Divorce Stress, Stepfamily Stress, and Depression among Emerging Adult Stepchildren
- 3.4k Downloads
Several decades of research have shown that parental divorce can be a stressful experience for children and may lead to depression and other negative outcomes. Similarly, research has highlighted the stressors often induced by stepfamily formation and their effects on children. Although singular family transitions can exert influence, few studies explore how the combined stress from two family transitions may interact to influence long-term outcomes. Our study addresses this gap by using national data from 1142 respondents who experienced parental divorce and a subsequent transition to stepfamily life. Congruent with prior research, we find that retrospective reports of divorce and stepfamily stress is associated with higher depressive symptoms in emerging adults (18–30 years of age). We also find that stress induced by parental divorce and subsequent stepfamily formation significantly interact to increase depressive symptoms in this population. The research and clinical implications of our findings are discussed.
KeywordsStepfamilies Divorce Depression Family stress
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Human Subjects Statement
Data were collected after IRB approval from the first and third authors’ university, with protocol approval code #F120240.
- Amato, P. R. (2014). The consequences of divorce for adults and children: An Update. Društvena istraživanja-Časopis za opća društvena pitanja (Social Research), 1, 5–24.Google Scholar
- Amato, P. R., & Sobolewski, J. M. (2004). The effects of divorce on fathers and children: Nonresidential fathers and stepfathers. In M. Lamb (Ed.). The role of the father in child development (pp. 341–367). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.Google Scholar
- Cartwright, C., Farnsworth, V., & Mobley, V. (2009). Relationships with stepparents in the life stories of young adults of divorce. Family Matters, 82, 30–37.Google Scholar
- Cherlin, A. J., Chase-Lansdale, P. L., & McRae, C. (1998). Effects of parental divorce on mental health throughout the life course. American Sociological Review, 63(2), 239–249.Google Scholar
- Enders, C. K. (2010). Applied missing data analysis. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Hetherington, E. M., & Elmore, A. M. (2003). Risk and resilience in children coping with their parents’ divorce and remarriage. In S. S. Luthar (Ed.), Resilience and vulnerability: Adaptation in the context of childhood adversities (pp. 182–212). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Goswami, U. (2014). Cognition in Children. New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
- Jensen, T. M., & Bowen, G. L. (2015). Mid- and late-life divorce and parents’ perceptions of emerging adult children’s emotional reactions. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage. doi: 10.1080/10502556.2015.1046795.
- Jensen, T. M. & Howard, M. O. (2015). Perceived stepparent-child relationship quality: A systematic review of stepchildren’s perspectives. Marriage & Family Review, online ahead of print. doi: 10.1080/01494929.2015.1006717.
- Jensen, T. M., Shafer, K., & Holmes, E. K. (2015). Transitioning to stepfamily life: The influence of closeness with biological parents and stepparents on children’s stress. Child & Family Social Work. Online ahead of print. doi: 10.1111/cfs.12237.
- McKenzie, S. K., & Carter, K. N. (2009). Are retrospective measures of childhood socioeconomic position in prospective adult health surveys useful? Australasian Epidemiologist, 16(3), 22–24.Google Scholar
- Papernow, P. L. (2013). Surviving and thriving in stepfamily relationships: What works and what doesn’t. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Schwarz, N. (2007). Retrospective and concurrent self-reports: The rationale for real-time data capture. In A. Stone, S. S. Shiffman, A. Atineza, & L. Nebeling (Eds.), The science of real-time data capture: Self-reports in health research (pp. 11–26). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Stewart, S. D. (2006). Brave new stepfamilies: Diverse paths toward stepfamily living. Thousand Oaks, CA.Google Scholar
- Thoits, P. A. (1995). Stress, coping, and social support processes: Where are we? What next? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 53–79.Google Scholar
- Vrshek-Schallhorn, S., Wolitzky-Taylor, K., Doane, L. D., Epstein, A., Sumner, J. A., Mineka, S., & Adam, E. K. (2014). Validating new summary indices for the Childhood Trauma Interview: Associations with first onsets of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders. Psychological Assessment, 26(3), 730–740.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar