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Changes in parental distress following a child's divorce

Lisa Ann Elliott, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Research in the area of parental distress following a child's divorce has been limited. In this study, changes in parental distress, contact and assistance between parents and children over a 6-year period are examined. Two-wave pooled time series data from the National Survey of Families and Households are used to examine 5,338 parent-child dyads drawn from 1,788 respondents who reported on relationships with their adult children. Stress and life course theories are used as a basis for modeling predictors of parental distress following a child's divorce. ^ The adult child's divorce was associated with significant long-term declines in their relationships with their parents as measured by contact and assistance. Declines in parental assistance were significantly greater for divorced sons than for daughters, but both experienced significantly greater declines than their married counterparts. The effects of divorce on parent-child contact were similar for sons and daughters. The effect of divorce on these measures of the parent-child relationship were not affected by whether there were grandchildren, nor did it matter whether it was a son or daughter who had children. ^ Child's divorce was not related to parent's distress. Further, decreases in contact and assistance were not associated with changes in parents' distress. These findings suggest that parents' well-being may be less closely tied to parent-child relations than some previous work has suggested, at least for parents under 65. Although the effect is modest, analysis suggests that children's divorce is more stressful for older rather than younger parents. ^ A cross-sectional examination of the grandparent-grandchild relationship was included to probe differences between those with and without divorced children. The main finding of interest was that grandparents of divorced children have had primary care of a grandchild significantly more often than those without a divorced child. An examination the findings in light of previous work, along with suggestions for future research are presented. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Elliott, Lisa Ann, "Changes in parental distress following a child's divorce" (2005). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3176777.