Parental divorce, parent-child relations, and early adult relationships: a longitudinal Australian study

Ailsa Burns, Rosemary Dunlop

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    32 Citations (Scopus)


    Evidence shows that the children of divorce are themselves more prone to relationship breakdown, and it has been argued that poorer parent-child relations are one cause of this intergenerational transmission. The issue is explored in a longitudinal sample of adolescents from divorced and nondivorced homes. The sample was interviewed at the time of parental divorce for the target group (N=78), when they were aged 13 to 16, again 3 years later (N=65), and again 10 years later (N=67), when aged 23 to 27. At each wave of interviews, respondents completed the Parent Bonding Inventory (PBI), a measure of the child's perception of each parent's behavior toward him or her. At age 23 to 27 years, respondents also completed measures of their attitudes to relationships and intimacy with peers, their satisfaction with their current close relationships, and the amount of conflict within these relationships. No differences were found on the adult relationship measures between those from divorced and nondivorced families, or between sons and daughters. However, at each wave of interviews, fathers were seen as less caring than mothers, and divorced fathers were seen as particularly low in care. There were no differences in the descriptions of divorced and nondivorced mothers. Time 3 ratings of mothers and fathers on care and overprotection were correlated with all the adult relationship measures, and the Time 1 and Time 2 father ratings also predicted the adult relationship measures. Care ratings were more strongly associated with the outcome measures than were overprotection ratings, but Time 1 father overprotection ratings and Time 3 mother overprotection ratings were also relevant. The relative importance of the different scales - and their interaction with the age of the child - is briefly discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)393-407
    Number of pages15
    JournalPersonal Relationships
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


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