Judith Wallerstein

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Judith Wallerstein (December 27, 1921 – June 18, 2012) was a psychologist and researcher who created a 25-year study on the effects of divorce on the children involved.[1][2] She received a number of prominent awards and honors and wrote 4 best selling books.[1][3]

Judith Wallerstein was born on December 27, 1921 as Judith Hannah Saretsky in New York City.[2] Her father died from cancer when she was 8 years old. Wallerstein received her Bachelor’s degree from Hunter College (1943), her Master’s in social work from Columbia University (1946) and her Doctorate in psychology from Lund University in Sweden (1978).[4] She died at 90 years old June 18, 2012 from an unexpected intestinal obstruction in Piedmont, California [4][5]

Judith Saretsky Wallerstein
Judith Wallerstein.jpg
Born Judith Hannah Saretsky
December 27, 1921
New York City
Died June 18, 2012
Piedmont, California
Cause of death Intestinal Obstruction
Academic background
Alma mater Hunter College
Columbia University
Lund University
Academic work
Era 1921-2012
Main interests Divorce and the Family
Notable works Second Chances
The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce
What About the Kids
The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts


Judith Wallerstein taught as the senior lecturer from 1966 to 1991 at the University of California, Berkeley.[4] She held faculty positions at the University of California, The Hebrew University, and Pahlavi University Medical School.[3] In addition, she also lectured at Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, and Yale.[3] Wallerstein was a consultant for the Advisory Commission on Family Law to the California Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Justice, The Commission on Law and Mental Health, State Bar of California, and the California Senate Task Force on Family Equity.[3]

In 1980, she founded the “Judith Wallerstein Center for the Family in Transition” in Madera, California. The center provided counseling and education for divorcing couples and their children.[1] In addition, the center conducted a variety of research pertaining to divorce and the family.[2] Judith Wallerstein’s three best-selling books about children and divorce were: Second Chances, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, and What About the Kids.[5] In 1995, she published a book titled The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts, which was about making marriage succeed.

Wallerstein received many awards including: the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, The Koshland Award in Social Welfare from the San Francisco Foundation, Commendation from the State of California Senate Rules Subcommittee, the Rene Spitz Lectureship from the Denver Psychoanalytic society, election to Who’s Who in American Science, the Dale Richmond Award of the American Academy of Pediatrics, etc.


Wallerstein’s career was centered around a 25-year-long longitudinal study, the "California Children of Divorce Study," investigating the effects that divorce has on families.[1][4][6] She began her study in 1971 with Joan Kelly.[1][4] She followed 131 children between the ages of 3 and 18 from 60 divorced families in Marin County, California for 25 years, with intensive interviews conducted every 5 years [4]

From her research Wallerstein found that only 40% of children from divorce actually marry.[4] She discovered that the effects of divorce are more long lasting than most assume.[1] The age of child at the time of the divorce really matters,[1] the largest impact occurs during the period where the child of divorce is a young adult wanting a romantic relationship but afraid of failure.[6] Wallerstein also found that the quality of post-divorce life is crucial for the children.[1] In addition, she found that rates of financial support for college decrease after a divorce due to the large expense of the divorce itself.[6]


Although Judith Wallerstein had many allies and a number of best-selling books, she also had critics. Some criticized her for not having a control group during her 25 year study, they wanted her to have a group of families that were still together to compare the group of divorced families to.[1] In addition, the families she studied were all middle class and the parents were all well-educated, Wallerstein was criticized for not having a wider variety.[1]

Wallerstein's study exclusively examined middle-class Californians whose participants were pre-selected for therapy and psycho-analysis. She influenced a California court on child relocation, and was criticized by Richard A. Gardner.[7]

Feminists felt that Wallerstein was trying to encourage women to stay in bad marriage and discouraging divorce.[4] Wallerstein defended herself, saying that she wanted them to be aware of what their children would be going through after divorce so that they could better support them. She was not saying “don’t get divorced.” [1]

Partial bibliography[edit]

  • Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a Decade After Divorce (with Sandra Blakeslee)(Ticknor & Fields, 1989) [8]
  • The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts (Houghton Mifflin, 1995)
  • Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a Decade After Divorce (Houghton Mifflin, 1996)
  • Surviving The Breakup: How Children And Parents Cope With Divorce (Harper Collins, 1996)
  • The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25-Year Landmark Study (Hyperion, 2000)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Blakeslee, Sandra. "How One Woman Changed the Way We Think About Divorce". www.slate.com. Slate magazine. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Woo, Elaine (4 July 2012). [<http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-judith-wallerstein-20120703-story.html> "Judith Wallerstein Dies at 90; Psychologist Was Described by Time Magazine as the 'godmother of the Backlash against Divorce'"] Check |url= value (help). LA Times. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d "California Social Work Hall of Distinction". http://www.socialworkhallofdistinction.org. University of Southern California. Retrieved 2 December 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Grady, Denise. [<http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/health/research/judith-s-wallerstein-psychologist-who-analyzed-divorce-dies-at-90.html?_r=1&>. "Judith S. Wallerstein, Psychologist Who Analyzed Divorce, Dies at 90"] Check |url= value (help). www.nytimes.com. NY Times. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Johnston, Jan (2012). "A Tribute to Dr. Judith Wallerstein (1921-2012)". Family Court Review 50.4: 543–44. 
  6. ^ a b c Wallerstein, Judith (21 Sep 2000). [<http://video.pbs.org/video/12377684/> "THE OPEN MIND: The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce"] Check |url= value (help). PBS. Retrieved 1 Oct 2014. 
  7. ^ The Burgess Decision and the Wallerstein Brief, Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 26(3):425-431, 1998, http://www.fact.on.ca/Info/pas/gard98a.htm
  8. ^ Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a Decade After Divorce JS Wallerstein, S Blakeslee - Ticknor & Fields; u.s. edition (January 1, 1989) ISBN 978-0-89919-648-0