“How did you feel about it?” Children’s feelings about their parents’ divorce at the time and three and ten years later

Ailsa Burns*, Rosemary Dunlop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The study measured the feelings about their parents' divorce reported by early adolescent children at the time of the divorce, three and ten years later, and retrospectively, at the ten-year mark. Sadness, shock and disbelief were the most common feelings at the time of the divorce, but relief, anger at one parent, gladness and a desire for parental reunion were also quite usual. Three years later, sadness, shock, disbelief and desire for parental re-union had declined sharply, and relief and gladness had increased. Ten years on, most feelings except gladness and relief were at a low level; but anger at one parent continued to be reported by more than one-fifth of the sample. Principal components analysis suggested the presence of two rather different groupings of feelings. The first described shock and upset, and had a relatively limited life span; the second centred on anger at one parent and relief and gladness at their departure, and these feelings continued into adulthood. At all three times, this latter group of feelings was associated with poorer relations with fathers. Stronger feelings about the divorce were not generally associated with poorer psychological adjustment, although at Time 3 bad feelings about the divorce were reflected in bad feelings about the self. The retrospective reports made at Time 3 substantially over-estimated the intensity of the negative emotions reported at the time of the divorce.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-36
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Divorce and Remarriage
Volume31
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999

Keywords

  • adolescents and divorce
  • children and divorce
  • divorce over time
  • divorced families
  • parental divorce

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