Long Term Effects of Divorce


1) When Sharon Keating's marriage went on the rocks the people she most worried about wrecking were her kids. Jessie Keating, her daughter, says, "I was feeling... like down and sad and even though I didn't really show it.

2) "Those problems could last decades," says author Judith Wallerstein, "... and emerge in adulthood."

3) Judith Wallerstein says of her research, "And when man-woman relationships move to center stage. At that time all the ghosts of the parents' divorce sort of come out of the basement."

4) Wallerstein studied 93 children over a generation. Her findings haven't been published in a medical journal, only in her book.

5) She says children of divorce are more likely to abuse drugs, are far more likely to seek therapy and that 40-percent of them avoid marriage themselves. When they do marry, fail at nearly twice the usual rate.

6) Judith Wallerstein says, "They define themselves as having a great deal of difficulty trusting and are very frightened that their relationships will fail.

7) Sharon Keating knew of Wallerstein's work and vowed that would not happen to her children.
Sharon Keating is a divorced Mother who says, "One of the things that I did was that I immediately got the kids and I into some counseling."

8) But critics say Wallerstein generalizes too much from a small study. At Berkeley's Council on Contemporary Families Professor Phil Cowan says factors other than JUST divorce should be studied, too. And that the study lacks comparison with so called healthy families.

9) Phil Cowan of the Council on Contemporary Families says, "Can you say that divorce is harmful on the basis of that kind of study, the answer is no. You can't say anything on causality because people have all kinds of explanations for their lives and what it is that they do."

10) Wallerstein's families divorced a generation ago. Times have changed and with them the attitudes toward divorce and attention to the innocent victims.

11) Claire Barnes of Kid's Turn says, "In our parents generation people who got divorced didn't talk about it, were embarrassed by it." Programs like Kid's Turn try to mitigate some of the effects of divorce with family counseling. Jessie Keating says, "We just express our feelings out together and that helps us get through it".

12) So the next generation will be more aware of the trauma may be better equipped to handle it.

From a news story by
CNN San Francisco Reporter Greg Lefevre

September 10, 2000