Remaking families: Adaptation of parents and children to divorce

Remaking families: Adaptation of parents and children to divorce

Kathleen Funder

Historical publication— December 1996
Remaking families: Adaptation of parents and children to divorce

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This book shows that, contrary to popular belief, most mothers, fathers and children appear to be living productive personal and family lives six years after separation. The study examines the effects of various adaptations in families over the divorce transition and their effects on the well being of both parents and their children. The author describes what can happen when families have time to readjust to the crisis of separation, and how parents and their children negotiate old and new relationships, and how new roles and old feelings affect their sense of well being. She places divorce in a broad historical and social context, and examines ways of thinking about divorce. Other areas on which the author focuses are: family structure and identity; economic and financial aspects of divorce; well being in step families; parent relationships and well being; and children's well being and family relationships.


  • Foreword
  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgements
    • Social history
    • Divorce trends in western countries
    • The Australian experience
    • Social change
    • Defining divorce
      • Separation as a pivot
      • Divorce as life transition or crisis event?
    • Identity and wellbeing
      • Transition and a sense of self
      • When does transition end?
      • Coping with crisis and later adaptation
    • Issues for research
      • Context of the study
    • Description of the study
      • Samples
      • The children's study
      • Measures
    • Post-divorce family structures
      • Broken families?
    • The families of parents
    • The families of children
      • Step-parents
      • Members of children's households


Although celebrated as a distinct event in and of itself, marriage in Western society marks a significant stage in the ongoing development of intimate relationships between the partners. Normatively, the process of relationship formation begins long before marriage and relationship development continues well beyond the wedding day.

Thus construed, marriage represents a transition in the development of intimate bonds. That transition process itself endures over time, ebbing and flowing between periods of greater or lesser stability. In contemporary Australia, the majority of marriage partners achieve levels of mutual adjustment which are sustained for their remaining lifetime.

For other couples, however, enduring adjustment is elusive; bonds of intimacy become unsustainable and divorce ensues.

In this, the third and final volume to emerge from the Australian Institute of Family Studies investigation of the consequences of marriage breakdown, Kathleen Funder, a Principal Researcher at the Institute, examines divorce, not solely as an event marking the ending of a marriage but as itself a stage in a process of transition which confronts the principals involved with challenges to adjust to their separate lives while continuing to be effective parents.

In Settling Up, the first volume in this series, what happened to the children, the division of matrimonial property and other aspects of the immediate economic impact of divorce on parents and children were all examined.

Settling Down, the second volume to appear, reported on the patterns of adjustment to new jobs, homes, schools and partners that had become evident between five and eight years after the divorce.

In Remaking Families, Kathleen Funder carries forward the longitudinal narrative of post-divorce transition and adjustment, giving particular voice to the perspectives of the children of the parents whose divorces form the primary subject matter of the two previous volumes.

The sequelae of divorce impact differently on the lives of parents and their children. Parents have degrees of choice and capacities for preparation, anticipation and negotiation that are not shared by children. Whereas parents embark on divorce in acknowledgment of the severance of intimate bonds, the children of divorced parents are confronted by the distinctive and different tasks of conserving relationships of significant intimacy across space and time. In its account of how children adjust to the process of constructing for themselves unified families out of distributed households, and of the individual differences that affect their so doing, Remaking Families makes a positive and significant contribution to the literature on the consequences of divorce for children.

Remaking Families describes the different pathways to postdivorce adjustment followed by parents and their children. In some respects these pathways are complimentary, in others less so. Understanding how the best interests of children are to be promoted in these contexts is not straightforward, nor is it always clear how the interests of children and parents can best be harmonised. In common with its predecessors in this series, Remaking Families will challenge and stimulate parents, policy makers, child and family counsellors and other service providers concerned to understand such issues and contribute to their resolution.

Harry McGurk
Australian Institute of Family Studies

Publication details

Historical publication
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, December 1996.
250 pp.

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