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Psychological Effects of Divorce in Children and Adolescents

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Michael Gora-Senghor

on 13 May 2015

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Transcript of Psychological Effects of Divorce in Children and Adolescents

Intro:
There are varying Psychological effects to stressful life events, especially in divorce. Both parties can exhibit signs of depression and anxiety... But what effect does it have on children?

How does it affect their development into adulthood?

Today, we will explore this subject and hopefully gain a better understanding.

Long-Term Impact of Parental Divorce on Optimism and Trust: Changes in General Assumptions or Narrow Beliefs?
(1990)
Franklin, K.M., Janoff-Bulman, R., & Roberts, J. E.
Summary
-This study elaborated the long-term effects of parental divorce in developing off-spring, into their adolescence, with an emphasis on their perceived levels of trust and marital optimism.

-Marital separation increases feelings of insecurity and anxiety, thus leading the child of divorce to develop with diminished levels of marital optimism and tust in a future partner.
Anxiety and Depression in Young Children and Divorce (1990)
Summary:
-This article studied the correlation between children of divorcing parents and development of anxiety and depression.

-It observed that young children were developing feelings of guilt and anxiety when confronted with this ongoing familial change.

-Clinical and empirical findings indicated that divorce placed children at risk for adjustment difficulties.
The Long-Term Effects of Parental Divorce on the Mental Health of Young Adults: A Developmental Perspective
(1995)
Chase-Lansdale, P. L., Cherlin, A. J., & Kiernan, K. E.
Psychological Effects of Divorce in Children and Adolescents
Journal of Clinical Child Psychology
Methodology
-Subjects were recruited in predominately white, middle-class, suburban schools in Rochester, NY area.
Two letters were sent for recruitment
**The study yielded 103 volunteers
By Michael K. Gora
-The measures for anxiety were determined by a 20-item State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children (STAIC)
-The measures for depression was
evaluated using the abbreviated
version of Reynolds Child Depression
Scale
-The parent evaluation was measured by utilizing a 24-item Parent Evaluation Form
The final measure was a Teacher-Child rating scale (T-RS)
Results?
The study's main finding were that young children of divorce were perceived to have higher levels of depression and anxiety in comparison to their counterparts (Children with intact families).

-Behavior of children of divorce was judged as more problematic. Children were also judged (by teachers and parents) to be more depressed

-Teachers reported that children of divorce also had more problems learning, than children with intact families.
Critique
Well organized, yet falters in diversity. Since the study was done in a predominately white, suburban neighborhood, the results can only correlate with that specific group and cannot be generalized.

Limited differences in cultural view.

No mention of predisposing mental illnesses before the study took place.


Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Methodology
Two separate studies were utilized.
Study 1
College-aged children of divorce and students from intact families participated to understand the relationship between marital separation and optimism about success of their own potential marriages later in life. 568 were recruited; 190 males and 378 females.
Study 2
S
ubjects were comprised of 114 college aged students; 57 were students whose parents have been divorced and 57 were the “intact family” students. The study was the second part to a two part study that examined marital optimism and trust.
Study #1
Participants were given a questionnaire that consisted of five sections.
Section 1
: contained a 32-item World Assumptions Scale that measured vulnerability-related beliefs about benevolence and meaningfulness of the world and one’s own self-worth.
Section 2
: explored beliefs about interpersonal relationships and the participant’s likelihood of a successful marriage, importance of long-term relationships, and their acceptance of their parents’ divorce (positive or negative).
Section 3
: Contained the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale.
Section 4
: Gathered basic demographic information.
Section 5
: Was only completed by those participants whose parents were divorced.
Study #2
The second part to a two part study that examined marital optimism and trust. Students were required to fill out a questionnaire based on general demographics, generalized trust, interpersonal trust in the context of a marriage, and interpersonal trust. The survey resulted with demographics not showing any significant difference.
Results from
both studies?
With Study 2:
Parental Divorce (PD) and Intact Families (IF) participants indicated no significance in generalized trust as well. However on interpersonal trust, respondents in PD reported less trust between divorced mothers and fathers. PD and IF respondents differed significantly on measures of trust and optimism in the context of marriage. This data revealed that PD respondents viewed their future spouse as less dependable.
With Study 1
: Results from the test suggested that PD (Parental Divorce) and IF (intact families) did not differ in terms of gender composition, year in school, race, religion, and whether their parents are still alive, however, it did differ in terms of reported family income with the IF reporting higher family income that PD. Results from the Zung Self Rating-Depression scale had no significant results. However, when the results on interpersonal items came to fruition, it was found that PD respondents felt they would be less likely to have a long and successful marriage.
Critique:
-I felt this study was executed in the best way possible

-The discussion of the data emphasized the rippling effect divorce can have into a child’s development into later years and interpersonal relationships and optimism of marriage.

-It even goes as far to state that, “given [a child of divorce] experience with their parents marital breakup, it is not unreasonable for such individuals to regard their own marriages with greater caution and pessimism” (p. 753).
Child Development
Summary:
-This study was conducted to understand even further the relationship of parental divorce and the long-term psychological effects that could affect the development of a child into a young adult.

-This study sought out to study 3 specific questions. “
(1)
Does divorce during childhood have long-term consequences on adult mental health, and are there gender differences?
(2)
Do subsequent life events or developmental capacities counteract negative effects of divorce?
(3)
When child and family characteristics prior to divorce are taken into account, is the relationship between divorce itself and adult mental health weakened?” (p. 1615).
Methodology:
-longitudinal study (observational research method in which data is gathered for the same subjects repeatedly over a period of time) of British children who were born during the week of March 3-9 1958. Of those, 3 different age ranges were chosen to represent important transition points in the child’s educational development. The subjects were to be interviewed at age 7, then again at age 23.

-In age 7, 11, and 16, information was gathered from parents and teachers. The school health service completed the medical examination and information measuring the child’s personality was based off interviews of parents and teachers. Cognitive understanding of educational material, in math and reading, was based off standardized testing in a school setting. When the child ascended into adulthood, their results were measured with Malaise Inventory.

*The Malaise Inventory was used to screen a wide variety of adult emotional disorders.
Results:
-Results suggested that following a divorce, there is an adequate increase of the risk of psychopathology—mental or behavioral disorder.

-The timing of divorce also suggested that there are some adverse reactions that can cause maladjustment in the early 20s. This is due to the child’s developmental transformations, understanding of their role, and sexual intimacy.

-Finally, the study expected to understand diverse developmental pathways related to the aftermath of divorce, but found that results countered their original hypothesis which assumed that divorce would have a stronger impact on children who could not adjust.
Critique:
-study contained much speculation based off of the data gathered.

-The study attained early data from teachers and parents which could have led to skewed and misrepresented results in the behavioral development in children into their adulthood.

-The authors even annotated that the scores were “highly skewed” (p. 1623).

-The authors established merely the framework for more understanding of the long-term effects of developing children in the realm of divorce.
Adolescent Adjustment and Well-Being: Effects of Parental Divorce and Distress.
(2006)
StØrksen, I. K.
Scandinavian Journal of Psychology
Summary:
-Conducted to measure the effects of a child (or adolescents) experience of parental divorce or separation and the psychological adjustment associated with this life stressor.

-Study also wanted to explore if there was a correlation between divorce and symptoms of anxiety and depression and if any effects were altered at the time of the incident (age of the subject, time since the divorce).


Methodology
-Two studies,
HUNT II
and
Young-HUNT
, were conducted to establish the data.
-HUNT II was a follow-up study of HUNT I which was conducted from 1984-86 in Norway. Data from HUNT II was gathered for a separate study and comprised of 66,140 Norwegian candidates above the age of 20; 46.7% were male.
-Participants for Young-HUNT were mainly gathered from Norway’s local school system and comprised of 8,984 adolescents, of which, 1,810 were child to divorced or separated parents. The mean age at parental divorce or separation was 7.7 years of age.
Methodology Cont'd
-The adolescents completed a questionnaire in one school hour followed by a physical examination and structured interviews.

-Among the adults in HUNT II, symptoms of anxiety and depression were measured by ten of the 25 items from a ‘Symptom Checklist-25 (scale of 1 “not at all” to 4 “extremely”).’

-Young-HUNT group, symptoms of depression and anxiety were measured by a five-item scale (SCL-5) which was proven “reliable” in other studies.”
Hoyt, L.J.
Results
-The results suggested that symptoms of anxiety and depression increased with age.

-Subjective overall well-being was reportedly lower in older adolescents than younger pubescent’s.

-Academic problems have increased with age for both sexes while boys reported more conduct problems while overall, conduct problems were shown to correlate negatively for both sexes.

-When it came to the correlation of time during a divorce and adolescent adjustment and well being, there was no evidence of any association of age at the time of divorce and adjustment.

-Through this study, it is understood that there were significant differences between the group of adolescents that had experienced divorce and the other group which had not.
Critique:
-This article was a surprisingly good read.

-The author established different variables that compensated for any basis not covered within the parameters of the study.

-It was concluded that adolescents of divorce were much more affected than their counterparts in all aspects of the study.

-The data was understandable (except for the math part) and made appropriate conclusions within the parameters of the study.

-Moreover, I would like to understand more how this affects them academically, whether their grades went down significantly, and if there was any type of intervention (counseling) that helped alleviate distress symptoms in participants of this study that may have misrepresented certain aspects of this data.
Parental Divorce, Familial Risk for Depression, and Psychopathology in Offspring: A Three-Generation Study
(2012)
Vousoura, E. C.
Journal of Child & Family Studies
Summary
-This study was conducted to understand the “link” between parental divorce/marital separation and child outcomes throughout 3 generations: The Grandfather, parent, and child.


Methodology
-The study discerned the grandparents as generation 1, or G1, parents to the offspring as generation 2 or G2, and the developing children known as generation 3 or G3.

-G1 were recruited from an outpatient research clinic at Yale University. Subjects were interviewed to rule out any pre-existing history of psychological illnesses. In G2, those who had “at least one depressed G1 parent were defined as high risk; those without a depressed G1 parent were defined as low-risk.”

-Trained mental health professionals administered diagnostic assessments using DSM-IV criteria.
Results
-Main findings were: “Psychopathology in highest risk children [. . .] was not related to parental divorce; (2) divorce had a significant effect on child outcomes only among high-risk grandchildren [. . .]; and (3) among low-risk grandchildren divorce had no impact on child psychopathology” (p. 722).

-The only psychological effect that had some significance was anxiety in association with divorce in high-risk children.

-According to the study, divorce did not “seem” to have a significant impact on a child’s mental health when parental depression is apparent.
Critique
-This study was a little refreshing to be honest.

-The article concluded that “familial risk for depression overshadows the effect of family divorce on child psychopathology” (p. 723).
*This means that the effect of divorce was somewhat irrelevant if the child’s family history had signs of distress to begin with.

-However, the only effect of divorce was found in high risk children and was associated with anxiety.

-But the interesting about this analysis is that it was true in grandchildren ONLY if their grandparent was depressed, but not their parent.
Conclusion
-Overall, the articles I have chosen were to understand the relationship between divorce and childhood development. If you notice, I placed these studies in chronological order to see if there was any significant development.

-Divorce, in itself, could be the catalyst in detrimental development of a developing youth.

-These studies lay the framework of a better understanding the behavioral correlation between mental health in a developing youth and divorce or marital separation.
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