Parental divorce, personal characteristics and early adult intimate relationships

Ailsa Burns, Rosemary Dunlop

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    4 Citations (Scopus)


    The present paper explores the proposal of McGue and Lykken (1996) and Amato (1996) that personal characteristics in children that are either inherited, or acquired as a result of the disruption caused by the parental divorce, may influence adult relationship satisfaction and stability. The data come from a longitudinal sample of Australian men and women who were adolescents at the time of their parents’ divorce, and a comparison sample from intact homes matched for age, sex and socioeco-nomic background. Eighty adolescents (aged 13 to 16) and their parents from 37 divorcing and 41 intact families participated in 1981-82. Eighty-one percent of the adolescents were re-interviewed in 1981 (aged 16-19) and 84 percent in 1991-2 (aged 23-27). In the initial interviews, parents rated personal characteristics of their children and the adolescents rated themselves. In subsequent waves of interviews, the children repeated the self-ratings, along with other measures. At age 23-27, they also rated the quality of their intimate relationships. Analysis of parent and child data for those who were present at all three times (N = 57: 31 from intact and 26 from divorced families) showed that divorcing parents described the children as presenting more problems, and divorced group children as adults were somewhat more wary about committing themselves to relationships. Children in both groups whose parents described them, as 13-16 year olds, as less socialized and more problematic had lower relationship quality as adults. Those who as teenagers described themselves less positively also reported lower relationship quality as adults. Multivariate analysis indicated that parental divorce was not a significant factor over and above the effect of personal characteristics.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)91-109
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Divorce and Remarriage
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000


    • Divorce and adolescents
    • Divorce and adult relationships
    • Divorce in Australia


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