Dr. James D. Sterling Reports Divorce Study Findings

Dr. James D. Sterling, Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai, recently presented a lecture at Mount Sinai‘s Department of Psychiatry on Dr. Judith Wallerstein’s landmark 25-year longitudinal research study and book “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.”

New York City, New York – November 5, 2012 –

Dr. James D. Sterling, some time ago, met with fellow clinical professionals at the Tuesday morning meeting of the Psychiatry Department of Mount Sinai Medical School to present a discussion of a longitudinal study of divorce’s rippling effects. In his lecture, Dr. James D. Sterling presented findings that suggest that the impact of divorce is far greater than was previously thought. Dr. James D. Sterling presented a discussion on Dr. Judith Wallersteins’, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.

Dr. James D. Sterling reported that the study, which followed subjects over a 25-year period, concluded that there were major differences between children who grew up in an intact family versus those who suffered a broken home. According to Dr. James D. Sterling, the study took into account 131 children whose parents divorced in the 1970s and followed these children into adulthood.

The study was significant in reporting the effect of emotional shrapnel in children living in post-divorce circumstances. Dr. James Sterling reported that the study’s main interests related to childhood development as it relates to divorce. Initially, the children who participated were between the ages of 3-18. All of the children were from white middle class, suburban homes.

Dr. James D. Sterling went on to note that the study determined that adulthood emotional capacity and overall mental health well being were the most significant effects of divorce long term. In his presentation of the study, Dr. James D. Sterling noted that the findings indicated that nearly a quarter of adults who grew up in split families were considered “troubled” at the 25-year post-divorce mark. This, reported Dr. James D. Sterling, was in stark contrast to the barely 10% of adults who grew up in a nuclear family that reported psychiatric symptoms.

Based on the study, Dr. James D. Sterling also discussed the idea that children of divorced couples tended to fear commitment, believing that relationships are meant for failure. Dr. James D. Sterling suggested that these feelings typically came from witnessing multiple failed relationships by one or both parents. The study illustrated that just a fraction of subjects were exposed to functional and welcoming relationships from either parent following the separation.

In other findings, Dr. James D. Sterling stated that the study indicated that a number of children of divorced homes entered adulthood with negative recollections of violence. The ones who did not actively recall physical confrontations between their parents had these memories present as recurring nightmares. None of the children with this circumstance received counseling until adulthood.

Dr. James D. Sterling concluded by noting the study uncovered a great deal of long-term emotional damage which resulted in poor social development. Many of the subjects had elected to remain childfree, citing an unfortunate absence of positive parenting role models in their own childhood.  Finally, Dr. James D. Sterling presented findings that indicated a stronger drive for higher education and workplace satisfaction in adult children of intact parental marriages.

Dr. James D. Sterling has served Mount Sinai’s Department of Psychiatry for three decades. He currently heads his own private practice, The NY Center for Psychotherapy, where he sees both individuals and couples.