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The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce
Judith Wallerstein
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I have not had a chance to read all of this book, but from what I have read it seems very well written and worth reading for anyone who is from a broken, abusive or dysfunctional home. - Steve

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Divorce often leads to a partial or complete collapse in an adult's ability to parent for months and sometimes years...

...mothers and fathers are preoccupied with a thousand and one concerns, which can blind them to the needs of their children.

p xiv

We have not fully appreciated how divorce continues to shape the lives of young people after they reach full adulthood.

p xix

We have only recently begun to understand the awful, lasting influence of seeing one parent hit or hurt by the other... the suffering that it causes to the child and how detrimental it is to mental health.

Even a single episode of violence is long remembered in detail. In fact, there is accumulating scientific evidence that witnessing violence or being abused physically or verbally literally alters brain development, resulting in a hyperactive emotional system. (See "Increased prevalence of electrophysiological abnormalities in children with psychological, physical, and sexual abuse, "


Reviews from Amazon

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.


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.