The divorce rates in the United States have been high since the eighties (with divorce meaning the legal separation of a marriage in the presence of a court), with the rates of marriages ending being around 40% or higher (Schoen & Standish, 2001). As additionally stated by Goldstein (1999), compared to other western cultures the amount of marriages ending in divorce in the United States is relatively higher. Due to these findings, studies have been conducted to examine the relationship between children’s wellbeing and their parent’s ability to deal with a divorce.
As evident by previous studies, the quality of the marital relationship between parents has had an effect on a children’s emotional regulation and development (Porter et al.
, 2003). More so, Porter et al. (2003) found that marital conflict can have a negative effect on an infant’s ability to regulate emotions. Using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, which contains the Mental Development Index (MDI) and the Psychomotor Development Index (PDI), Porter et al. (2003) evaluated emotional regulation, yielding higher scores that resulted in an increased positive emotional tone (which can be thought of as mental state) and the ability to acclimate, and lower scores indicated poor emotional regulation and an increased negative emotional tone. Porter et al. (2003) finds that when mothers report a high quality of love in their marriage, infants had a positive score in Emotional Regulation and MDI scores, while reported marital conflict was negatively associated with MDI. With these findings in mind, I will be examining the relationship between depression and anxiety in young adults of divorced parents compared to young adults of married parents.
Due to parental personal stress and disruptions of normal routine that happen throughout the divorce process, parenting strategies have a chance of becoming inadequate (Stallman & Sanders, 2007). As a result of this, children have trouble behaving and adjusting to a new life (Stallman & Sanders, 2007). Stallman and Sanders (2007) suggest that in order for children to build up the ability to easily work through difficult life situations, parents need to make the divorce process as stress-free as possible. Armistead et al. (1990) concludes that when young adults experience divorce, their lack of healthy coping mechanisms and the presence of avoidance, which was defined in this study as not dealing with their parents’ divorce and concealing their emotions, can lead to short- and long-term problems.
This study also suggests that for children of divorce to function as effectively as possible, they need to learn a more active way of coping, such as trying to see the good things that came out of the divorce and trying to find out more about it, and be supported through updated programs (Armistead et al., 1990). Healthy coping mechanisms, as mentioned before, would also include seeking support from trusted peers and trying to actively solve problems, as well as trying to maintain an optimistic attitude and gain a sense of self-efficacy (Merlo & Lakey, 2007; Carbonell et al., 2005). Due to these results, further research is needed to determine if young adults of divorcees are still affected by their parent’s separation.
Depression, as defined by Radloff (1977) can include feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, loss of appetite, and change in sleep schedule. Anxiety, which can be defined as feelings of being unable to relax, nervousness and fearing the worst will happen, is also a factor that can be coupled with depression (Beck et al.,1988). Hoyt et al. (1990) describes children who have divorced parents displaying struggles in academics, adjusting to their new lives and eventually developed antagonistic and depressive emotions as the result of the divorce. Within the study, children from intact families showed lower scores of teacher and self-rated anxiety in comparison to those children of separated families (Hoyt et al., 1990). Yet, in a positive way, Ross and Miller (2009) concluded that young adults that have experienced parental divorce stated that they feel as if they are more self-reliant and independent as a result of the event. The students have exhibited more assertiveness than those students with their parents’ marriage still intact (Ross & Miller, 2009).
In conclusion, research on this topic shows a wide range of different results of the aftereffects in young adults of divorced parents. These types of studies are important for researchers and psychologists to learn new ways to teach children how to appropriately cope and deal with this life event, to avoid psychological and learning difficulties later in young adult years. In order to learn the relationship between parental relationship status and mood disorders, we need to conduct more research on how traumatic events such as divorce affects young adults. Therefore, I will be testing to see if symptoms of depression and anxiety is more prevalent within young adults (people between the ages of 18 to early 30s) who have divorced parents compared to young adults whose parents’ marriage is still intact. My hypothesis is that young adults with divorced parents will have more symptoms of depression and anxiety than those young adults whose parents are still married.
The participants that will be involved in this study will consist of young adults between the ages of 18 and 32. The control group will approximately be 40 young adults who claim to have biological parents that have not been through divorce or have remarried. The experimental group will consist of young adults who claim to have biological parents that have gone through divorce. In order to make sure that the control group and experimental group will be distinguished, there will be a questionnaire at the beginning of the study asking if the participants parents are separated, divorced, or remarried. Sex will consist of approximately 50% males and 50% females. Race will be representative of the population.
Participants will be drawn from students at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. All participants will be given a consent form before the surveys containing information on how to contact the researcher after the experiment and access to free counseling services. All participants have the right to withdraw from taking the surveys. Participants will be given $50 for participating. Demographics questions will evaluate age, sex and race. Quantity of young adults with divorced parents and quantity of young adults with nondivorced parents will also be measured.
Participants will be asked to complete the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D; Radloff, 1977). This survey consists of 20 questions that will measure the degree to which participants experience depressive feelings and behaviors, and the participants will be asked if they have experienced any of the feelings or behaviors within the past year (Radloff, 1977). The answers to the questions will range from zero to three based on frequency, and the answer choices will be adjusted to not include the amount of days. The choices will range from 0 meaning rarely or none of the time and three meaning most or all of the time (Radloff, 1977). Previous studies state that CES-D has good test-retest internal consistency as well as discriminant validity (Merlo & Lakey, 2007; Radloff, 1977). Participants will be asked to complete the survey to the best of their knowledge.
Participants will be asked to fill out the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI: Beck et al., 1988). Participants will be asked to fill out the 21-question survey that will measure the level of anxiety within the participants. The test will differentiate between depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms and will also test the severity of anxiety symptoms (Beck et al., 1988). The questions will ask if they feel bothered by any symptoms such as being unable to relax, shortness of breath and shakiness (Beck et al., 1988). The answers to the questions will be on a four-point scale, with zero being not at all bothered and three being severely- I could barely stand it (Beck et al., 1988). The BAI was determined to have high reliability and validity compared to tests before, as well as having high validity in being able to discriminate anxiety from other psychiatric disorders (Beck et al., 1988). The participants will be asked to fill out the survey to the best of their knowledge.
Institutional Review Board Approval will be obtained before the study begins. Consent forms of participants will be also be collected. Participants will be gathered into a classroom of Southeastern Louisiana University to conduct the study. All participants will be given the surveys to complete. Upon completing the surveys, data on the results of the surveys will be collected. All responses to the surveys will be kept confidential and participant identity will be kept anonymous. Participants are allowed to withdraw from the surveys at any time and will still be given $50 for participating. Participants will be given a sheet explaining the purpose of the surveys for debriefing. Participants will be offered free counseling services and the contact information of the researchers if they have any further questions.