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Adult Children Of Divorce Still Feel The Sting

A new comedy about adult children of divorce and what they carry with them.  It’s funny –and it’s not.

In the new film 'A.C.O.D.,' Carter (Adam Scott) reconnects with Dr. Judith (Jane Lynch), his childhood psychologist. (Black Bear Pictures)

In the new film ‘A.C.O.D.,’ Carter (Adam Scott) reconnects with Dr. Judith (Jane Lynch), his childhood psychologist as he deals with the ongoing effects of his divorced parents’ troubled relationship. (Black Bear Pictures)

We have images in our heads of the theater of divorce.  Mom or Dad or both sit the kids down on the sofa and deliver the news.  One way or another, it’s an earthquake.  Tears, sobbing, wounds.  A new film flashes forward twenty, thirty years to look at the deep aftermath.  It’s called “A.C.O.D.” – as in Adult Children of Divorce.  If that sounds like a scary condition or syndrome, the film suggests it is.  But it’s also a comedy – of people and personalities, hopes and fears and foibles shaped by divorce.  Up next On Point:  we talk with the director of “A.C.O.D.,” about adult life after the childhood experience of relationship failure.

– Tom Ashbrook


Stuart Zicherman, co-writer and director of “A.C.O.D.” (@StuZicherman)

Courtney Zazzali, Clinical Intake Coordinator at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. (@AckermanInstitu)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Dissolve: A.C.O.D. (Review) – “For most people, divorce remains a bummer, but it’s no longer inherently noteworthy or dramatic, at least not for outside observers. That puts the onus on ‘A.C.O.D.’ to find an interesting angle on the material. Its approach is to tell the story comedically, and well after the fact, through the grown children who have been shaped by their parents’ divorce.”

New York Times: So, It’s Your Father, or Me. Decide. — “In the film, the divorcés feud, but the Zichermans agree that their divorce was remarkably amicable: they had regular family dinners and even took a vacation together after the breakup, which Stuart Zicherman found quite confusing. ‘I’m very happy that you guys have such a good relationship,’ he said, ‘but there are times where it’d be much easier if you didn’t.’”

Watch the Trailer for ‘A.C.O.D.’

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  • hellokitty0580

    I’m an adult child of divorce. My parents divorced when I was in graduate school and at first I wanted to believe it wasn’t a big deal. I was an adult out in the world on my own; it couldn’t possibly affect me anymore. Many people believe it shouldn’t affect adults the way it does children. But after a year of living in denial, I realized that it was incredibly devastating. My parents never got along when I was little and I believe the divorce was for the best, but at the core of it all it has still been a loss of my family as I have always known it whether it had been a good family experience or not. Plus, I felt things got better in my family as I got older and as an emerging adult I thought I was past my family troubles. The divorce just brought all those painful memories I thought were in the past back into my present.

    • joseph makela

      at least you had both until young adult hood, i have but contempt for my male parent for “effing” the nuclear family.
      although i truly love who i am although my sis is an adult crack head…so effect/affect

      • hellokitty0580

        I think its a double-edged sword. Should parents stay together just for the sake of having two parents in the house despite the fact that their fighting incurs emotional abuse to the children? Or should parents divorce, try to be happier people apart, even though their aren’t two parents in the house? I think it generally depends on each individual family.

        • Sara W

          A friend once said to me “it’s better to come from a broken home than live in one.” AMEN. I lived in one during my very formative years and then my parents finally divorced when I was in college. I am a very functional adult except for my ability to sustain a (romantic) relationship. I have stopped trying to “find my person” at this point and am grateful for wonderful friends.

  • John Cedar

    One time my 12 y.o. step daughter complained to one of my friends that “you don’t know what it is like to grow up without your dad around”.
    My friend quipped back that “you don’t know what it was like to grow up WITH a dad around.” Then elaborated about the spankings and strict rules that he experienced and were commonplace when he was growing up…

    • joseph makela

      i can answer “i do” to both …
      lived with my sis and Mom – male parent off site.
      yet i felt the heavy hand and followed distorted life rules
      of a sociopathic abusive male parent.
      yet i lived “typical” middle class life…
      my sis and i were are intuit and he almost succeeded in crushing us WITH his LOVE.
      contempt is the feeling..

  • Wahoo_wa

    My mom was married four times. …at least she had a hobby! LOL

    • MsAbila

      Did she also collect houses as a hobby? (of ex-husbands… – like Zsazsa Gabor) ;)

      • Wahoo_wa

        No…she was too independent to do something like that. Although I wish she had!

  • homebuilding

    It’s germane to point out that Consumer Reports did a study (sample size, over 60,000) of the effectiveness of psychotherapy. While several types of psych approaches were seen as valuable by consumers,
    marriage counseling, by a big margin, was dead last (meaning that a monstrous percentage of consumers found it to be massively ineffective)

    We all pay a big price (societally and individually) for our
    –collective lack of preparation for marriage and
    –wildly unrealistic expectation for our partners (who, by definition, are unsurprisingly different people)

    The fairly and dreams of wedding preparation simply aren’t useful models.

  • Markus6

    I’ve never read the studies on ACODs, but I’m a bit suspicious. I looked into the research on ACOA (A is for Alcoholics) and it was extremely weak. Lots from therapists who’s samples were extremely biased (people who already had serious problems), lots from researchers who used college students, lots of leading questions in surveys. I suspect ACOD research follows the same pattern.

    Also there’s a tendency for people to search for any reason they can, for not doing well.

    All that said, there seems to be a strong correlation between divorce and serious problem for the kids, where the divorce happened at an early age for the kids.

  • joseph makela

    i did travel twice as much as the average kid, road trips with male parent and vacays with sis and mother. we were not rich- how did they do it?
    sheesh, i have trouble dating.

  • joseph makela

    i must have been 8-10, my sis 3 yrs older. i remember when answering the phone having to lie frequenly…but it seemed so natural, some faint nite cries, verbal spats but no blow-up.
    life is but a series of contradictions

  • joseph makela

    sorry Stuart – I can blame my dad for not following thru on his marital contract! follow your bliss when you are single, not as a parent.

  • viacarrozza

    The most important decision you make in your entire life is who you marry, period. You have to ‘go the seasons’ with someone so that you’re past the honeymoon lust stage. If the chemistry is over after you’ve gone the seasons (one year) then you have to move on fast. It’s the kindest thing to do for the other person and for yourself. You have to find your Beloved and THAT is a serious job…Your health, happiness, finances, dreams and future children all depend on this.

    • MsAbila

      Well said! We should teach our children how important their decision is about who they marry.

    • Bill O’Brien

      “You have to ‘go the seasons’…” Thanks. I like that advice. I hope I remember it when my kids get to marrying age.

  • Joe Mahma


  • MatthewNashville

    My parents didn’t get divorced, but I wish they had many times. The arguing and manipulating to get what one or the other wanted drove me crazy. I have to stop and think about how I interact with my wife to avoid making the same mistakes. Don’t know if it would’ve been any better if they had been divorced, but wonder sometimes if it wouldn’t have been. Having parents as good relationship role models is important regardless of whether they are married.

  • JonieCans

    This is going to sound bratty, but I always envied kids with parents who ended up divorcing. Now I realize it’s not divorce, but “insulating the children from conflict” that I envied.

    My parents should have divorced, but chose not to. They’ve mellowed with age, but I have trouble spending even short amounts of time with them together. They may have worked things out, but I still haven’t. I can’t seem to get over the years they dragged me through to get to the relative peace they enjoy now.

  • Cecilia

    What I learned from my parents’ divorce was that the best gift parents can give to their children is teaching them that it is ok to be happy. The most painful part of the divorce was not the separation, since my father had never been around anyway, but the fact that my mother never put herself first and never let herself be happy. Now I feel like I am not supposed to be happy because my mother has never been happy. My father did a lot of terrible things but he did teach me that it is ok to want to be happy.

  • KenderJ

    Wow, seems like there’s a new one every day. Adult children of divorced parents? What’s next, adult children of imperfect parents? I’m beginning to think some of this is to keep therapists employed.

    • homebuilding

      Yes, of course, Kender–and they’ll start by assigning a mental illness number to the person who has health insurance. (this number will dog them for the rest of their digital life, too)

  • Tony

    I am a 40 year old who’s parents divorced when I was 4. I, like one caller earlier said, was spared most of the negatives of the divorce. I truly believe the age of the child matters. My first cousins were both teens when their folks finally divorced. They grew up with turmoil in the home, and I believe we’re old enough to see the fallout. None of us have ever married, but I am in a long term, relatively healthy relationship. They, one whom spent 7 years in federal prison for online pedophilia, the other struggled with cocaine abuse and fathered two children out of wedlock and battles in court for custody of those children currently, both have had a much more difficult adult life. I have so much more to share, but can say here that I feel relatively adjusted thanks to both of my parents for keeping their respective issues with each other to themselves when I was a child. The most difficult part for me, and more so as I get older, is the anxiety I get when choosing where I go during the holidays- and keeping track of where I went the year before to try to keep it fair! I impose this on myself mostly, but my dad, who was the one who left, tends to lay more guilt on this topic than mom does… Huh…

  • homebuilding

    There is great value in books and websites pertaining to the field of relationship education.

    All authors and contributors are using studies with a very large “n” and it is educationally based–things women haven’t learned about themselves and men before……and vice versa

    Far more people have minor problems that deteriorate to major difficulty, simply because this knowledge has been absent and/or not discussed widely….

    The horror stories cited below, while far too common, are a small number, compared to the many, many poorly managed minor AND ORDINARY misunderstandings.

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