July 14, 2012

Judith Wallerstein, psychologist who pioneered research on divorce, dies at 90 (Elaine Woo, 7/06/12, Washington Post)

In 1970, preschool teachers asked Marin County, Calif., psychologist Judith Wallerstein how to deal with a rash of children who couldn't sleep, cried constantly or were too aggressive with playmates. The common denominator, the teachers said, was that the parents were divorcing.

Dr. Wallerstein looked for research on the issue and, finding nothing useful, decided to conduct her own. She launched what would become a 25-year investigation, producing alarming findings that made her, a long-married grandmother of five, a polarizing figure in a contentious national debate. [...]

When Dr. Wallerstein began looking at the effects of divorce, she thought the children's difficulties would be fleeting. Instead, she found that for half of the 131 children she studied, time did not heal their wounds but allowed them to fester, creating "worried, under-achieving, self-deprecating and sometimes angry young men and women" who, not surprisingly, struggled considerably with romantic relationships.

In light of this delayed effect, Dr. Wallerstein came to a controversial conclusion: If parents could swallow their misery, they should stay together for their kids.

"What in many instances may be the best thing for the parents may by no means be the best thing for the children," she told Newsday in 1994. "It is a real moral problem."

She wrote about the consequences of divorce in several books, including "Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a Decade After Divorce" (1989) and "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce" (2000). Co-authored by Sandra Blakeslee, the books made headlines, put Dr. Wallerstein on talk shows and magazine covers and became bestsellers.


MORE:
-REVIEW: of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce : The 25 Year Landmark Study (2000) 


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Posted by at July 14, 2012 7:29 AM
  

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