough in my life that I didn't really understand why, and it's been long enough ago that I'm not entirely sure what it's meant. Reading this book was an amazing experience for me - I learned a lot about myself and about other people who've been through similar situations. I also learned things about divorce that I didn't know before. For example, I thought divorce had always been fairly common. I thought every generation was full of children who dealt with divorce. That's not the case.

It seems that my generation also likes to find "shields" to hide behind: everyone seems to want to have some external reason for his or her behavior, so that there isn't any internal responsibility for it. I was pleased to see that the author didn't treat divorce as the reason for everything that happened to the people in the book, but rather as a contributing factor. Some of the people she writes about were able to rebuild themselves and put together a happy life; others are still struggling with issues from the past.

If your parents are divorced, you may find a lot of information in this book that will help you understand what you've been through. If you are married with children and considering a divorce, you should definitely read this - as the author points out, the needs of children are all too often ignored during the divorce process, so it will be up to you to make sure that their voices are heard. Finally, if you're involved with someone whose parents are divorced, maybe you'll gain some insight into some aspects of your partner's personality. In any event, this book is well worth the price.

Children Should Come First, Second, and Third in Divorce!

I read this book with great interest, and learned much to add to my hands-on experience as a remarried divorced father, stepfather, and father of a child by my remarriage. I sincerely wish that I had had this book available when my first marriage failed. Interestingly, I found the parts that affirmed what my ex-wife and I had done right just as valuable and important as the parts that suggested room for improvement. I look forward to discussing this book with my two grown sons by that first marriage. The lesson for you from that experience is that whenever we, as parents, focused on what was best for the children, things worked out well. If in doubt, you should do the same. It's about the children!

Divorce affects children intensely, yet they are almost always totally innocent of causing the divorce. Past studies have suggested that many children do okay after awhile. What is new in this work is that some of the most negative effects occur for many of these children in adulthood. This happens because they see themselves as being permanently marred by divorce, almost like a genetic taint that they cannot escape. According to the author of the study, "The problem of numb feelings among grown children of divorce is serious and more widespread than I initially realized." How do you prepare for marriage when you have no good parental role model? It's obviously harder, and takes longer. This can be complicated if you had a tough adolescence without much support. You will tend to want to enjoy a real adolescence in your 20s and 30s.

This book will be of tremendous value to those who are thinking about divorcing, parents who have divorced, the spouses and potential spouses of the children of divorce, and the professionals (judges, social workers, psychiatrists, and lawyers) who work with families involved in divorces. Children need more help from parents than before the divorce. The classic advice of "don't fight in front of them" isn't nearly enough. You need to nuture your children more thoughtfully and thoroughly than before. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins can all make a difference. If possible, one of the parents should stay home with them until the children are grown, rather than working. Visitation should be flexibly determined by the child's needs, rather than by a court order. Fathers should stay involved as actively as possible in their children's lives, through common interests that can last a lifetime. The future spouses need to be understanding and supportive of the uncertainty felt by these young adults. Many more good bits of advice are in this book. As an opportunity for improvement, I would have appreciated more information about being a stepfather. What was in here was good, but it was not nearly enough.

As the authors tell us, "Silently and unconsciously, we have created a culture of divorce." "Without our noticing, we have created a new class of children who take care of themselves, along with a whole generation of overburdened parents who have no time to enjoy the pleasures of parenting." Obviously, this should be avoided. But you knew that already.

As bad as that sounds, the story gets worse. "But it's in adulthood that children of divorce suffer the most. The impact of divorce hits them cruelly as they go in search of love, sexual intimacy, and commitment." Essentially, these emotionally poor children often assume that they will fail to create and enjoy a stable marriage themselves, while children from undivorced households assume the opposite.

If you are like me, you will see that building stronger marriages from the beginning is a major wake-up call from this book. The pain of the alternative is too much to anyone to even consider a marriage with children that will not last for a lifetime.

This book focuses on seven examples from 131 children whose parents divorced in Marin County, California around 1971, and a comparison sample of 44 similar adults now from the same community whose parents did not divorce. Your heart will go out to each of these young people in the book, as they relate their stories -- whether their parents divorced or not. Life was hard for each of them.

Although the authors state that they are not against divorce, they do point out that there is stalled thinking in believing that if the parents are happier, then the children will be, too. The case of Gary makes the point that unhappy parents can be good parents for their children, even if the marriage isn't good for the parents.

While it is possible to read too much into a few cases and this type of qualitative research, clearly the social implications of divorce for children are not well understood. I hope that this book will help people to better understand how to relieve children's pain and help them to lead happier, healthier, more productive lives filled with love.

If you know someone whose parents are divorced, I suggest that you use this book to show them some special appreciation and understanding by being more emotionally supportive of them.

Before you marry (and certainly after you do), I also suggest that you and your spouse read and use Relationship Rescue and The Relationship Rescue Workbook to help you build a foundation for your relationship that does not lead to divorce. That's the best lesson of all!

May all be and feel loved!

Myth #1 - The Children Will Do Fine

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. My advice has always been to read Wallerstein's series to learn the variety of outcomes that can arise post-divorce and the strategies of those who faired best. Those considering divorce are all well advised to "do their homework."

These books are also a must read for anyone involved in family and/or divorce counseling - religious or secular counselors.

In "Unexpected Legacy of Divorce," the authors address the myth that the children will do fine if the parents are happy - divorced. Children, no matter how amicable and settled the parents are after divorce, suffer greatly. They lose their family, they lose control of their life (to the whims of parents and rules of courts), and they lose their childhood. All of these combine to provide a series of struggles as they move into adulthood and beyond.

Important subject areas covered in this book include:
* The ghosts of childhood - the bottomline after 25 years
* The exploitation of children by divorcing parents
* The development path to adulthood being thrown out of sync
* Pushing a child's real feelings and thoughts underground by being busy
* Children trapped by real feelings and thoughts of the break-up
* Children dealing with the loss of THEIR nuclear family; the family that created them just vanishing - a loss that will be quietly or openly mourned throughout their lives.
* Why children turn on a parent(s) years later
* Children living with and coping with chaos
* Children and low self-esteem
* The missing father or mother after divorce
* Children growing up lonely
* Relationships with the "steps" (step-parents)
* The loss of mom - whether or not she is physically available
* Court ordered visitation and its disruption of a "real" life for the children to make mom and dad complete
* Children of divorce taking the leap in relationships and marriages - the return of the relationship ghost
* The role of an intact family for modeling and shaping children whether their parents marriage is filled with joy, or loveless, or abusive
* Other residues of divorce for children - fear of loss, fear of change, fear that disaster will strike, especially when things are going well
* And the need for all involved in divorce, directly or indirectly, to be educated on all the issues that emanate from the divorce for children over their life as well as in the short term.

This will not be an easy read for many. It was not intended to be. Nevertheless, the journey this book provides will be fruitful.

I recommend this and Wallerstein's other books highly. These are an important books which will not diminish in value over time. These are classics.

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