MyDivorcePapers Blog

We're here to make your life easier to manage and to help you begin your new start.

Goodbye to Judith WallersteinYesterday we began our belated homage to the late Judith Wallerstein, one of America’s most influential psychologists. Wallerstein passed away June 18th earlier this year in Piedmont, California, which regrettably went unnoticed by our blog. Part l of our blog series introduced Judith Wallerstein with a mini-biography, a recap of her career, and a summary of her famous study. In part ll we will discuss the controversy and residual affects of Wallerstein’s lengthy career.

Divorce Abstinence

It has been said of Judith Wallerstein that she saw only a life of misery for children of divorce, and that she gave unhappy parents a lifetime sentence to doomed marriages. But what did Judith Wallerstein really have to say for herself and her work? As it turns out, Wallerstein didn’t say too much in defense of her work, she simply wished to keep the focus on the children and her work. If women told Wallerstein they decided to make their marriage work because of her, Wallerstein shared with a New York Times reporter she “didn’t think ‘Oh, my god, that’s wonderful, one more marriage saved.’ Maybe it was the wrong marriage.”

The intricacy and accuracy of Wallerstein’s work comes from the depth she studied her subjects at. Wallerstein’s 25 year old relationship with her subjects provided her with a detailed account of how a child (and subsequently, an adolescent and an adult) deals with and is affected by a divorce. The affects of divorce were found to be long-lasting and deeply influential, so if anyone wanted to know how to prevent these affects, Wallerstein’s only possible response would be to say, “Don’t get divorced.”

Wallerstein’s Novelty

Wallerstein began her study amid the 1970’s rapture over California’s new no-fault, uncontested divorce option, which resulted in the American divorce rate skyrocketing to new heights. As such, Wallerstein’s study became the first study based on the psychological effects of divorce on children. According to Wallerstein’s study, the children were more negatively affected by the shift to a divided family than they were negatively affected by parents in an unhappy marriage. Wallerstein’s radical and seemingly backwards conclusion was received with applause from family values proponents, and jeers from feminists, and unconvinced colleagues and pundits.

Wallerstein published the findings from her study of the 131 children from divorced families in three parts:  “Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce” (1980), “Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a Decade after Divorce” (1989), and “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce,” (2000), which was coauthored by Sandra Blakeslee and Julia Lewis. Even amid the controversy and criticism Wallerstein received (some critics went as far as saying her work was “pseudoscience”), her work forced society to put the family under the microscope and take some responsibility for shaping individuals.

As depressing as a career centered on divorce can be, Wallerstein found meaning and took pride in her work. Later in her career she consciously switched gears and wrote about how to build a successful marriage, and how to more effectively approach divorce when children are in the picture. She contributed frequently to Huffington Post, centering her topics on helping families through the difficult situation of divorce. Her lifelong work and refusal to ignore the facts has aided society immensely just by bringing the topic of divorce into the spotlight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Home | Leadership Team | Help Center | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Disclaimer

© 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Back to Top