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WE'RE STILL FAMILY: What Grown Children Have to Say About Their Parents' Divorce

Constance R. Ahrons, Author
Constance R. Ahrons, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (281p) ISBN 978-0-06-019305-8
Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-06-093120-9
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In 1979, sociologist Ahrons randomly selected 98 pairs of divorced parents in Wisconsin for a five-year study. As she reported in 1994's The Good Divorce , while everyone handles the divorce process differently, "divorce doesn't destroy families," even if it rearranges and expands them to embrace new members. This reassuring viewpoint has been attacked by researchers like Judith Wallerstein, who argue that divorce's damage may not appear for a decade or more, when ACODs (adult children of divorce) struggle unsuccessfully to bond with partners. In response, Ahrons went back to her original research panel to learn how their children fared. Her team managed to interview an astounding 90% of the original cohort's children. Approximately three-fourths of these 173 "children" (now 30-somethings) thought their parents' divorces were a good idea, and that parents and children were better off than if they'd stayed together. Their comments on what made a difference to them when their parents were divorcing are instructive. Kids are very tuned into—and upset by—parental warfare, so "how parents relate to each other" is key. Parents battle over joint custody schedules, oblivious to how stressful the transitioning between parents can be. Ahrons reminds parents it's not the quantity of time they spend with their child, but the quality of relationship they establish: reliability, consistency and genuine interest in their lives are what matter most to children. More prescriptive than descriptive, Ahrons's supportive guidebook should aid anyone trying to make a "good divorce" better. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (June)

Forecast: Ahrons's reassuring book will appeal to divorcees who want to be civilized and think positive. The author will embark on a four-city publicity tour.

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