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The effects-of-parental-divorce-on-young-adults

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  • 1. The Effects of Parental Divorce on Young Adults’ Intimate Relationships: Implications for Counseling Jane Slomski November 28, 2005
  • 2. Issue and Application
    • Past research has shown that parental divorce creates difficulty for children in their own intimate relationships when they reach adulthood
    • To what extent is this true and what can be done to help couples with concerns about their own marital stability?
    • Application: People who come from religious backgrounds have difficulty seeking help from their spiritual communities
    • Provide awareness and education
  • 3. Attachment Theory
    • Bowlby’s attachment theory:
      • Ability to form lasting adult relationships depends on attachment to adults in childhood
      • Secure attachment = supportive, encouraging parents who set boundaries and realistic expectations
      • Insecure attachment = overprotective, unrealistic expectations; foster dependence in children; children more likely to be in unhealthy, insecure, dependent relationships
  • 4. Divorce and Attachment
    • Hayashi & Strickland: Divorce as an Attachment Disruption
    • Hypothesis: Children who experience parental divorce will fare worse because attachment to parental figures is disrupted by trauma of divorce
    • Found that divorce itself not a factor in attachment to parents
    • A healthy relationship with at least one parental figure (not necessarily biological) during divorce allowed for healthy resolution of divorce experience
    • Love & Murdock: Intact and stepfamilies have same need for attachment and stepparents can satisfy need for attachment
  • 5. Integration of Divorce Experience
    • Shulman et. al: “integration” occurs when one can look back on experience with insight and acknowledge reality while looking forward to future
    • Children with “integrated” perception of parents’ divorce reported positive experiences, fulfilling relationships and better self esteem than those who were not “integrated.” (Inability to remember details, denial; of parents’ divorce linked to insecurity and lack of trust in relationships)
  • 6. Divorce & Trust
    • Past research has found parental divorce related to general lack of trust in intimate relationships
    • Need for commitment and attachment may lead to unhealthily dependent relationships
    • King: Secure attachment cannot exist without trust
    • Effects of divorce on trust not significant if secure attachment to at least one adult in childhood
    • More likely to form close relationships with mothers
  • 7. Inter-Parental Conflict
    • Riggio: Adults who report high level of conflict in parents’ marriages also report lower levels of satisfaction with own intimate relationships
    • Have seen parents’ marriages fail
    • Bring maladaptive conflict resolution styles to own relationships
    • Feel less anxiety about entering relationship (possibly due to more realistic expectations and recognition of divorce as an option?) (contrary to other research)
    • May be hyper-vigilant about conflict in own relationship
  • 8. Divorce During Adolescence
    • Richardson & McCabe: children whose parents divorced during their adolescence reported more stress, anxiety, depression, fewer social interactions, and lower self concept than those in intact families
    • “ Spillover” effect- conflict from parents spills over into young adults’ own relationships
    • Did not have significant effect on opposite sex relations; teenagers may rely more on outside sources for emotional support
  • 9. Implications for Young Adults’ Intimate Relationships
    • Wolfinger: inter-generational transmission theory- children of divorced parents are more likely to marry other children also from divorced parents
    • Family structure homogamy- we form families similar to the ones we were raised in
    • Spouses who were both raised in divorced households have increased chances of divorce themselves
    • Bring maladaptive communication skills learned from parents to own marriage
    • Marrying young = not adequate time to develop effective communication skills
    • ACD more likely to marry young; in search of commitment and acceptance
  • 10. Relationship Ideals
    • Conway et al: compared relationship ideals of intimacy and loyalty vs. passion between adult children of divorce and children from intact families
    • ACD- rated intimacy/loyalty higher than those from intact families as a whole; affection, stability, commitment, support, acceptance
    • Male ACD rated more ideals higher as a whole than males from intact families
  • 11. Religion & Divorce
    • There is a widespread need for education about and understanding of divorce in religious communities
    • Clergy leaders report feeling inadequately prepared to counsel those having marital difficulties
    • Many religious sects discourage divorce to the point that those having marital problems are ashamed to ask for help
    • People are unaware of the many resources available to them
    • Experience depression, anxiety, isolation, despair
    • Feel rejected by religious community that was previously a source of support
    • Important for counselors to be sensitive the importance of spirituality in the lives of their clients
  • 12. Marriage Counseling Steps
    • Couples counseling should focus on tackling problems as a team, not on the couple as individuals
    • View problems as separate from the relationship
    • Focus on strengths of each person and how strengths can contribute to solving the problem; emphasize intimacy, trust and teamwork
      • Set common goals/ remove individual blame
      • Realize that the problem is solvable
      • Come up with a solution
      • Make mutual commitment to long term change
      • Enact the solution behavior; solve the problem
      • Maintain the behavior; backtrack if necessary
      • Address how to solve problems in the future
  • 13. PREP (Preventative Relationship Enhancement Program)
    • Works with both secular and religious groups
    • Equal success with both lay and clergy leaders
    • Basic premise: harmful interaction patterns that threaten the security of the spousal relationship can be changed (criticism)
    • Makes people aware of these patterns and how they can avoid and conquer marital problems before they head for divorce
    • Couples who participated in PREP reported fewer negative interactions and more positive interactions than those in other secular marriage counseling programs
  • 14. Conclusions
    • Parental divorce does not necessarily mean divorce is inevitable for children
    • High quality attachment to adult figure is correlated with better outcome of divorce for children
    • Trust is correlated with secure attachment
    • Inter-parental conflict is significant to psychological adjustment but may be lessened by social influences outside the home
    • There is a tendency to form families like those we were raised in; children of divorce tend to marry each other; promote maladaptive behaviors
  • 15. Conclusions
    • Awareness
      • Communication; discussion
      • Pre-marital or marital counseling
    • Religious organizations can be better prepared to help couples with problems
    • Support those considering divorce in religious communities
      • No shame in asking for help
      • Early intervention might cut down on number of divorces