Judith Wallerstein

1921 – 2012

Internationally recognized researcher, author and educator on the effects of divorce on children and families

Judith Hannah Sarestsky Wallerstein spent her early years in New York City where she was born in 1921 and her teen years in Tel Aviv with her widowed mother. Returning to the United States she secured a bachelor’s degree from Hunter College, received her Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University in 1946 and her PhD in psychology from Lund University in Sweden in 1978.

In 1980, Wallerstein founded the Judith Wallerstein Center for the Family in Transition, in Marin County, California, a major center for research, education and counseling for families in separation, divorce and marriage. Findings from her groundbreaking investigations, widely published in numerous books, scientific journals, and lay publications, generated controversy challenging a world minimizing the effects of divorce on children

She published three bestselling books about children and divorce: Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce (1980) with Joan Kelly; Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a Decade after Divorce (1989) with Sandra Blakeslee; The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: a 25 – Year Landmark Study (2000) with Sandra Blakeslee. Feeling weighed down by the study of broken marriages, she turned her attention to the other side of marriage studying and publishing The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts (1995).

From 1966 to 1992, Wallerstein served as Senior Lecturer Emerita at the School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley. She also held faculty positions at the School of Law, University of California, Berkeley; The Hebrew University, Jerusalem; and, Pahlavi University Medical School in Iran, and lectured at Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, Yale and other major universities throughout the United States and abroad. She was a Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center in Bellagio, Italy in 1992. She served as a consultant for numerous organizations including the Advisory Commission on Family Law to the California Senate Subcommittee on Administration of Justice; The Commission on Law and Mental Health, State Bar of California, and the California Senate Task Force on Family Equity. She served on the editorial boards of many major professional journals.

Wallerstein delivered hundreds of presentations to mental health, legal, medical and psychiatric organizations, hospitals and universities and appeared on “Oprah”,” the “Today Show”, “Good Morning America” and other programs. She addressed the annual meeting of the Chief Justices of the United State on advances in child development and attachment theory in July 2000.

Honors and awards included 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, among many others.

Phyllis Cath, M.D. writes of Wallerstein: “She is an example of the power of one person’s persistent intellect and courage. She was armed with research tools and psychological, psychoanalytic, and sociological sophistication. She was fueled by the need to master her own personal challenges and her commitment to each individual’s potential to improve the world. She made a difference.” Judith Wallerstein died in 2012 at the age of 90.

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