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In 1986, the Children’s Rights Coalition gained the attention of policy makers by publishing a short piece that combined the opinions of mainstream researchers with the comments of children caught in a custody trap. Titled The Children’s Choice, the piece was responsible for incorporation of a State Policy encouraging shared parenting in at least one state (Texas). Excerpts from The Children’s Choice, including an updated section titled The Victims Speak, a collection of comments by children noted in the professional literature, follow. (February 1998)

Children's Post-Divorce Needs
— Concerned Parties Speak —

Excerpted from The Children's Choice, first published by the Children‘s Rights Coalition in 1986

Social workers become legal gurus, judges become sociologists, emotions run high, adults fight for "territory," opinions become polarized, "hired guns" abound, and laymen become "experts." Through all this, monetary self-interest appears to be given first consideration with "best interest" being bought and sold on an open market.

Let's see what the experts have to say about maximizing children's post-divorce exposure to both parents.

The reader should note that researchers are united in a singular opinion about sole custody, it doesn't work. The only sole custody decision that works is the one where the parents leave the courtroom, laugh at the division of powers, and continue to work together for the betterment of their children, i.e.: informal, extralegal joint custody.

While these same experts have long felt that the best thing for children following the divorce or permanent separation of their parents is joint custody, they had not often agreed on what was best when either parent is opposed to shared parenting. Finally, states are recognizing that alleviating the acrimony of divorce and implementing a post-divorce dispute resolution system will insure that children enjoy the full benefits of joint custody, post-divorce, without having to suffer the adverse consequences associated with combative parents.

Recent studies appear to indicate that shared parenting fulfills the broadest expectations of its supporters (and of children).

Dr. El Roman has provided an excellent overview of the literature and it is a synopsis of his latest work with which we open this examination of the professional literature.

Psychologists and Sociologists Speak

Note that as early as the mid-1970s social scientists were calling for presumed joint custody, mediation, and judicial training.

Roman, El, pH.D., : "Joint Custody Fathers…An Update" in Fatherhood and Divorce: The Struggle for Parental Identity : Chapter 5, 1986

The social and economic structure of contemporary American society has changed rapidly over the past decade. Legal practices in the field of divorce law and in the actual behavior of divorcing couples demonstrate that the patterns that were unsatisfactory in the past are presently amenable to constructive and beneficial change. Joint custody, a shared flexible division of parental responsibility without rigid formulas in time, space, and responsibility, is far more emotionally sound and logical for many families as the optimal outcome under conditions of divorce.

It would be far preferable, in spite of the progress achieved to date, if the courts would begin with a clear presumption in favor of joint custody in all cases. The assumptions that underlie the policy of generally granting custody to he mother are outmoded, unrealistic, and damaging…. Women have far different aspirations now than they had even as recently as ten years ago. Maternal custody as a presumed preference is the shadow of a world that no longer exists except in the minds of those who unrealistically still cherish the imperfect past.

The lawyers and the courts which were far from attentive to the little available research on joint custody now have more in the way of positive results to guide them in their judgement for the optimal response in custody decisions. … Even a cursory historical review of the logical underpinnings for custody decisions inexorably leads us to the conclusion that the time for a new operational method, to wit, joint custody, is in order. All is change and the social practices must change together to keep the social fabric intact.

The concept of maternal instinct on which the judicial opinions of the early 20th century relied is an invention that was required by the economic structure and division of functions that were dominant at the time. The urbanization and industrialization of American society separated the social life of the family from its economic sources.

Folberg, Jay : Joint Custody and Shared Parenting : The Bureau of National Affairs : 1984

It appears that the divorce having the least detrimental effect on the normal development of children are those in which the parents are able to cooperate in their continuing parental roles.

Parental cooperation cannot be easily ordered or legislated, but it can be professionally, judicially, and statutorily encouraged and endorsed.

"Winner take all" sole custody resolutions tend to exacerbate parental differences and cause predictable post-divorce disputes . . . .

…a majority of divorcing parents…are capable of joint custody.

We too often forget that one of the most noble functions of law is to serve as a model of expected behavior. Past custody policy and professional skepticism have helped create a model of one-parent families and parental hostility following divorce. Joint custody provides a model of cooperation and continuing parenting. Shared parenting is a positive and reasonable standard of expected parental behavior.

Kelly, Joan, Ph.D. : Further Observations on Joint Custody ; University of California at Davis Law Review, Vol 16

We have learned that the ability to cooperate around parenting issues can be encouraged and enhanced with limited and relatively inexpensive education, counseling, or skillful mediation.

(Fourth) I am concerned about the position that argues that joint custody should not be awarded when parents do not agree.

In these cases it is almost always the woman who is opposed to joint custody. Women do not need to ask for, not agree to, joint custody. They are presumed by society, lawyers, the courts, and themselves to have a right to keep the children in their care and protection.

It is the father who must ask for joint custody and it is often in the mother's power to agree or disagree.

The mother's position is particularly enhanced if she knows that a refusal to share parenting with her spouse will preclude a joint custody order regardless of her reasons for denying joint custody.

In this context, it would be important to study women who refuse a request for joint custody.

Potash, Marlin S., Ph.D. : Psychological Support for a Rebuttable Presumption of Joint Custody : Probate Law Journal, Vol. 4, 17, 1982

By presuming joint custody as early as possible in the court process, parties are impelled to attend to the child's needs, thereby encouraging mature behavior and discouraging divisive, childish conflict.

Shared parenting with mutual responsibility -- joint custody -- is in the best interest of the child, parents, society, and the court system. Those courts can assist the parents in settling their own disagreements by providing a context for negotiation and helping to mold specific child-centered joint custody agreements.

Simring, A. Sue Klavans, Doctoral Candidate, Columbia University : Fathering in Joint Custody Families : A Study of Divorced and Remarried Fathers : Dissertation, 1984

The quality of the relationship between the mother and the father, especially at the time of separation, does not predict whether a joint custody arrangement can work.

If there is a legal and social expectation that parents must negotiate with each other, there is a higher likelihood that it will occur than if the expectation is that they are too embittered to even talk to one another.

Many fathers in conflictual situations stated that joint custody could be successful if the legal agreement specifically enumerated the responsibilities of each parent and did not depend on their good will towards each other as a means of resolving differences.

Nunan, Shary Anne, Doctoral Candidate, California School of Professional Psychology, Berkeley : Joint Custody Versus Single Custody Effects on Child Development : Dissertation, 1980

In general, it seems that the advantages of joint custody, for the children in this study, outweighed the disadvantages . . . inherent in such an arrangement.

Pi-Nian Chang, Ph.D. & Amos S. Deinard, M.D.; Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis : Single Father Caretakers : Demographic Characteristics and Adjustment Processes : American Journal of Orthopsychiatry - April 1982)

…the presumption that the mother is the better parent…and thus better fit to be the custodial parent, has dominated most divorce hearings and court decisions for the past 50 years.

The societal attitude that fathers should be working regardless of the presence of dependent children…Single custodial mothers, on the other hand, have the option of either working or staying home, either of which is condoned by society."

Alexander, Shanon J., M.A., Family Relations division of Home Economics, Florida State University : Protecting the Child's Rights in Custody Cases : The Family Coordinator - Oct. 1977

(Emphasizes the cumulative stress on the child rather than looking at divorce as an isolated event in the child's life.)

(Relationships among family members) do not end when divorce occurs (they are) merely altered….

Current patterns of custody, visitation, and child support show low deviations from the traditional mother custody, bimonthly visitation with a father who pays child support.

This fact challenges any supposition that arrangements are tailored to meet the specific needs of the particular family. It is more logical to conclude that these decisions are made according to fairly rigid, conventionalized standards that poorly accommodate the variety of circumstances among individual families in minimizing stressful situations. (several sources are quoted).

(The) duration of contact with the father was directly related to the quality of the father-child relationship and, indirectly, to the child's adjustment.

(The) key factors (are:) insure that the father (has) easy access to his children and input into his children's lives, both of which are frequently denied fathers in actual practice.

(Results) show better results for joint custody than sole custody.

(The) relitigation rate for joint custody was half that for sole custody (16% vs. 32%).

Lowery, Carol and Settle, Shirley, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky : Effects of Divorce on Children : Differential Impact of Custody and Visitation Patterns : Family Relations - Oct. 1985

…guidelines…advocated to protect the child's 'best interests'.

Recommends training for judges who will hear divorce cases.

In reviewing the courts' traditional "judgment" in custody matters, she states, "Even after the 'best interests' became the guideline, rarely was the choice given scrutiny. The mother was given custody because it was assumed she was the person who could take care of the child. Only occasionally was her fitness investigated. Even though the law has often been changed . . . many judges' decisions do not demonstrate equal consideration.

Jacobson, Doris S., Ph.D., Professor of School of Social Welfare, University of California @ L.A. : The Impact of Marital Separation/Divorce on Children - Parent and Child Separation and Child Adjustment : Journal of Divorce - Summer 1978 {30 families - 51 children}

Findings indicate a statistically significant association between time lost in the presence of the father and current adjustment. The more time lost, the higher the maladjustment score.

(Of those families in the sample) in which custody had been decided by the court, there was one family in which there was joint custody. In all other cases, whether custody had or had not been determined by the court, children lived with their mothers.

(Story) of a 6 year old boy who, when asked what the most difficult aspect of his family situation was, responded tearfully, 'I miss my daddy.' He had not seen his father for 2 months.

. . . an 8 year old boy complained about the interference of the extended family in allowing him to telephone his father. He had learned to put through emergency calls to his father quickly when others were not around.

…the direct impact on the child's psyche of reduced contact with the father is an important factor to be considered in further research.

Elkin, Meyer, MSW, Founder of Association of Family Conciliation Courts & Editor of the Conciliation Courts Review : The Missing Links in Divorce Law: A Redefinition of Process and Practice : Journal of Divorce - Vol. 6, # 1/2 - 1982

That such law, as practiced in this country and elsewhere is a reflection of another time, another age that no longer exists.

…both divorced parents should continue to be deeply involved with their children and be given permission by the court and lawyers to do so.

Families are forever. A divorce ends a marriage but does not end the family. It rearranges the relationships among its members in a variety of ways….

Judicial decisions . . . usually fail to meet the wishes and needs of the parties and the children.

Radin, Norma, University of Michigan & Abraham Sagi, University of Haifa : Childrearing Fathers in Intact Families, II : Israel and the USA : Merrill-Palmer Quarterly - Jan. 1982

(Findings that) in both countries (USA & Israel) the child's internality was positively related with paternal involvement in childcare.

…that children reared in nontraditional families will manifest more internality than their peers in traditional homes.

…both social learning theory and reciprocal role theory suggest that youngsters in families where fathers are primary caregivers will adopt non-sextyped perceptions of mothers and fathers.

(The) children reared in homes where fathers have a major role in their upbringing, tend to be more internal, more empathetic, and hold less stereotyped views of paternal role.

…considerable father presence is associated with an internal locus of control of children.

Shiller, Virginia M., Ph.D., Bush Center in Child Development & Social Policy, Yale University : Joint Versus Maternal Custody for Families With Latency Age Boys : Parent Characteristics With Child Adjustment : American Journal of Orthopsychiatry - July 1986 (Study involved boys aged 6 - 11, 1 - 6 years after divorce : 20 joint physical custody families and 20 maternal custody)

(Joint custody) fewer emotional and behavioral problems….

(Joint custody) classroom adjustment…superior….

Beeson, Betty Spillers, Professor and Coordinator of Early Childhood Education, Ball State University : Yours, Mine, or Ours? : Child Custody Decisions : Childhood Education - Sept./Oct. 1984

(The) importance of a continued relationship with both parents.

Children whose relationship with their fathers was disrupted were more vulnerable to a wide range of problems.

(The joint custody) children had a better self concept….

…lack of dire consequences for the children as predicted by judges and some psychologists.

Judges are more readily acknowledging that their area of legal expertise does not equip them to make such decisions based solely upon points of law.

Clingempeel, W. Glenn, Department of Psychology, Temple University & N. Dickon Reppucci, University of Virginia : Joint Custody After Divorce : Major Issues and Goals for Research : Psychological Bulletin - Vol. 91, # 1 - 1982

Joint Custody comes out very well as do fathers who want to remain involved. The article has copious quotes from the articles recommending joint custody and it appears that this is the author's vent.

(Joint custody) does not mean that physical custody is necessarily divided equally …

(Joint custody means) both parents have equal input in major decisions affecting their children….

(The) adjustment of children is related to the quality of their relationship with both parents. (emphasis is the author's)

(The) children (were) dissatisfaction with the paucity of visits under the 'reasonable visitation' standard (often translated into visiting on alternative weekends)."

…frequent visits (had a) positive effect on adjustment….

DeFrain and Eirick, 1981

… fathers tended to move less after divorce than did mothers … mothers more often have custody of the children (and) this means that the children (suffer) not only loss the relative loss of the father from the home … but the loss of the home itself, (as well as) neighborhood friends, and other familiar surroundings.

Additionally, other studies have found:

Boys in joint custody were significantly better adjusted than boys in sole custody (Pojman, 1982);

joint custody fathers were significantly more involved than sole custody fathers and indicated less court use (Bowman, 1983);

Children were "thriving", not just "adjusting" in JMC (Roman & Haddad, 1978);

Children in SMC show significant behavior problems (Touliatos & Lindholm, 1980);

Adults who are children of divorce had as a group higher rates of divorce than adults who were raised in intact homes. (Pope & Mueller,1976);

In comparative tests, joint custody boys were better adjusted than maternal custody boys. (Shiller, 1984);

Children whose parents shared residential care of the child were rated better adjusted by their mothers. (Cowan, 1982);

Parents with joint physical custody are less likely to litigate than parents with only joint legal custody. Joint custody parents are less likely to litigate when they are must bargain in the shadow of a strong joint custody statute. (Alexander, Ilfeld, & Ilfeld, 1982);

Joint custody awards appear particularly beneficial to mothers. (Hanson, 1986);

When parents were asked to imagine themselves in one of three custody situations, the sole custody arrangement when compared to the joint custody one encouraged punitive behavior and concern for self-interest. (Patrician, 1984);

Fewer joint custody cases than sole custody cases were relitigated. (Phear, Bech, Hauser, Clark, & Whitney, 1984);

Children from joint custody families were more satisfied with time spent with each parent than children from sole custody families. (Welsh-Osga, 1981);

Negative feelings are intensified for children in sole custody families. (Karp, 1982);

Of 28 families mediated into joint custody over their sole custody wishes, none returned to court for litigation. Joint custody awards over the objection of one parent have proven successful. (Irving, Benjamin, & Trocme, 1984).

The Victims Speak

Now lets listen to the children, as reported by the experts in the previous chapter. These are children of sole-custody homes. Homes where the custodial parent (usually the mother) is overburdened, overworked, and often unable to cope as a single parent.

The reader might think about what it is like to be lonely, to be separated from a loving parent, to lie awake at night wondering if you are the cause of that separation … as many of these children do.

One must consider, when reading these reports, that the child misses his or her mother just as much when daddy is given sole custody. The point being that neither parent should be given the right to "win" custody -- children are not a lottery or a prize to be won by the highest bidder -- they are our future and society should develop legal procedures that insure that children have maximum access to both parents following separation or divorce.

Perhaps the real tragedy of divorce is that there are often two culprits in the process as so well stated by these adolescent children (Wallerstein, 1983)

"My parents cheated and lied, but I decided never to do that."

"I will live with a guy for a long time. I won't rush in."

They should both have been more considerate. My mother is selfish and my father should never have married."

The trouble with my parents is that they each gave too little and asked too much."

Wisdom from the victims, but courts should not amplify these problems -- courts should develop procedures which soften the blow to the victims, the children.

Sex abuse allegations abound in divorce proceedings, but researchers find many children behaving in a way that might be considered "proof" of sex abuse when, indeed, there has been no such abuse. It appears that much of the behavior which the courts and some "child abuse specialists" consider proof of sexual abuse is simply a natural response to separation and divorce.

From the mouths of babes . . . :

Roger, Aged 7, talking to the therapist: "I have to hold it 'cause I'd be crying all the time" and noted that it would be very embarrassing to cry at school. He had started by asking if the therapist had heard the "…bad news…." about the divorce. He mournfully related how he gets his own breakfast and lunch because his mother didn't get up in the morning like she used to, "She must be sick." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Jenny was tense and reluctant to talk, remembering at first only that she told her parents "…over and over again…." long before the divorce "…you'd better not get a divorce" Her sense of emptiness…inability to think of three wishes, stating instead that she didn't have any favorite things "…in school, at home, or anything."

In the second interview, she wondered sadly why children usually live with their mothers, expressing again the wish to live with both parents.

In the last interview, Jenny volunteered that she had finally thought of her three wishes: "First, that my daddy would come home. Second, that my parents would get back together. And third, that they would never, ever divorce again." Sadly she said, "It will never happen, I won't get any of my wishes." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Richard, eight years old: At first unable to express any thoughts or feelings about the divorce. His play during the sessions revealed a child preoccupied with his own vulnerability, his feeling that nothing in his world was safe from attack. (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Dan, aged eight: His mother was angrily attempting to prevent any contact with the boy's father. Despite his heroic denial, Dan's anguish about the divorce was all to evident in his attempts to avoid discussing it, his admitted loneliness, and the great interest expressed in other families that were divorcing. Dan requested another interview several months later to talk of the "…awful bad problems I'm having sleeping at night," … Dan sadly shared the conviction…that both he and his mother wished that she was still married to his dad. (His) clear desire for his parents' reconciliation expressed as well the wish to repair and make whole the fragments of his torn self. (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Karen, age seven: (She) admitted she had one problem with the divorce, that of finding her father a place to live. Karen's compulsive overeating and weight gain since the separation were highlighted in her puppet play, as she directed the whale to say, "Please make me not eat this poor little girl." Later she warned the therapist, "You'd better not ask me any more about the divorce…I'll get hungry." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Sonia rushed into her classroom and announced "…with glee…." that her father had moved out the night before. Soon thereafter, she began vomiting in her breakfast, and alternately clung to and angrily shouted to her mother. Fearfully and repetitively she asked her mother, "Don't you love me?" For Sonia, the separation meant the loss of the parent that clearly favored her, while she remained in the custody of a rejecting mother who openly preferred her sibling. (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Tim, eight years old: Had been told repeatedly by his mother, "Your father left us…he rejected all of us." (Example of) an angry mother that identified father as unreliable and unloving. (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Robert: Described his parents' divorce by saying, "It's splitting me in two." To emphasize his dilemma, Robert drew his hand hatchet-style down the middle of his forehead. (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Bill: Teacher reported that, since the separation, Bill seemed frightened and prone to outbursts of crying. At home, Bill was moody, irritable, and forlorn at the loss of his father. (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

John: At home, John's anger spilled out in temper tantrums, obscene notes, and frequent dinner table scenes. (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Becky: Lost complete interest in school. (The) school year . . . described by her teacher as "a complete disaster." Becky talked of reincarnation, wishing to come back as someone else, "So I won't have to hear my parents fighting over me." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Mary, aged nine: "… If my father could visit more often, I probably wouldn't mind so much." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

An eight year old: "They said it was going to be better, but it isn't. Its worse!" (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Burt (interviewed 10 years after the divorce) told us, "I hope no one has to go through what I do!" (Wallerstein, 1984)

Linda (interviewed 10 years after the divorce) said, "The hardest thing for me is that through the years the has been no one there for me." (Wallerstein, 1984)

Harry, (interviewed 10 years after the divorce), who had dropped out of high school and been arrested for stealing and selling drugs told us that he had a friend who had dropped out of school, but his dad had made him go right back. (Wallerstein, 1984)

Terry (interviewed 10 years after the divorce) said, "I wish my step-father would go back to his first wife. I wish my step-mother would go back to her first husband, and I would like my mom and dad to go back together again." (Wallerstein, 1986)

Sam (interviewed 10 years after the divorce) said, "Once people get married they should never get a divorce." (Wallerstein, 1986)

Linda (interviewed 10 years after the divorce) said, "If I had kids it would be real hard to get a divorce. Divorce sure isn't easy on kids." (Wallerstein, 1986)

Two year old D, a girl (mother had deserted the home): Became self-destructive, turned her anger inward and felt anxious and fearful of her father's rage and sadness, of which she felt she was the cause. Her anxiety level increased, she became more anxious, and she felt abandoned and rejected by her father and mother. Became accident prone and broke her arm and leg. (Rosenthal, 1979)

Three year old H, a boy (mother had deserted the home): Blamed himself for becoming overly aggressive after his mother left. He felt he deserved all the bad treatment from his father . . . identified with his father's rage and acted it out with other children. Became aggressive and tried to strangle children in the classroom and tried to kill the family's cat. (Rosenthal, 1979)

Four year old N, a girl (mother had deserted the home): Reacted to the loss with nightmares, depression, and withdrawal from peers and activities. (She had) strong guilt feelings which pushed her to a depressive stage. (Rosenthal, 1979)

Two year old boy, W (father had moved to another country): Developed nightmares, self abusive behavior, and reverted to baby talk. He tried twice to overdose himself with his mother's aspirin. He spoke of his wish to kill himself and to die. (In play) he acted out his fantasy of the all-powerful woman who could get rid of the father doll and the little boy doll. (Rosenthal, 1979)

Six year old girl, D (father had moved to another country): Became very listless, withdrawn, and developed several somatic complaints and sleep problems. (Rosenthal, 1979)

Robert: "I have to calm myself down. Everything is happening too fast." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Anna: Felt "sick to her stomach" and described the diffuse feelings of anxiety with which she suffered these days. (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Mary: Expressing joy that her mother had brought her back to the therapist to talk about the divorce because, "If I don't talk about it soon I'll fall apart." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Janet: Begged to return the following week, offering, I like to talk about my troubles." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Jim: His legs moved much faster when daddy was mentioned to him, was bravely trying to maintain his calm, and referred with some disdain to "Mother's divorce problem" and stated "I wonder who she's got now?"

When he had been told of his parents' decision to divorce, he cried, "Why did you have to wait until we were so old?" (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

David: Said darkly, "I don't try to think about it." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Bob: After his father left the home he sat for many hours sobbing in his darkened room. Later he would shamefacedly admit that he missed his father intensely and longed to see him daily. (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Jane: Cried on the telephone when speaking with her father, "I want to see you. I want to see you. I miss you. . . . We only see you once a month. That's not enough." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Paul: Responded to his father's departure by lying curled up sobbing inside of a closet. (He made) telephone calls to his father imploring him to return. (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Marian: Scolded, yelled, and berated her mother. Screamed in anger for several hours finally confessing, "Mom, I'm so unhappy," saying she felt "all alone in the world." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

John: Saying most of the families of the kids on his block were getting a divorce described them as, "They're so angry, they're almost going crazy."

His mother had left him at the doctor's office and didn't return on time. He cried, "She said she was doing errands, but I know she was with her boyfriend."(Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Amy: Said she was angry at Mom for kicking Dad out and ruining their lives. "She's acting just like a college student, at age 31 -- dancing and dating and having to be with her friends." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Ben: Accusing his mother, said, "You told me it would be better after the divorce, and it isn't." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

An adopted child: Screamed at his mother, "If you knew you were going to divorce, why did you adopt us?" (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Martha: Told her mother, "If you don't love Daddy, maybe I'm next." (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976)

Andy, aged eight: Was too fearful of tears to talk. (Kelly & Wallerstein, 1977)

Roger, aged seven: Admitted to feeling, ". . . very, very sad about the split" but said he couldn't cry, "I have to hold it in, 'cause I'd be crying all the time. (Kelly & Wallerstein, 1977)

RuthEllen: She said that she was having great difficulty with her friends, "They call me baby . . . they say I quit on everything . . . it ought to be my privilege to quit if I want to."

Later, she broke into tears, full of despair, she wished she were a baby because she would have both her mom and dad back together. "No one gives a damn about what happens to me? I even wish I would die." (Kelly & Wallerstein, 1977)

Jack: Would try to arrange for his mother and father to have dinner at her apartment, then say very explicitly, "Now all the family is together." (Finkelstein, Keshet, & Rosenthal, 1978)

Maggie, aged 3 1/2: When told of the pending separation, cried, became frantic, and regressed to earlier behaviors of wetting her pants and sleeping with a bottle.

Since the separation, she became very angry and cried hysterically at times, acting tough and telling both children and adults that she hated them. (McKinnon, 1987)

Matt, aged seven: Was placed in a residential treatment center for very aggressive behavior against peers and for running away from school. He was also inclined to suddenly, senselessly sock strange adults whom he passed in the street. (Tooley, 1976)

A boy (in nursery school): Would hit others, became startled by his own actions, and began to cry, saying that he didn't know why he did it. (McDermott, 1968)

A four year old boy: Began knocking down blocks and throwing other children’s toys, dishes, and puzzles. whenever he noted two or three other children playing house, they became his immediate target.

He would break into tears for no apparent cause in the middle of a game or on the merry-go-round. He would cry excessively, out of proportion to a real difficulty encountered, and state, "It's just not my day." (McDermott, 1968)

One nursery school child: Fled crying from playing house when asked to be a family member. (McDermott, 1968)

A boy (in nursery school): Assumed a father role when playing house but then would plead to the little "girl-mother" for food and to be allowed to sleep in the house, sucking his thumb, and able to do nothing but eat one imaginary meal after another. (McDermott, 1968)

A boy (in nursery school): Tended to loose his personal belongings and to wander about aimlessly, crying, bored, and detached. He forgot the location of his locker, his personal landmark at school. He became unwilling or unable to dress and undress himself any more. He repeatedly provoked rejections and hurts and made insatiable demands for affection and approval.

When disciplined he would cry, "You don't love me -- I know you like me but you don't love me. I know you don't want me in this school, you want me to go home, don't you?" He would hit other children and sob to the teacher, "They don't love me." He was referred to a mental health clinic for evaluation and treatment. (McDermott, 1968)

A girl (in nursery school): Grew increasingly irritable, tearful, tense, and bossy, lost interest in imaginative play altogether, soiled and wet at home and in school on occasion, chewed on the stuffed animals that she brought to school, began sucking her thumb, chewing her hair, and asking the teacher to readjust her clothing and to retie her shoes many times a day so that they would be tighter and tighter, apparently to heighten sensation and awareness of her body.

She would also pull up her underpants as high as she could, severely irritating the skin of her perineal region. She appeared to be masturbating in this way and eventually began masturbating openly with a dreamy, far-away look in her eyes. She was referred to a mental health clinic for evaluation and treatment. (McDermott, 1968)

A girl (in nursery school): Seemed quite popular with her peers, but on close study her relationships were quite superficial, with her frantic search for a real friend always being unsuccessful. Like many of the other girls (with divorcing parents) she tended to become more pseudo-adult and bossy, scolding and lecturing her peers with comments about their health and manners as well as the rules of the games. (McDermott, 1968)

A little girl (fantasizing about the absent father): "My daddy sleeps in my bed every night." She had not seen her father in many weeks. (Wallerstein, 1983)

A little girl (also fantasizing about the absent parent): "He will come back to us when he grows up." (Wallerstein, 1983)

Arthur, aged nine: "I'm at a dead end in the middle of nowhere." (Wallerstein, 1983)

Roberta, aged seven: "No one likes me because I don't have a house." (Wallerstein, 1983)

Gwen, a preadolescent: Complained that she had lost interest in her school, in her friends, and in her piano lessons, "in everything since Dad left." How can I concentrate at school thinking about Mom and Dad kissing and making love with other people?" (Wallerstein, 1983)

A 14-year-old girl: Had distinguished herself at school but was truant for the remainder of the school year following the parental separation and was found to be riding the local buses six hours daily preoccupied with suicidal thoughts. (Wallerstein, 1983)

A 14-year-old boy: In a school composition written five years after the separation, "My father picked up his suitcases one day and walked out because, as he said, he wanted his freedom. We thought we were a close-knit family, and it was an unexpected shock. It was the death of our family." (Wallerstein, 1983)

Pamela, aged 24: At the 10-year follow-up, told us, "I'm afraid to use the word love. I tell my boyfriend that I love him, but I can't really think about it without fear." (Wallerstein, 1983)

A 26-year-old man: At the 10-year follow-up, said, "Some day I will say to my dad, 'Are you proud of what you have done with your life?' " (Wallerstein, 1983)

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