Divorce Science Research Updates– 5-22-2015

This week there are 7 new articles dealing with parent-child relationships postdivorce, alienated children interventions, stepfamilies, and predictors of divorce.  The work by Kalmijn exploring the variations in father-child relationships postdivorce is an important contribution to our understanding of the impact of divorce on parent-child relationships.  Also, alienation continues to be challenging for some families experiencing severe conflict, the work by Reay provides new ideas for helping these families.  See more 2015 articles and complete lists from 2010.

Parent-Child Relationships Post-Divorce

Davies, H. (2015). Shared Parenting or Shared Care? Learning from Children’s Experiences of a Post-Divorce Shared Care Arrangement. Children & Society, 29(1), 1-14. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/chso.12013

Kalmijn, M. (2015). How Childhood Circumstances Moderate the Long-Term Impact of Divorce on Father-Child Relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, , n/a-n/a. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12202

Help for Alientated Children and Families

Reay, K. M. (2015). Family Reflections: A Promising Therapeutic Program Designed to Treat Severely Alienated Children and Their Family System. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 43(2), 197-207. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01926187.2015.1007769


Ivanova, K. (2015). Relationship satisfaction of the previously married: The significance of relationship specific costs and rewards in first and repartnering unions. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0265407515583942

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, , n/a-n/a. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12237

Predictors of Divorce

Boertien, D., von Scheve, C., & Park, M. (2015). Can Personality Explain the Educational Gradient in Divorce? Evidence From a Nationally Representative Panel Survey. Journal of Family Issues, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0192513X15585811

Torvik, F. A., Gustavson, K., Roysamb, E., & Tambs, K. (2015). Health, health behaviors, and health dissimilarities predict divorce:  Results from the HUNT study. BMC Psychology, 3(13) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40359-015-0072-5

Help for Alientated Children and Families

Reay, K. M. (2015). Family Reflections: A Promising Therapeutic Program Designed to Treat Severely Alienated Children and Their Family System. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 43(2), 197-207. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01926187.2015.1007769

New Child Support Research Findings

Goldberg, J. S. (2015). Coparenting and Nonresident Fathers’ Monetary Contributions to Their Children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77(3), 612-627. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12191

Kane, J. B., Nelson, T. J., & Edin, K. (2015). How Much In-Kind Support Do Low-Income Nonresident Fathers Provide? A Mixed-Method Analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77(3), 591-611. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12188


Should both parents in high conflict divorces have parenting time?

High-conflict parents pose many challenges for the courts?  There has been much disagreement about whether both parents should continue contact or whether to award custody to one parent and try to reduce the conflict.  Embedded is this dispute is the issue of parent alienation.  Again a troublesome and controversial topic.

New research by Irwin Sandler and colleagues at Arizona State University provides some new insights into the factors that can guide decisions about parenting plans for high-conflict families.  In general, there is much evidence to indicate that high quality parenting by both mothers and fathers reduces the likelihood that children in divorcing families will have psychological problems.  The question posed by Sandler and colleagues is whether factors such as the amount of contact with parents, the amount of conflict and the parenting behavior of the other parent would change these typical findings.  For example, for the child continuing to be engaged with both parents may reduce emotional and behavior problems, but if continued conflict also results in greater exposure to their parents’ conflict, then the costs may outweigh the benefits.  Additionally, the scientists were interested in the how the amount of time each parent spent with the child and the impact this has on the child’s well-being.

Children Living with Divorced Mothers and Fathers 1960 – 2011

This graph shows the changes in the number of children living with divorced mothers and fathers from 1960-2011.  The data are provided in “thousands” In 1960, 1,210,000 (1.2 million) children were living with their divorced mothers.  This number grew until the early 1990s almost 6 million children in 1999 and has declined or leveled off for the past decade.  In 2011 5,508,000 children lived with their divorced mothers.

The number of children living with divorced fathers is much smaller, but has been increasing over the past 50 years.  In 1960, only 129,000 children were living with their divorced fathers.  This number of children living with divorced fathers peaked in 2006 at 1,495,000 (1.49 million) children and has been declining since then.  In 2011 1,238,000 (1.23 million) children lived with their divorced fathers.

These data are provided by the US Census Bureau.  The original data are provided at this link. 

You can find other demographic data about divorce and marriage here.

Do Teenagers Cause Divorce?

Every parent with teens has probably found themselves in a fight over what to do about their teenager, but could the behavior the teenager in your family result in you getting a divorce?  Turns out this may be the case.  There is a lot of scientific evidence that has demonstrated that children influence parents and visa versa.  When infants smile, their parents are more likely to continue to play or talk with them.  And the play and talk encourage more smiling and laughter from babies.  Positive emotions and behaviors in one member of the family seem to trigger positive responses in other members of the family.  Sometimes we forget that this also works for negative emotions and behaviors as well.

Mary Julia Moore and Cheryl Buehler studied a group of middle school children over a 4-year period through early adolescence to examine the ways in which their behavior influenced the behavior of their parents.  In particular, they were interested in the ways that problem behaviors may influence their parents’ likelihood of divorce.  The scientists were interested in testing the pathway through which troublesome adolescent behavior may undermine the parents’ marriage.  They hypothesize that when teenagers have trouble, this undermines parents’ feelings of effectiveness in parenting which may influence mothers or fathers to be less supportive to each other in trying to deal with the problem behavior.  This hypothesis makes sense based on other scientific evidence and it all makes commonsense.  If a parents feels like they are not getting their partner’s support in dealing with their teen challenging behavior, this seems likely to trigger feelings of resentment and overall distress.  All of which might lead to questions about one’s marriage.

The scientist measured adolescents’ problem behavior when they were in the 6th grade.  They measured both antisocial and hostile behaviors as well as behaviors such as depression.  Both mothers and fathers were asked questions about whether they had thought about divorce and other questions to get a sense of their divorce proneness and questions about their sense of effectiveness as a parent.  The analyses examined whether adolescent behaviors predicted parents’ divorce proneness 4 years later.  The sample in this study was primarily White and had some college education.  Some caution should be noted that these findings may not apply to all types of families.

As the scientists had expected, adolescents’ problem behaviors had a significant effect on the couple’s divorce proneness. This effect appears to be primarily through damage to mothers’ and fathers’ feelings about their parenting abilities. This is especially true for fathers; fathers who have difficulty managing their teen’s behavior feel badly and may give up trying to be a parent. The scientists also found that mothers and fathers’ feelings of effectiveness as parents influenced each other as well; when one parent was feeling less effective, the other, more effective parent begin thinking about divorce. It seems like when one parent gives up on trying to help manage the difficult behavior, the other parent perceives this as a lack of support. This lack of support seems to damage the marital relationship.  

These findings remind us of the complexity of family relationships.  All members of the family have an influence on each other.  This can run in a positive direction or in a negative direction.  These findings remind parents who are having difficulty with their children’s challenging behaviors to seek help with managing these behaviors.  There are many effective parenting self-help books and programs that can be of assistance in dealing with children and there are many professionals who can help.

National Council on Family Relations– 2012 Schedule with Divorce Sessions Highlighted

Divorce, Stepfamilies, Co-Parenting Sessions at NCFR 2012

NCFR is one of the professional organizations that focuses on divorce and stepfamilies.  At the upcoming professional meetings here are the sessions that include new science on divorce and stepfamilies.  Here is the complete schedule….

 Wednesday, Oct 31, 2012

3:30 – 5:00 pm Concurrent Sessions 3 Continued

RT PA 134 Divorce, Co-parenting, and Repartnering

134-01 Divorced Mothers’ Co‐parental Boundary Maintenance After Parents Re‐partner, Richard Feistman, Lawrence Ganong, Marilyn Coleman, Tyler Jamison

134-02 Post‐divorce Co‐parenting: What is Working? Marilyn Coleman, Lawrence Ganong, Tyler Jamison, Richard Feistman

134-03 Implications for Children of Parenting by New Partners After Divorce, Jessica Dominguez, Edward Anderson, Shannon Greene

Thursday, November, 1, 2012

8:00 – 9:30 am 203 Poster Session 4 Continued

Divorce and Separation

203-21 FT Understanding Parenting Coordination for High‐conflict Post‐divorce Couples, Eric Johnson

203-22 RT Children’s Undermining of Their Mothers’ New Relationships After Divorce, Brooke Thoele, Edward Anderson, Shannon Greene

Remarriage, Blended Families

203-23 IN Youths’ Quality of Life in Biological and Stepfamilies in Colombia: The Contribution of Maternal and Paternal Figures, Milton Bermudez, Sonia Carrillo, Victoria Cabrera, Carolina Botero

203-24 RT Claiming of Former Stepkin, Luke Russell, Nicky Frye, Marilyn Coleman, Lawrence Ganong

203-25 RT A Comparison of Self‐identifying and Non‐self‐identifying Stepfamilies, Kristin Hadfield, Elizabeth Nixon

203-26 RT No Longer Newlyweds: Difficulties Experienced by Remarried Couples Over Time, Katie Reck, Brian Higginbotham

11:45 am – 1:00 pm

222 Poster Session 5

FP Poster Symposium: Social Support and Resources Influences on Familial Issues

222-11 IN Parent‐child and Sibling Relationships in Colombian Families: Comparing Nuclear and Step‐families, Sonia Carrillo, Karen Ripoll, Victoria Cabrera, Carolina Botero

11:45 am – 1:00 pm Focus Groups

EE 223 Co‐parenting and Divorce Education

Presiding: Denise Brandon and Lawrence Shelton, Focus Group Co‐chairs

Friday, November 2, 2102

8:00 – 9:30 am TCRM Workshop Session 4

305 Co-parenting and Computer-mediated Communication: Methodological Techniques

305 (TC4B-1) Measuring Co‐parenting With Time Diary Methodology, Letitia E. Kotila, Sarah J. Schoppe‐Sullivan, Claire M. Kamp Dush

3:15 – 4:45 pm Concurrent Sessions 10 Continued

FT/FF PA 335 Gender and Sexuality in Family Therapy Training

336-04 The Impact of IT Use on Co‐parenting and Father’s Child care Involvement in Japan and the U.S.A., Kuniko Kato, Mari Nakagawa

338-03 Examining the Personal Economic Consequences of Divorce: A Mixed Methods Study, David Schramm, Adam Galovan, Greg Brooks, Graham McCaulley, Tyler Jamison

6:30 – 9:30 pm 242 TCRM Workshop: Co-parenting Measurement , Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan  This research‐focused Special Session is open to all conference attendees.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

9:00 – 10:30 am 401 Poster Session 8 Continued

Financial and Work Stressors

401-28 RT Financial and Work Stressors and Divorce Probability, Karina Shreffler, Michael Morris

9:15 – 10:30 am Concurrent Sessions 11

FS PA 407 Parenting Issues

407-02 Defining Divorced Nonresidential Father Involvement: A Qualitative Study, Jessica Troilo, Marilyn Coleman