SURVIVING THE BREAKUP: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce by Judith S. & Joan Berlin Kelly Wallerstein
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SURVIVING THE BREAKUP: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce

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This awaited report on a major study of divorcing families may become a standard reference, for it not only identifies the specific difficulties children of different ages confront but it also concludes by opposing the current doctrine of a single custodial parent, recommending instead various arrangements of joint custody. The two clinician authors, who followed 60 families for five years, suggest that divorce is a series of events, a succession of somewhat predictable stages. Although obstacles to child development may appear in its wake, such hurdles can be surmounted, especially if counseling is available. Age and sex have some bearing on how children respond, but these variables are less influential than other factors, such as the quality of family life before the divorce and how the parents behave during the process. The recommendation for joint custody (equal responsibility, not necessarily equal time) arises from the finding that children tend to adjust better when they remain in close contact with both parents; an intimate relationship with a non-custodial parent (fathers, in this study) is difficult to maintain during the twice-monthly visits which American courts usually prescribe. Other findings, equally well documented, are as useful (young children, more easily upset by the disruption, are easier to reassure) but not all support the popular wisdom: children are not necessarily better off with happily divorced parents--prepubescent youngsters are especially vulnerable. Written for professionals, accessible to some parents, this probing work uncovers important patterns of interest to everyone involved with divorcing families; it also offers highly respectable research support for the increasing number of joint custody advocates.

Pub Date: May 2nd, 1980
ISBN: 0465083455
Publisher: Basic Books