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Late psychologist pioneered research of divorce's effect on kids

In making child custody and visitation decisions, Colorado courts consider the best interests of the child. In determining that standard, child care professionals and other experts are sometimes consulted. Psychologist Judith Wallerstein, who recently passed away at the age of 90, was one such authority.

Wallerstein was among the first to show that the effects of divorce on children were long-term and sometimes appeared on a delayed basis. Her research focused on a group of families who had come to her therapy center for family counseling. She followed the children for the next 25 years, interviewing them at intervals of 5 years, and publishing her findings in a series of books.

Wallerstein's research refuted the belief that children quickly get over their parents' divorce. Rather, she found that the effects followed children into adulthood, manifesting themselves in poor academic performance, rage, depression and substance abuse. She also found that children of divorce had an especially hard time with intimacy and relationships.

Sadly, the idea of staying together for the sake of the children is not realistic for most couples seeking a divorce. In Colorado, the negative effects that Wallerstein documented can be reduced if the parents work together and agree on a parenting plan that allows the children to have meaningful time with both parents. Just as importantly, the parents should try to avoid protracted and bitter court battles that will undermine the child's sense of trust and security. An attorney can help facilitate your divorce proceedings, ensuring minimal traumatic effect on your children.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Judith Wallerstein dies at 90; psychologist was described by Time magazine as the 'godmother of the backlash against divorce'," Elaine Woo, July 4, 2012

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