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Dissertation

Adult adjustment to parental divorce in children

26 June 1991

Abstract

Divorce is an increasingly common problem and is disruptive for the children involved and society. Wallerstein and other investigators have examined factors which contribute to the adjustment of children before and after the dissolution of a marriage. However, only recently has there been an interest in the long-term effects of divorce on these children when they reach adulthood. A retrospective chart review of clients in a community mental health center was undertaken to determine if there are identifiable psychological problems in adults with a family history of divorce during their childhood. All clients had individual therapists; use of the community mental health center computer database insured that all active cases were included (N=273). Information not contained within the primary chart was obtained from the individual therapist. In particular, the presenting problems, severity of psychological dysfunction, and standardized diagnoses, as well as demographic characteristics, were analyzed for differences between adults with and without a history of childhood divorce (using standard statistical methods). The main hypothesis was that clients with a history of childhood divorce would differ from those without such a history with respect to presenting problems, DSM III-R diagnoses, and level of functioning. The alternative hypothesis was that the quality of parenting which clients received as children would correlate with their level of functioning as adults. Significant differences were not found for types of presenting problems, diagnoses or level of functioning scores between the divorce and nondivorce groups. There was a significant difference in level of functioning between the quality of parenting groups. The identification of specific psychological sequelae and therapeutic issues in clients with a history of divorce may provide a rational basis for improved mental health intervention by therapists.


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