Evidence for Resilience Among School-age Children with Divorced or Separated Parents
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. College of Nursing Honors Theses; 2008
Problem: The CDC estimates that 1/3 of marriages end within the first 10 years, when their children are young. The rate of marital separations is not known. Although divorce/separation is becoming the norm, it is not a “normal” experience for a child. Most research focuses on the children with problems due to negative adaptation. Systematic analyses of more positive outcomes are severely lacking. Theory: Luthar’s (2000) theory on resilience differentiates two levels of positive adaptation to significant adversity: 1) Neutral adaptation, meaning no significant biopsychosocial change, and 2) Resilience, meaning growth beyond previous levels of adaptation. Negative adaptation is evidenced by clinically significant biopsychosocial change. Design: This study is part of a larger cross-sectional, descriptive study of children under stress. The research questions are: #1: What psychological, physical, and social manifestations of stress adaptation do these children display? #2: Are there differences between children of divorced and intact families who demonstrate: a) negative adaptation, b) neutral adaptation, and c) resilience? #3: What characteristics of children’s human figure drawings (HFD) distinguish resilient children from the others? Subjects: Subjects were 42 English-speaking children, ages 7−12 years, from elementary schools and summer camps in Ohio and several other states. This pilot study includes 21 children from divorced or separated parents matched for age and sex with 21 children from intact families. Instruments: A demographic form and 2 standardized instruments were administered: the Revised Children’s Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Pediatric Quality of Life – Present Functioning Scale (QOL-PF). Children were also asked to make a human figure drawing (HFD). An HFD is a projective method of measuring emotional status; drawings are evaluated for the presence or absence of 29 emotional indicators (Koppitz, 1968). Results: Some children from divorced families (DF) demonstrated scores in the resilient range compared to children from intact families (IF): 2 DF vs 1 IF for anxiety and/or depression scores; 1 DF vs 2 IF for QOL-PF scores. In the negative adaptation range of anxiety and/or depression scores, there were 3 DF vs 5 IF. Emotional indicators on the HFDs clearly differentiated children with scores within the resilient and negative adaptation range. Implications: This is the first study to focus on resilience among children with divorced or separated parents. Some children from divorced/separated families are able to adapt to this potentially pervasive stressor in positive ways (neutral or resilient). Children’s HFDs are useful assessment tools to identify children who may be experiencing higher than normal levels of anxiety and depression. The results of this pilot study indicate that a large-sample study should be conducted. Future studies of resilient children’s unique characteristics, coping strategies and resources may be useful in new interventions for children who are not adapting well.
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