Postdivorce living arrangements, parent conflict, and long-term physical health correlates for children of divorce.

Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.
Journal of Family Psychology (Impact Factor: 1.89). 07/2007; 21(2):195-205. DOI: 10.1037/0893-3200.21.2.195
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The authors tested a biopsychosocial model in which young adults' long-term relationships with fathers and ongoing distress surrounding their parents' divorces mediated the relationship between disrupted parenting (i.e., exposure to parent conflict before the divorce and up to 5 years after, and amount of time with father postdivorce) and indicators of their physical health. University students whose parents divorced before they were 16 (n = 266) participated. Findings supported the model. The more time children lived with their fathers after divorce, the better their current relationships were with their fathers, independent of parent conflict. The more parent conflict they experienced, the worse their relationships were with their fathers and the more distress they currently felt about their parents' divorce, independent of time with father. Poor father-child relationships and more distress in turn predicted poorer health status. There was no interaction between exposure to parent conflict and time with father; thus, more time with father was beneficial in both high- and low-conflict families, and more exposure to parent conflict was detrimental at both high and low levels of time with father.

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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Mental health consequences related to divorce have been documented, but might be caused by concomitant factors such as conflicts and loss of parental contact (PC). We investigated these relationships and mental health among adolescents. METHODS: The study was based on data from four cross-sectional surveys carried out between 1997 and 2009 among tertiary school students in Førde, Norway. We established two groups according to divorce experience (DE) with or without loss of PC. Frequencies of DEs were calculated with 95% confidence intervals. The group with no DE was used as reference group in all the analyses. RESULTS: The divorce rate increased by 34% (6.8% absolute increase) between 1997 and 2009, but no sign of attenuated effects on emotional health was observed. Mental complaints were not attenuated as time since divorce increased. A majority of those losing contact with parents had no contact with their fathers. The study revealed only a modest increase of health complaints if PC was preserved, but a marked increase when the adolescents experienced loss of PC following the divorce. Interaction analyses showed no gender differences, and parental support and confidence in parent(s) did not mediate the associations between divorce and distress. CONCLUSIONS: Emotional distress after divorce is not attenuated as divorce prevalence increases, but the deleterious effects of divorce on the well-being of adolescents seem to be confined to those experiencing a concomitant loss of PC. Efforts aiming at reducing parental hostility and improving mutual parental responsibility and care therefore seem important.
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