Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Alan Campbell

Second Advisor

Lynne Cohen

Abstract

This review provides a critical analysis of the risk and protective factors associated with children's adjustment to divorce. By drawing together some of the key findings and assumptions to emerge from the literature, it attempts to show that although divorce presents elevated stressors for children, their adjustment is influenced by multiple operating factors that combine to either protect them or make them more vulnerable to adversity. Since the majority of children are able to cope successfully with the divorce transition, a resiliency approach is adopted to establish how positive aspects of children's lives combine with stressful events or risk to reduce the likelihood that they will be affected in a negative manner. Limitations of the research are discussed, together with suggestions for future research. The elevated risks that divorce presents for children and the associated negative consequences have been well documented. However, significantly less attention has been devoted towards identifying factors that promote resilience among children of divorce. The current study attempted to rectify this imbalance in the literature by exploring children's own perspectives of their adjustment to parental divorce. Specifically, the study examined how children determine what it means for parents to separate and how they understand the ways in which they survive the divorce experience. Eight children from separated families were interviewed using a qualitative research design within a phenomenological framework. Six themes emerged from the research and included: 'the significance of age at time of parental separation'; 'continuity and flexibility in seeing dad'; 'co-residence and closeness: mothers as important sources of support'; 'the positive impact of the stepfather'; 'increasing responsibility and positive child attributes' and; 'It was all for the best'. The study has implications for future policy and practice and emphasises the importance of understanding pathways towards risk and resilience in children in the aftermath of divorce.

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