Date: 06 Mar 2006

Long–term Psychosocial effects of parental divorce

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Abstract

Objective

The purpose of this 16–year follow–up study was to investigate whether 32–year–old adults who had experienced parental divorce before 16 years of age (n = 317) differed in psychosocial well–being or life trajectories from those from non–divorced two–parent families (n = 1069).

Method

The data were obtained from a follow–up survey of a Finnish urban age cohort from the age of 16 till 32 years (n = 1471). The long–term impact of parental divorce on a variety of outcomes in adulthood, including psychological well–being, life situation, health behaviour, social networks and support, negative life events and interpersonal problems, was assessed.

Results

Females from divorced compared to non–divorced families reported more psychological problems (higher scores in the Beck Depression Inventory, General Health Questionnaire and Psychosomatic Symptoms Score) and more problems in their interpersonal relationships. These differences were not found among males. Shorter education,unemployment, divorce, negative life events and more risky health behaviour were more common among subjects of both genders with a background of parental divorce.

Conclusions

The study revealed that parental divorce is an indicator of sufficient stress in childhood for its influences to persist well into adulthood, possibly with wider scope among females. It is important to recognise specific needs of children in the divorce process in order to prevent or minimize negative consequences and chain reactions during their subsequent life.