INTRODUCTION Divorce affects about half of the children in the United States of America (Crouch, 2002). In the state of Wisconsin alone, there were 16,802 divorces in 2004 (Bureau of Health Information and Policy). In addition, Wisconsin’s divorce rate, 3.1 divorces per 1,000 people, has been consistently lower than the national rate, 3.7 divorces per 1,000 people, for more than 80 years (Bureau of Health Information and Policy). Of these divorces, 54% involved children under 18 years of age, meaning that 1.8 children were affected by each divorce, bringing the total of children affected by divorce, that were under the age of 18years, up to 16,623 children (Bureau of Health Information and Policy).Much of the research done on the topic of divorce is correlational in design. Amato (1993) talks about children’s adjustment to divorce in different aspects of their life, for example in the absence of the noncustodial parent, interparental conflict, the adjustment of the custodial parent, economic hardship, and stressful life changes. His research showed that of these five explanatory perspectives, there was some support for each model, but the strongest support, for what affected children the most, was obtained for the interparental conflict model. The author suggested that interparental conflict, or the hostility between parents, can determine the well-being of the children involved more so than the other aspects researched. If there is a decrease in hostility between parents after the divorce, that could potentially improve the child’s well-being. This type of conflict can cause problems for the child/children involved, as well as marital dissolution, which can involve stressors that can interfere negatively with the child’s development, as well as the child’s ability to actually utilize his or her parents when need be. Although Amato found strong support for this particular model, he believes that this perspective may not contain enough information to tell the entire story of the child’s future actions (Amato, 1993).Amato also found that even though the child’s well-being should improve after parent’s divorce, his research suggests that even as adults, the well-being of the person is somewhat lower than that of an adult whose family was intact (Amato, 1993). If that in fact is true, what are the affects that lead into adulthood, and stay with the children of the divorced parents as they marry? If a child’s well-being can continue to be affected into adulthood based on a divorce, that could lead to problems with courtship and marriage, which is the basis for Booth’s 1984 correlational study. He believed that courtship and marriage were most likely to be affected by divorce. He found that parental divorce slightly increased courtship activity in young adults, and increased activity even more so if acrimony, worsening of parent-child relationships, and the remarriage, or lack thereof, of the custodial parent, were involved. Also, the children’s satisfaction in those relationships seemed to be worse when these factors were involved. Booth also found that although the children of divorced parents were more active in their courtship, they were also much more realistic and critical of those relationships. Could the high levels of realism and criticism of these relationships lead to more thoughts of jealousy and relationship security?Knox (2004) examined children’s adjustment following divorce, looking at the effect of the parental divorce and remarriage on the college students relationships with their parents and their romantic partners. Knox found that the students who reported being the happiest were those whose parents were still married, followed by those student’s who had one parent who was remarried, and followed lastly by those students with both parents remarried. He found that these students, whose parents were both remarried, were not only less happy, but also not as close to their father and mother than the student’s coming from nondivorced families. Could this unhappiness lead to problems with security in themselves, or in their relationships, as well as possible jealousy issues? Knox also noticed that the student’s whose parent’s were divorced were more likely to avoid short term relationships. Instead, these student’s were more likely to stay in a relationship for a longer period of time than those of nondivorced parents, possibly because of the trauma that they dealt with when their parents were in the process of getting divorced. These students were thought to be maintaining their relationships better because they were sensitive to divorce because of the trauma that they felt (Knox, 2004).Each study examined has been correlational in design, measuring the effects of the divorce on their everyday lives, but not manipulating the situation experimentally to find differences in children of divorced versus nondivorced families. Based on all of the research done, the topic of divorce is complex, and difficult to understand because of the many different factors involved. For example, the age of the children when the divorce took place could make a difference in the way that that particular person will handle the divorce itself, as well as the maturity level of the individual, or the involvement of their parents during and after the divorce. Another factor that should be addressed is the specific reason for the divorce. Do people handle things differently if their dad/mom had an affair, versus if the cause of the divorce was based on money issues? Each factor is different and unique to each person. Based on this, it would be difficult to measure all of those variables independently from the rest of the issues at hand. When speaking of children from divorced families, it is also important to mention the “sleeper effect.” The sleeper effect is the delayed negative effect of divorce. It shows that children of divorced families may have trouble getting into and maintaining committed relationships (Elias, 1999). This could be one of the reasons for lower adult marriage rates in children of divorced families.Although there are different reasons and issues with each child of divorce, there are believed to be some distinct characteristics among college aged people that, to a point, sets them apart in different facets of their life due to the divorce that they had been through previously, no matter how long ago the divorce took place (Amato, 1993: Booth 1984: Knox, 2004). Based on the research done by Amato, Booth, and Knox, the levels of jealousy in children of divorced parents could be different than it is with children from intact families. Also, the outlook that children of divorce have on long term relationships could be different than that of children from intact families. Based on the research done, and based on the suggested differences in courtship, and adjustment of children of divorced, the current study attempts to experimentally examine the effect of divorce on children. It is hypothesized that children of divorced families will exhibit higher levels of jealousy, when presented with a stimulus designed to elicit jealousy, and have less security in their own relationships than children of nondivorced parents. Research done by Baenninger (1993) suggests that showing participants a photograph can manipulate their jealousy levels. To do this, the photo was manipulated in a way as to have the participant feel jealousy based on another woman, and the way that she looked. For example, the picture consists of a man and a woman sitting together, while another woman walks by. In the low jealousy condition, the other woman is wearing sweat pants, and is not wearing make up, while in the high jealousy condition, the woman is dressed up, and wearing make up. The participants were then asked to answer a series of questions about the individuals in the photos. This study found that a picture can in fact manipulate the participant’s feelings of jealousy toward another woman. The method of the current study, based on the study by Baenninger, involves using two photos to manipulate the variables. The participants were asked to examine a photo, each consisting of a man and a woman seated at a restaurant, and another woman passing by and differing only in who the man is smiling at, and answer a series of questions that asked about the individuals depicted. Two of the questions included: “How much of a threat does Woman A find Woman B?” and “How jealous is Woman A in this situation?” The questions were rated using 7- and 5-point Likert scales.The photos made up two levels for each variable. The levels were low jealousy/short term relationship, low jealousy/long term relationship, high jealousy/short term relationship, and high jealousy/long term relationship. This was manipulated in each picture by changing who the man in the picture is smiling at, as well as changing the caption underneath the picture to read that the man and woman seated together are either in a short or long term relationship.One of the hypotheses of the current study is that jealousy provoking situations will elicit higher levels of perceived jealousy in children of divorced parents. A second hypothesis is that these children will also show lower levels of relationship security. If supported, these data will suggest that jealousy and insecurity may be two of the reasons young adults of divorced families have more difficulty in their own relationships. It is important for the current study to be conducted, based on the fact that past research on children of divorced versus nondivorced families has been correlational in design. By using experimental research, a cause and effect relationship could be established stating differences between children of divorced parents versus children of nondivorced parents. In order to understand more fully the repercussions on children after a divorce has taken place, it is important to understand if different aspects of the child’s own relationships after the divorce are different than are those children who do not go through the trauma of their parents divorce.
Participants included 284 college students drawn from a small, private college in the Midwest. They were drawn from classes within the college. The participants used were both male and female, with a range of ages, but with an average age of about 20 years, with a large majority of the participants (over 90%) being Caucasian. One participant was eliminated for recognizing the man in the survey, while another person’s data was also eliminated for lacking a demographic page.The design was a 2 (Parent’s marital status: Divorced or Non-divorced) X 2 (Suggested Jealousy: high vs. low) X 2 (Length of Relationship: Short vs. Long) completely between-subjects design. The method was based on a study by Baenninger, Baenninger, & Houle (1993), which experimentally determined if provocative dress versus nonprovactive dress created higher levels of jealousy in people.
To manipulate the variables, 2 photo stimuli were created. In both photos, a man and a woman (Woman A) were shown seated at a table in a restaurant. Also in both, a second woman (Woman B) was shown looking at the man seated at the table. To create the high jealousy condition, the man was shown smiling at Woman B. In the low jealousy condition, the man was shown smiling at Woman A. In both photos, Woman A was shown reading a menu (i.e. no eye-contact with either man or Woman B). The photos were presented with a brief description of the seated couple. The description included the fact that the seated couple were dating and included the length of the couples’ relationship (either short = “a few dates” or long = “2 years”). Based on these manipulations, there were four different surveys. The participants were asked to evaluate the picture by answering questions about the situation involved in the picture. The questions were rated using a 7- and 5-point Likert scale. Following the two pages of questions, the participants were asked to complete a page of demographic questions.
The study consisted of four different conditions, the high jealousy/short term condition, the high jealousy/long term condition, the low jealousy/short term condition, and the low jealousy/long term condition. The participants were given a packet, at random, and were instructed to refer back to the picture as many times as they needed to. Once they were finished with the two pages of questions, the participants were asked to make sure that the questions were answered completely and that they did not go back and change any of their answers. The participants were then instructed to turn in their survey face down on a front table. The surveys were randomly assigned throughout the class sections, and each participant only saw one of the four conditions. The participants were asked to examine the photo, and then to answer a series of questions that asked about the individuals depicted. Two of the questions included: “How much of a threat does Woman A find Woman B?” and “How jealous is Woman A in this situation?” The questions were rated using 7- and 5-point Likert scales.The participants were instructed to examine the picture, and read the caption underneath the picture. They were then asked to move onto the next page, and answer all questions completely before moving on to the next page. Participants were instructed that they were able to go back and look at the picture as needed. After the first two pages of questions were complete, participants were instructed to make sure that all questions were answered fully before moving onto the next page, and once the last page was reached (demographic questions) they were asked not to go back and change anything.
RESULTS The divorced, high jealousy, short term group (11 participants), the divorced, low jealousy, short term group (15 participants), the divorced low jealousy long term group (10 participants), the nondivorced, high jealousy short term group (15 participants), the nondivorced, high jealousy, long term group (15 participants), the nondivorced, low jealousy, short term group (15 participants), and the nondivorced, low jealousy, long term group (15 participants). Attractiveness of Woman BOn average, the divorced high jealousy condition found Woman B the most attractive, followed by both nondivorced categories, and then by the divorced low jealousy condition. There was a 3-way parents, jealousy conditions, length of relationship interaction, F (1,100) =4.016, p=0.0478, for Attractiveness of Woman B. This means that children of divorced families found Woman B the most attractive, in the long term condition. See Table 1.How Attractive Man found Woman AThere was a main effect for length of relationship, F (1,100) =5.578, p=0.0201, and another main effect for jealousy, F (1,100) =16.463, p=<0.0001. Based on the participants data, the man finds Woman A (girl seated) more attractive when the jealousy conditions were low, and when the length of the relationship was long. See Table 2.How Attractive Man found Woman BThere were two interactions, one for parents, jealousy condition, F (1,100) =3.830, p=0.0531, and for jealousy condition, length of relationship, F (1,100) =4.694, p=0.0326. Those in the divorced high jealousy condition thought that the man found Woman B much more attractive than did the divorced low jealousy condition. Also, those in the nondivorced high jealousy condition thought that he found her more attractive as well, as compared to the nondivorced low jealousy. There was also an interaction between jealousy condition and length of relationship. The Short term and long term high jealousy were similar in scores as well as were the low jealousy short and long term. See Table 3.How Much Woman A liked Woman BFor how much Woman A liked Woman B, there was a main effect for jealousy condition, F (1,100) =7.468, p=0.0074. In the high jealousy condition, on average, people thought that Woman A liked Woman B less than those in the low jealousy condition. See Table 4, Figure 1. These data are consistent with the intended jealousy manipulation.How willing man was to cheat on Woman A with Woman BThere was an interaction for jealousy condition and length of relationship, F (1,100) =5.831, p=0.0176 for how willing man was to cheat on Woman A with Woman B. People in the high jealousy, short term group thought that the man was more willing to cheat on Woman A with Woman B than did those from the high jealousy long term relationship group. Both high jealousy short term conditions thought that the man was more likely to cheat on Woman A. See Table 5, Figure 2.How much of a threat Woman A found Woman BFor how much of a threat Woman A found Woman B, there was a main effect for jealousy condition F (1,100) =4.566, p=0.0351, as well as an interaction for parents, length of relationship, F (1,100) =10.905, p=0.0013. Those in the high jealousy conditions found Woman B more of a threat than did those in the low jealousy conditions. The interaction effect of parents/length of relationship suggests that divorced short term found Woman B much more of a threat than those in all other conditions. While the divorced long term, which was close in scores to the nondivorced short and long term. The nondivorced long term also found Woman B more of a threat than did any of the other nondivorced groups. See Table 6, Figure 3.How Jealous Woman A should be in this situationFor how jealous Woman A should be in this situation, there was an interaction between parents and jealousy conditions, F (1,100) =6.308, p=0.0136. For children of divorced parents, their jealousy levels in the high jealousy condition were much higher than that of the low jealousy condition. Also, the nondivorced participants were close to being equally jealous in both the high and low jealousy conditions whereas in the divorced condition, the high and low jealousy conditions were dramatically different, low jealousy was much lower than the high jealousy. See Table 6, Figure 4.All data was entered based on the answers to the questions from the Likert scale. The questions with numerical answers, such as 1-7, were entered into the computer as numerical data. Also, the questions asked with answers that were not numerical were entered into the computer as such. All participants’ data was entered in to the computer, and analyzed using ANOVA. Based on the disproportionate data, a lot of the data entered ended up being eliminated. To do this the first participants who were eliminated were ones who skipped a question or questions somewhere in the survey. Next, children of nondivorced families, since there were so many more, were eliminated randomly until there were 15 participants in each of the 4 nondivorced groups.
DISCUSSION The divorce rate in the United States was between 40-50%, whereas the divorce rate at the college where the sample was obtained, is 17% (based on the 284 people surveyed). Based on this information, of the 284 participants, 234 participants were from nondivorced families, 48 participants were from divorced families, and 2 sets of data was eliminated. There are some possible explanations of this misrepresentation of the population. The first could be because of money issues. Since money is a leading cause of divorce, it is possible that the divorce rate of the parents at this particular college is so low because money may not be as much of an issue for parents who send their children to this particular college, based on the high tuition prices. Another explanation could be the fact that, since divorce is somewhat expensive, it is possible that the financial situation after the divorce takes place is not good enough to send their children to an expensive private college. Because kids of divorced families realized that their parent’s marriage failed, they have less confidence in their own relationships working out because they are more guarded. The parent’s relationship (divorced or nondivorced), paired with a short term relationship of their own, makes them the most threatened by the other woman, possibly because they have less relationship security. Also given a high jealousy situation, children of divorced families were more jealous than any of the other groups, suggesting that based on their insecurity, they are more likely to become jealous of another person.Compared with earlier studies, the results of this data are hard to compare with other data, based on the fact that previous studies were correlational, whereas the current study employed an experimental design. Therefore, there is no validity in comparing the results from the current study and previous studies.It is possible that if the attractiveness questions were proposed at the end of the survey instead of the beginning, there would have been more of significance in what that data showed. This is believed to be true because the people were asked the questions of attractiveness first before they were asked to evaluate the situation. If the participants were asked to evaluate how attractive the women were after they had immersed themselves into the situation, and their jealousy levels had already come out, they may have found the women more or less attractive based on how threatened or jealous the women were. Because of this, no figures were presented to represent attractiveness. Some of the results can be interpreted by themselves, before drawing one conclusion. Based on the results of how attractive man found Woman B, the high jealousy condition thought that the man saw woman B as more attractive than the low jealousy condition. This could have been because of the way that the man is smiling at her. This goes against my hypothesis completely, I thought that divorced kids would think that the man saw her as much less attractive just because they find her a threat and they could be jealous. It seemed that the divorced and nondivorced high jealousy conditions had close to the same rating. For how willing man was to cheat on Woman A with Woman B, there was an interaction for jealousy condition and length of relationship. This was probably because since they had not been dating for very long, and since he was looking at the other woman instead of woman A, that he was not very interested in her. For how much of a threat Woman A found Woman B, there was a main effect for jealousy condition, as well as an interaction for parents/length of relationship. This could be due, obviously, to the fact that the man is looking at the other woman in the high jealousy conditions and not in the low. This particular study suggests that divorce does affect the way that the children involved feel about their own relationships. They tend to exhibit higher levels of jealousy (given a high jealousy situation), and tend to be more threatened (based on short term rather than long term relationships).The present study could have been improved or changed, given some differences in the experimental design. Since all of the participants were from a small private college in the Midwest, where the divorce rate happens to be different from the normal population, the number of people in each group was limited. At a larger school, there would most likely be more diversity, and more people in general, therefore yielding a larger number for each of the groups. Another restriction was the amount of children of divorced families that were actually found. Since there were more children of divorced families in upper level (sophomores, juniors, seniors) classes, it would be in the researcher’s best interest to go to those type of classes first, therefore finding more children of divorced families, and nondivorced families more equally. Another limitation to the current study was the picture used in the survey. The picture needs to be self explanatory, without any alternate explanations for what is happening between the three people. Another aspect of the research that could be improved is to find out the reasons for the divorce, as well as how long it has been since the divorce took place. Those aspects of the divorce could show different findings as to why or how much more extreme, jealousy and relationship security could be as a result of these aspects.
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