Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Communication Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Jordan Soliz. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Sarah E. Wilder


Divorce is one of the most difficult life events an individual may face. Divorce impacts not only the individual who has to adjust to new physical and psychological conditions following divorce, but also extends to the many relationships in the divorcee’s social network. Central to divorce processes and relational outcomes is communication. One aspect that may influence the quality of divorcees’ post-divorce relationships and ability to adjust following the divorce is the provision of emotional support. In the current study, I examine a social network model of adjustment to divorce by examining the role of risk in seeking, and effectiveness of, emotional support provision in the relationships of ex-spouse, family, and friend. I then examine the influence of support provision on post-divorce closeness and relational satisfaction, as well as how the relationship qualities and emotional support provision in those relationships work uniquely and in combination with individual characteristics of the divorcee to predict adjustment to divorce.

Participants included 229 divorced individuals who completed a questionnaire. The questionnaire included items about demographic characteristics as divorcees and current adjustment to divorce. Participants also completed assessments about their ex-spouse, a family, and a friend relationship with regard to risk in seeking support, effectiveness of emotional support provision, and the current relational qualities with those individuals. Findings revealed risk in seeking support is predictive of less effective emotional support provision in the family and friend relationships. More effective support provision is predictive of increased relational qualities in all three relationships but is not predictive of adjustment to divorce. The current relational qualities with the ex-spouse, in addition to individual divorcee characteristics, were the only factors that emerged as predictive of adjustment to divorce. The results are discussed in terms of the methodological, conceptual, and theoretical implications for examining divorce using a perspective examining the network through multiple relationships.

Advisor: Jordan Soliz