University of Tasmania
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Anxiety in adolescents : the contribution of parental divorce, parental conflict, and quality of attachment to parents and peers

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posted on 2023-05-26, 21:50 authored by Farndale, Holly L
LITERATURE REVIEW The Detrimental Effects of Parental Divorce and Ameliorating Factors: A Review of the Literature The impact of parental divorce or separation on children is a major issue of contemporary concern. The aim of the present literature review is to discuss the associated detrimental effects of parental divorce or separation, whilst also focusing on possible ameliorating/mediating factors identified in published literature, and outlining recommendations for further research. It can be identified from the literature that parental divorce or separation is associated with a range of problems for children throughout childhood and into adulthood, such as effects on psychological, social, cognitive and academic functioning. However what can also be inferred from the published literature is that adverse effects may not necessarily be a direct or simple consequence of the parental divorce or separation itself, but should also be considered in light of other related factors such as parental conflict, parent-child relations, peer support, family structure, and the timing of divorce. Several theories encompassing these factors are discussed including the spillover hypothesis, compensatory hypothesis, scapegoating/detouring, triangulation, role reversal, an enhancement of Sullivan's theory of attachment with parents and peers, a model building on both the emotional security hypothesis and attachment theory, and the Sensitization hypothesis. Anxiety is the most common form of mental disorder in children in Australia, and Australian studies have shown that parental divorce is associated with psychological distress. Therefore studying anxiety in this context may provide further insight into the associated factors and intermediary variables. Further research, including all the above mentioned variables in the same study, is needed to provide greater insight into which variables (i.e. parental divorce, parental conflict, perceived quality of attachment to friends, perceived quality of attachment to parents, peer acceptance/rejection, family structure, and the age of the child at first parental separation) explain anxiety in adolescents. The impact of parental divorce/separation upon children is a major issue of contemporary concern. The aim of this literature review is to discuss the associated detrimental effects of parental divorce/separation, whilst also focusing on possible ameliorating/mediating factors. EMPIRICAL STUDY Predicting Anxiety in Adolescents: The Contribution of Parental Divorce, Parental Conflict, and Quality of Attachment to Parents and Peers The principal aim of the present study was to examine the prediction of anxiety in adolescents aged 13-15 years using parental and peer-related factors as predictors. The 91 participants for this study were recruited through schools in Hobart, Tasmania and the 'Parents without Partners' support group. Each adolescent was asked to complete a questionnaire assessing parental divorce/separation status, past parental conflict, present parental conflict, peer attachment, mother attachment, father attachment, peer acceptance/rejection, the age of the adolescent at first parental separation, and anxiety. Multiple regression analyses showed that parental divorce/separation status did not make a significant contribution to explanatory variance in anxiety measures, whilst the examination of parental conflict measures revealed that only in anxiety related to social concerns / concentration did present parental conflict make an additional significant contribution to the explanatory variance. The overwhelming finding of the study was the importance of peer acceptance in predicting anxiety. Multiple regression analyses showed that poor peer acceptance was by far the prominent predictor that figured in all measures of anxiety in adolescents but physiological anxiety. The results also indicated that strong father attachment is predictive of lower overall anxiety levels, physiological anxiety levels, and worry/oversensitivity levels, with mother attachment offering no significant additional contributions amongst the other variables. However, with social concerns/concentration difficulty scores, father attachment was not evident as a predictor, but rather the more time spent with father the lower were social concerns and concentration difficulty scores. In between-groups analyses, it was found that adolescents from parental divorce/separation situations (n=43) had a poorer quality of attachment to their mother and father compared to adolescents whose parents were not divorced/separated (n=49), irrespective of gender. By contrast, peer attachment was not influenced by parental divorce/separation status, but was influenced by gender, with girls having a better quality of attachment to peers than did boys. No significant differences in anxiety levels were found between adolescents from parental divorce/separation situations. A non-significant trend was found showing girls reported higher levels of each type of anxiety than boys. The non-significant interaction between peer and parent attachment indicated that differences in anxiety between adolescents with high and low parent attachment were not affected in turn by high or low peer attachment levels. As a result of the study's findings it was recommended that when designing intervention programs for adolescent anxiety, that peer acceptance, father attachment, and parental conflict be considered.


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Copyright the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M.Psych.)--University of Tasmania, 2005. Includes bibliographical references

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