The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study

by Judith S. Wallerstein

This is the final version, the 25 year followup, on the study group of children that Wallerstein set out to study. This follows the children, or some any ways, into early and mid-adulthood and the type of people that they became.

This book is somewhat problematic in writing a review. This book provides great insight into the negative, long term impacts of divorce on children and families. It provides insight into the life long problems of divorce, of children who do not learn how to resolve conflict, of the substance abuse, promiscuity and the aversion to any sort of deep relationship encountered by so many of the children. Divorce is devastating.

Wallerstein does conclude, although she does not want to, that staying together for the sake of the children and working for the children is better than divorce for the children even if you don't like each other.

However, the book also shows a much different Judith Wallerstein than was initially performing this study. Remember, this study covered sole maternal custody/residency situations exclusively in her not-so "random" population. Wallerstein was clear from the start to empathise with the women, and the girls, in the study to the point of almost excluding the men, but with the startling conclusion that both parents, including the non-custodial men, are important in their children's lives.

In this book, Wallerstein has obviously swallowed the classical and incorrect radical feminist myths she dismissed in the early books. She concludes that many of her cases were about physically abusive men -- and only men -- recognising that there may be "rare" cases of abusive women but now in her study. She continues with this theme even while illustrating jointly abusive or women-on-man physical abuse in the case descriptions. Wallerstein moves to genderising the roles from the custodial and non-custodial parent to declaring that fathers are important but mothers are really critical, without recognising her own point that a constant parental involvement by at least one parent is important irrespective of gender. Wallerstein also spouts the old and disproven (and admitted so by the author, Lenore Weitzman, but ignored by Wallerstein) of child support levels not being high enough even when the non-custodial parent (always the man in her set) is devastated financially at having to support two homes. She also clearly figures that mothers should not have to work, not have responsibility for financing the children's lives -- only men are to have that responsibility. Disappointingly, Wallerstein also chose to ignore the long term impact of the specific actions of the custodial parent in alienating the children, somehow not waving this parental behaviour off as being somehow justified now.

Wallerstein's genderisatin of her science, and the resultant lack of objectivity, detracts a lot from the conclusions of this book. There is still a lot of good material here, but you have to do some shovelling to get there.

I would say that this is a worthwhile purchase, but read the older books to realise just how much Wallerstein lost her way in this book.