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Parental death or divorce in childhood: Problems, interventions, and outcomes in a school based mental health project


Children with histories of parental separation/divorce or death in a school based helping program with nonprofessional child-aides were compared directly to each other and to referred children without such histories on initial referral problems, treatment goals, and outcome measures. Children with separation/divorce histories were rated by child-aides as having more serious acting-out problems at referral. Aides also set more treatment goals aimed at reducing acting-out for such children than for those with parental death or without such histories. Child-aides also tended to rate children with histories of parental death as having more serious shy-anxious problems and set more treatment goals aimed at reducing such problems than for separation/divorce children. No consistent outcome differences were found between the groups. Implications of these findings for future program direction are discussed. The need for more truly preventive programming for children experiencing such events is emphasized.

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Author information

Correspondence to Robert D. Felner.

Additional information

Emory L. Cowen is Professor of Psychology at the University of Rochester and Director of the Center for Community Studies there. This research is based on a dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment for the Ph.D. degree at the University of Rochester. We are also grateful to Alice Wilson, Raymond P. Lorion, Ellis Gesten, Michael DeStefano and Raymond Francis for their contributions to data collection and analyses. Parts of this article were presented at the 46th annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Boston, April, 1978. This research was supported by Grant MH 11820-04 from the National Institute of Mental Health, Experimental and Special Training Branch and Grant NIH 4-SOC7-RRO7015 from the National Institute of Health, Biomedical Support Division.

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Felner, R.D., Ginter, M.A., Boike, M.F. et al. Parental death or divorce in childhood: Problems, interventions, and outcomes in a school based mental health project. J Primary Prevent 1, 240–246 (1981). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01158986

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  • Public Health
  • Mental Health
  • Health Psychology
  • Preventive Programming
  • Treatment Goal