As I said in my previous blog I wanted to explore topics on social cognition that was relevant to my life, in this case, yes I am a child of divorce. I also have a younger sister who went through this life experience, but looking back we both dealt with it in different ways and it got me thinking, why? Our parents told us many times it wasn’t our fault, so why would we all of a sudden change our normal behaviours or start hanging out with a different crowd? I did some digging and found a few articles that may explain what divorce actually does to children growing up.
The first article I examined somewhat gives an overview of what components of divorce may have the greatest impact in relationships, psychosocial aspects and adjustment in the future between the individual and the parents. The study examined 146 Females and 21 Males (167 undergraduate students) and all it comprised of was a questionnaire.
The findings showed that high levels of interparental conflict were found to be negatively associated with adjustment and current intimacy with parents. A poor relationship with both parents was negatively associated with several domains of psychosocial adjustment, while high intimacy with at least one parent was positively associated with adjustment. Intimacy with mother and with father were found to be the most important predictors of psychosocial adjustment. This investigation highlights the importance of maintaining a good parent/young adult relationship, particularly in divorced families. The findings indicate that future research should examine multiple family variables when assessing the impact of parental divorce or conflict on young adult adjustment. (1)
I will be the first to admit that my relationships between my parents and I weren’t equal or the best… But I can honestly say now, that I’ve found common ground with the both of them and have begun to build relationships with them separately. So basically what this study is trying to saying is due to the fact that my parents fought like cats and dogs it should have taken me a while to adjust with coming to terms about my parents and as well as caused me some setbacks in psychosocial aspects of my life. This has the potential for creating many behavioural problems in the future but it all depends on the environment that the individual is exposed to.
This article was a tough read for me due to some of the language used but I love when I can find an article that combines two fields I’m interested in (in this case its psychology and biology). The study investigated whether the specific polymorphism of an oxytocin receptor (rs53576) moderated the relationship between divorce during your adolescence and depression symptoms in young adulthood. For those that don’t know what oxytocin is, it’s a neuropeptide that has multiple functions; the main concepts that should be noted is that it’s related to behaviours like nurturance and empathy as well as complex social cognition functions.
The study was longitudinal and followed 340 individuals during their adolescence and into their young adult lives. The findings showed that females that had the GG gene and had parents who divorced when she was in her adolescence showed twice as many depressive symptoms compared to females that had the AG or AA genotype. It is also stated that it showed no pattern among males (2)
I find this study super interesting but with many flaws. First off it doesn’t really discuss why the pattern showed up in females but not in males and it also doesn’t really explain why they thought that having the specific genotype was linked to more depressive symptoms but nonetheless still a good article to provide a biological perspective as to why one “sister” may be more depressed than the other even though we experienced the same event. BUT it also happened when we were different ages which leads me to my last study that will hopefully solidify why we reacted like we did.
Timing of Divorce:
Now that severity of divorce, biology and environment have been covered, I feel like timing is an important component of how a child would deal with a divorce growing up. What I found was different than what I expected, the population based follow-up study showed that timing actually affected boys more than girls (finally!) especially the latency age (7 to 12). (3) The study doesn’t exactly go into why it affected boys more than girls and there was only speculation as to why the latency stage of childhood was so vulnerable to the effects of divorce.
While I won’t bore you with the details as to how my sister and I dealt with my parents’ divorce, what I can say is that I am using it as a positive tool for myself as well as others to embrace different perspectives of social cognition and also learn something from those experiences. I’d have to say that out of the three topics on how divorce affects an individual, the severity and relationships before and after the divorce is what probably changed the way my sister and I behaved the most. It certainly raises a lot of other questions as to why I behave like I do..
(1) Richardson, S., McCabe, M.P. (2001). Parental divorce during adolescence and adjustment in early adulthood. Adolescence, Fall; 36(143) 467-489. PMID:11817629
(2) Windle, M., & Mrug, S. (2015). Hypothesis-driven research for G × E interactions: the relationship between oxytocin, parental divorce during adolescence, and depression in young adulthood. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01322.
(3) Palosaari, U., & Aro, H. (1994). Effect of timing of parental divorce on the vulnerability of children to depression on young adulthood. Department of Public Health, 29(115), 681-690. PMID:7832032