The Social and Educational Effects of Divorce
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
CHANDLER, L. R. (2002). The Social and Educational Effects of Divorce. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 5. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

The Social and Educational Effects of Divorce

Sponsored by: MUKUL BHALLA (
Divorce is an epidemic in society that is spreading at an alarming rate, and often times the offspring are most affected. We wanted to examine the relationship between coming from a non-intact home and different social, academic, and relationship development. 100 participants, from Loyola University New Orleans, were given a survey on the academic, social, family, and relationship aspects in their lives. We hypothesized that if participants came from a divorced home, then they would exhibit a lower level of relationship maturity and secure attachment and increased social activity and academic drive when compared to participants from intact families. The results showed that there was no significant difference between participants from intact and non-intact homes in the characteristics of social, academic, family, and relationships.

Divorce is very common in today’s world; in fact one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. Many children are raised in single-parent homes, and this has an impact on the way that these children develop. Divorce effects many aspects of life and the children have to adjust to new situations and feelings. When parents divorce, the children’s development is interrupted and many children have a hard time adjusting to this. As teenagers and adults, children of divorce often still have related problems. Divorce is a very interesting and pressing topic. Knowing how it impacts offspring is the first step to deciding on how to minimize the negative effects of divorce. The focus of this study was how growing up in a divorced home relates to a person’s social and educational functioning. The purpose of this study is to add to the body of knowledge in this area because divorce is such a widespread problem in society. The amount of literature on the topic of divorce is fairly large. The Annual Review of Psychology (2001) contained an entry on adolescent development. Steinberg and Morris state that people who have experienced high anxiety life events, such as divorce, develop problems during adolescence. When problems such as depression develop during adolescence, these problems persist into adulthood. Steinberg and Morris also stated that family relations and their quality may alter the onset of puberty, and adolescents who come from higher conflict environments will mature earlier and faster. Stevenson & Black (1996) elaborate on this by saying that early maturation and puberty leads to early sexual relations and shorter and unstable relationships. In their study, Stevenson and Black also found that children differ in test scores depending on whether or not they come from an intact home. Their previous research indicated that adolescents relationships with their parents influence their relationships with their peers. Adolescents without close friends are more influenced by their family than their peers and adolescents in less cohesive families are more influenced by their peers than their families. Another study on divorce was conducted by Lee (2002) on the behavioral adjustment of post-divorce children. Although Lee’s study was focused on the type of living arrangement present after divorce, much of her research and information is relevant to this study. Lee talked about the systems perspective. In this perspective, a change in one part of the system changes all other parts of the system because they are interrelated. This applies to divorce. Divorce is a change in the system of a family, and the offspring will then experience changes in all other life aspects at the time of the divorce. This change includes the social and educational development and functioning of the offspring. Lee says that divorce is a significant event in the life of a child, and it is one that changes the way that child relates to his surroundings. These surroundings are largely social and educational; therefore the functioning in these areas is effected. These effects can be long-term, and it is quite possible that these problems will linger into adulthood.In fact, studies have shown that divorce affects both short-term and long-term adjustment. For instance, Richardson and McCabe (2001) conducted a study on the impact of parental divorce, conflict, and intimacy with parents during the adolescent stage. In their study, Richardson and McCabe pointed out that adolescence is a time of change and divorce can be an added stressor that can impact adjustment. Conflict within the home negatively impacts interpersonal relationships. Previous research has shown that parent-child relationships are predictors for young adult interpersonal relationships. Richardson and McCabe measured seven aspects: life satisfaction, depression, anxiety, stress, opposite-sex relations, same-sex relations, and self-concept. 167 undergraduate students participated in the study. They found that participants from a divorced home had lower life satisfaction, higher anxiety, and poorer same-sex relations as compared to participants form intact homes. Overall, divorce and inter-parental conflict was found to impact adjustment. Jaquet and Surra (2001) conducted a study on the impact that divorce has on the interpersonal relationships of young adults. Their previous research indicated that people from divorced families exhibit less trust in their relationships, which ultimately weakens their relationships. In addition to this, young adults from divorced homes are less likely to commit to relationships, and women from divorced homes report feeling little security in their relationships with men. Their results showed that participants from divorced homes exhibit less trust and less security in relationships as compared to participants from intact homes. The hypothesis of this study was if participants came from a divorced home, then they would exhibit a lower level of relationship maturity and secure attachment and increased social activity and academic drive when compared to participants from intact families. The focus of this study is how growing up in a non-intact home affects relationships, social functioning, and academic functioning. For relationships, we were interested in both parental relationships and interpersonal relationships. Social functioning was defined through measures of how social a person is, how much they like to go out and be with people, and how important it is to maintain a social life. Academic functioning was defined through measures of grades, how much a person enjoys school, how important school is to a person, and how much a person strives to do well in school. Parental relationships were defined through how close a person is with their parent/s, how much a person depends on his parents for support, and how important a person’s relationship with his parents is to him. Interpersonal relationships were defined through how much a person enjoys meeting new people or having friends, how a person acts within a relationship i.e. how attached and secure a person is, and how much a person values being in a relationship.


The participants were 100 undergraduate students at Loyola University New Orleans. All genders and races were represented, and the participants were a minimum of 18 years. All of the participants volunteered and some received extra credit for participating. The participants were recruited in classes where the researchers briefly explained the study and then passed around a sign-up sheet. Participants were reminded the day before by the researchers when and where the study would be taking place for the time that they signed up for. Also a sign-up sheet was also posted on the human resources subject pool bulletin board in the psychology department of Loyola University. Convenience sampling was used in this study.

Pencils and informed consent sheets were used to obtain consent from the participants. The survey was four pages long and consisted of 75 questions that were compiled from different sources by the researchers. Measures of intimate relationships, family relationships, academic habits, and social life were addressed in the survey. The types of questions that were asked were things such as, “Were you mostly raised in (1) dual-parent household (2) single-parent household?” (family status), “How often do you study?” (academic), “Is a hangover a valid excuse to miss class?” (social), “Is being in a relationship important to you?” (interpersonal relationship), and “Do you rely on your primary caregiver for financial support?” (parental relationship). The survey consisted of 81 questions: 4 about family status, 30 about relationship characteristics, 20 about social characteristics, 16 about academic characteristics, and 11 about family characteristics. The questions were answered on a scale: either strongly agree --> strongly disagree or always --> never.

This was a correlational study that aimed to find the relationship between the marital status of one’s parents and one’s social and educational functioning. One variable was family status, and the levels of this variable were married and divorced. “Married” was defined as the unbroken bond between a husband and was also defined as the man and woman living together, being legally married, and sharing the same income and life. “Divorced” was defined as a man and a woman separated because they no longer wanted to share their lives with one another and it was also be defined as a man and a woman legally cutting their ties to one another, changing their living arrangements, and no longer sharing income. Other variables are social functioning, educational functioning, parental realtionships, and interpersonal relationships. “Social functioning” can be defined as the way a person reacts to and relates with other people and it can also be defined through the measures of how much time spent out in a social setting, dating relationships and their qualities, platonic relationships and their qualities, and family relationships and their qualities. “Educational functioning” can be defined as the way a person learns, relates to school, and values education and can be measured by how much time spent studying, class attendance, GPA, and academic achievements. “Parental relationship” was defined as the way that a person related to his parent/s and the amount of dependence and contact the person has with his parent/s. “Interpersonal relationship” was defined as ties with friends or a significant other, if these ties existed and in what number, how secure these ties were, and how much a person wanted to maintain these ties.The participants were first required to sign up and then show up at the testing room for the required time. They walked into the room and were seated at desks. The researchers first introduced themselves and the study and then the informed consent sheets and pencils were handed out. The participants were given time to read and sign these, and once they were finished the sheets were picked up by the researcher. The participants kept a copy of the informed consent sheet, and in addition to informaiton about the study it also contained the phone number for the University Counseling Center and a way to contact the researchers. The surveys were then passed out, however the participants were asked to first listen to the researchers instructions before beginning the survey. The researchers explained how to take the survey, which was also printed at the top of the first page. The researchers then told the participants that if they had questions, they could approach the researchers at any time. Also, the participants were told that if at any time they felt anxiety or discomfort they were free to leave or to come and talk to the researchers. After this, the researchers told the participants to begin the survey. The participants were given between 15 and 20 minutes to take the survey. When finished, the participants gave the surveys and the pencils back to the researchers and then sat down and waited for the debriefing session.After all of the participants were finished and all of the surveys were turned in, the researchers debriefed the participants. They were told the full nature of the study, the things that were being measured and a way to obtain the results once the study was complete. The participants were urged to contact the researchers with any questions they may have after they left the tesitng room and they were also urged to call the Counseling Center if they later felt any anxiety from the study. The participants were then free to leave or to ask questions.

We hypothesized that if participants came from a non-intact home, then they would exhibit a lower level of relationship maturity and secure attachment and increased social activity and academic drive when compared to participants form intact homes. To analyze our data, we used an independent samples t test on SPSS. We did not find any significant results to support our hypothesis, there fore we failed to reject our null hypothesis. For the means and standard deviations of the scales, see Table 1. Intact family status and non-intact family status did not differ between the social, academic, parental relationship, and interpersonal relationship variables. The variables were parental relationship (t(98) = .095, n.s.), social development (t(98) = .-432, n.s.), academic drive (t(98) = .418, n.s.), and interpersonal relationships (t(98).-207, n.s). The parental relationship variable was defined through closeness with parent/s, dependence on parent/s, and the importance of the parent-child relationship. The social variable was defined as how social the person was, desire to go out with and be around others, and the importance of maintaining a social life. The academic variable was defined by grades, school enjoyment, importance of school, and desire to achieve academically. The interpersonal relationship variable was defined by desire to meet new people, desire to have friends or a significant other, secure attachment, and value of relationship qualities. The reliability was tested for all scales with Cronbach’s alpha on SPSS. The alpha for the parental scale was .7799, the alpha for the relationship scale was .5837, the reliability for the academic scale was .2646, and the reliability for the social scale was .4480.

Our hypothesis was not supported by our results. These results are contrary to previous research done on the topic. Both Steinburg and Morris (2001) and Stevenson and Black (1996) found that divorce is a high stress life event, which causes adolescents and children to mature faster and earlier than those form intact homes. Early maturation leads to early sexual relations and shorter and unstable relationships. Along these same lines, Richardson and McCabe (2001) found that conflict within the home negatively impacts interpersonal relationships and that the closeness, security, and roles in parent-child relationships are predictors for young adult interpersonal relationships. Jaquet and Surra (2001) did a similar study and founds that young adults from divorced homes show less trust in their relationships and have less security in their relationships as compared to people from intact homes. This study was limited because the sample was not diverse and not representative of the true population. Out of 100 participants, only 27 came from non-intact homes, while 73 came from intact homes. All of the participants came from Loyola University, which is a Catholic University and may have related to this off balance number. In addition, because all of the participants were gathered from the same place this limited the diversity and representativeness of the population. These two limitations affected both the power of the study and the generalizability of the results. In future research an equal number of participants from intact and non-intact homes should be obtained. In addition to this, a representative sample should be obtained, which entails getting people from different social and economic backgrounds and ages. Although we did not find significant results to support our hypothesis, this study is important in adding to the research ideas on a very important topic and is also important for urging others to study divorce and it’s effects on offspring. The idea behind the study was a good one and the results may not be indicative of reality. In the future, each variable should be looked at and studied separately in order to fully determine how divorce interacts with each variable. Divorce is a widespread epidemic in today’s society. Unfortunately, some of the most negatively impacted by these divorcees are the offspring. To help these children with the issues raised by divorce and to minimize the negative effects we first need to know exactly what aspects of the children’s lives that divorce impacts and how divorce impacts these aspects. Once this is done, then divorces can be made as easy and painless for the offspring as possible. Studies, such as this one, are trying to do exactly this. They are trying to figure out what and to what extent things such as interpersonal relationships or academics are impacted by divorce. Once this is known, then these children can be better helped. After all, diagnosis determines treatment, so the more precisely these children’s problems can be understood than the better off the solutions to solving them will be.

Jaquet & Surra (2001). Parental divorce and premarital couples: commitment and other relationship characteristics. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 63, 627-638.

Lee, Mo-Yee (2002). A model of children’s post-divorce behavioral adjustment in maternal and dual-residence arrangements. Journal of Family Issues, 23(5), 672-697.

Richardson & McCabe (2001). Parental divorce during adolescence and adjustment in early adulthood. Adolescence, 36: 143, 467-487.

Steinberg & Morris (2001). Adolescent Development. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 83-110.

Stevenson & Black (1996). How Divorce Affects Offspring: A Research Approach. 60, 86. (1998). Children and Divorce. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Appendix A


Table 1Descriptive Statistics

Mean Standard Deviation

Parental Scale: 1.9852 .55221

Relationship Scale: 2.5194 .32829

Academic Scale: 2.7395 .30371

Social Scale: 2.9853 .41288

Submitted 12/13/2002 10:30:08 AM
Last Edited 12/13/2002 10:46:11 AM
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