Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 851–862 | Cite as

Divorce Stress, Stepfamily Stress, and Depression among Emerging Adult Stepchildren

  • Kevin ShaferEmail author
  • Todd M. Jensen
  • Erin K. Holmes
Original Paper


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.


Stepfamilies 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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Shafer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Todd M. Jensen
    • 2
  • Erin K. Holmes
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Social WorkBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkUniversity of North Carolina-Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.School of Family LifeBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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