Ahrons, Constance (Ruth) 1937-
AHRONS, Constance (Ruth) 1937-
PERSONAL: Born April 16, 1937, in New York, NY; daughter of Jacob Barnett and Estelle Katz (Golden) Ahrons; married (divorced) twice; children (first marriage): Geri Lynn, Amy Beth. Education: Upsala College, B.A., 1964; University of Wisconsin, M.S., 1967, Ph.D., 1973.
CAREER: Professor and psychotherapist. Mental Health Associates, Madison, WI, associate, 1968-78; Wisconsin Family Studies Institute, Madison, family therapist, 1978-84; University of Wisconsin, Madison, assistant professor, 1974-81, associate professor, 1981-84; University of Southern California, Los Angeles, associate director of Human Relations Center, 1986, associate professor, 1986-87, professor of sociology, 1987, professor emerita, and former director of marriage and family therapy doctoral training program. Private practice in adult and family psychotherapy, Santa Monica, CA, 1984. Visiting scholar, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1978. Council on Contemporary Families, founding co-chair and senior scholar. Lecturer, consultant. Divorce and Remarriage Consulting Associates, San Diego, CA, director. Television appearances include Oprah and Good Morning America.
MEMBER: American Psychological Association, American Family Therapy Association (member of executive board), American Sociological Association, International Sociological Association (member of committee on family research).
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy; fellow, American Orthopsychiatric Association; Outstanding Achievement Award, Wisconsin Library Literary Association, 1995, for The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart; Radcliffe Institute fellow, 2000-01.
(With Roy H. Rodgers) Divorced Families: A Multi-disciplinary Developmental View, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1987.
The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
We're Still Family: What Grown Children Have to Say about Their Parents' Divorce, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Also creator of the video Making Divorce Work: A Clinical Approach to the Binuclear Family, Guildford Press, 1995. Ahrons's writings have appeared in numerous professional journals.
SIDELIGHTS: Professor emerita from the University of Southern California, Constance Ahrons has researched families, divorce, and the effects of divorce for several decades. The results of such research are available in two popular volumes, The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart and We're Still Family: What Grown Children Have to Say about Their Parents' Divorce.
In The Good Divorce, Ahrons—herself twice divorced—presents evidence from families randomly selected to explore many of the concerns about the potential harmful effects of divorce. The ninety-eight families Ahrons studied were from Wisconsin, and her conclusion after two decades of research is that fully half of these had what she terms a "good divorce." She also proposes four models of divorced parents: "Fiery Foes," "Angry Associates," "Cooperative Colleagues," and "Perfect Pals," further arguing that what she labels the "binuclear," or two-household family, is more common in the modern industrial world than the traditional model of two parents and children living together in one household. Indeed, according to Ahrons, far from destroying a family, a well-handled divorce can be healthier for the children than a marriage filled with acrimony.
Mary Carroll, reviewing The Good Divorce in Booklist, called it a "landmark" study. Trudy Bush of the Christian Century, however, while acknowledging that Ahrons is "well-intentioned" in her study, also felt that the author's "vision seems utopian." As Bush pointed out, "binuclear," or blended families, "often do not function smoothly—which is one of the main reasons why second marriages end in divorce more frequently than first marriages."
Much of the criticism both for and against The Good Divorce was along the lines of progressives versus fundamentalists with regard to family values. Yet for Ahrons the truth of her conclusions lay in the people she studied. Thus in 2004 she returned to her original study sampling, contacting 173 children, or about three-fourths of the offspring of her original group, and conducted lengthy phone conversations with them. Her results, published in We're Still Family, bolster her contention that divorce need not be destructive. Of those questioned, seventy-six percent did not wish that their parents were still together, seventy-nine percent felt their parents' decision to divorce was a good one, and seventy-eight percent felt they were better off or not affected at all by the divorce. However, twenty percent of those interviewed did feel lasting impact from their parents' divorce.
Such findings run counter to those of other researchers, such as Judith Wallerstein, whose book What about the Kids? warns of the lasting trauma divorce can bring children. Library Journal's Kay Brodie felt that Ahrons's We're Still Family would thus be "a comforting and valuable resource for divorced and divorcing parents." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed that "Ahrons's supportive guidebook should aid anyone trying to make a 'good divorce' better." And Joseph di Prisco, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, praised Ahrons's "generous, wise and pragmatic" advice.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 1994, Mary Carroll, review of The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart, p. 376.
Christian Century, January 31, 1996, Trudy Bush, review of The Good Divorce, p. 109.
Library Journal, June 15, 2004, Kay Brodie, review of We're Still Family: What Grown Children Have to Say about Their Parents' Divorce, p. 86.
People, July 12, 2004, Champ Clark, "Kids and Divorce: No Lasting Damage?" (interview), pp. 127-128.
Psychology Today, May, 1986, Elizabeth Stark, "Friends Through It All; It's Not Easy to Have a Friendly Relationship after Divorce. But Some People Do and Are Better off for It," p. 54.
Publishers Weekly, April 26, 2004, review of We're Still Family, p. 52.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 20, 2004, Joseph di Prisco, review of We're Still Family.
USA Today, June 7, 2004, Karen S. Peterson, "Families Split, but Kids Survive," p. D8.
Constance Ahrons Offıcial Web site,http://constanceahrons.com (October 12, 2004).
HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harpercollins.com/ (October 12, 2004), "Constance Ahrons."
University of Southern California Web site,http://www.usc.edu/ (October 12, 2004), "Constance Ahrons."*