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Questioning Credibility of Divorce Research

October 09, 2000

After reading the article about Judith Wallerstein's research on the long-term effects of divorce ("Grown Up and Messed Up: Following Up on Children of Divorce," Sept. 11), I lay awake half the night. My sleeplessness was not due to learning of the reported effects of divorce but due to the dishonesty of her research. Any credible research has a control group that helps determine whether the outcome of the research is, indeed, due to the condition that is being studied.

If Wallerstein had simultaneously studied children whose parents remained married, she may have well found that they were no less emotionally injured than the children whose parents had divorced.

For example, if she had studied my family, she would have learned that although my maternal grandparents remained married for more than 40 years, they were so miserable that my grandmother suffered from periodic bouts of severe depression, during which her five children were essentially motherless. If Wallerstein had studied my family, she would have learned that, although my parents remained married for 42 years, they hated each other for most of them. My father expressed his misery by being unavailable to my siblings and me, and my mother dealt with hers through continual psychosomatic illness and by requiring that we be her emotional props, which included sharing her hostility toward my father.

If Wallerstein had followed proper scientific method, it is probable that her findings would not have supported her preconception that divorce is bad.

DEAN AMSTUTZ

Pasadena

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I applaud Judith Wallerstein's sobering, realistic, helpful revelation of what moms have always suspected in their hearts about "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce" for their adult children. However, I suggest that research needs to probe a deeper truth for too many children: Why do so many mothers with young children seem to have no other way to protect themselves than the treacherous, destructive path of no-fault divorce?

I would suggest that the best-kept secret in middle-class, professional American families that seem to "have it all" is the desperation of wives and children living with emotionally abusive, angry, uncompromising men.

Given the financial hardship for women to fight to retain custody of even young children, the courts then routinely award joint custody, forcing the now helpless children into a long-troubled childhood, often with excessive time away from their mothers and controlled by a still-abusive father.

JUDY WEISS

Los Angeles

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