We've all heard of the obscenely high divorce rates in the United States. (They're often cited around 50%, for those who aren’t familiar with it.) When celebrities divorce, we plaster their stories all over tabloids, entertainment blogs, and even the news.
Some have gone so far as to say we live in a “divorce culture” – a society in which breaking up is normalized and often expected.
Whether you’re morally for or against it, it seems Americans are obsessed with divorce. Yet, the group who is most affected by divorce - the children – are often the most overlooked in our coverage of breakups.
Children of divorced parents encounter a unique set of challenges in growing up in this culture. As adults, they may find themselves ill equipped to build identities and relationships themselves.
In The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, Wallerstein, Lewis, and Blakeslee followed a large sample group of children of divorced families in California for 25 years.
They watched the children grow into adolescence, through their teens, and finally into adulthood, where they notice that many of them faced the same struggles. The book explores cases that shared similar characteristics, along with suggestions for parents and policymakers to ease the effects of divorce. [You can find more information on the book here.]
There are children, such as Karen, who are forced into the caretaking role. These children often grow up feeling responsible for those around them, having stepped into the role of raising themselves, their siblings, and often their parents after the divorce.
Others act out in adolescence, and find themselves prone to making major life decisions – such as marrying or starting a family – haphazardly. Some find themselves struggling with intimacy, a constant anxiety, depression, substance use, and difficulty controlling or expressing anger.
Wallerstein depicts the unique experience of each of these children coming into themselves with tact, empathy, and professional insight. Each story is rendered in a way that many children of divorce can relate to.
At the end of each chapter, Wallerstein outlines possible courses of action that parents can take to ease the transition and minimize the long-term effects of divorce. She encourages parents to communicate on an individual level with their children so they can maintain a sense of safety during this confusing and often frightening transition in their family structure.
The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce is a rare example of the personal melding seamlessly with the professional.
Statistics and policy line up beside case studies and interviews that put a face on the long-term consequences of divorce on children.
While the media may favor stories of the rich and powerful parting ways, the real story lies in their children - and who they will grow up to be in the new family structure their parents have created.
By taking a closer look at the children, Wallerstein, Blakeslee, and Lewis offer insight into hearts of those who often go unnoticed in the wake of divorce. For adult children of divorce, it may be able to offer information, answers – and maybe hope.
Divorce is rarely easy, both for the children and the couple. Therapy for the children, individuals, or the family can help ease the transition for all parties involved. For more information, contact Nassau Guidance and Counseling today at (516) 221-9494.