Early adolescent adjustment following a marital transition: A growth model analysis

Anthony J Faber, Purdue University


In a sample of 921 children in nondivorced families, 230 children in divorced families and 35 children in remarried families assessed at age 10 through age 14, growth modeling was used to determine the basic developmental trajectories of internalizing and externalizing behaviors as well as mother/child attachment bond immediately following a marital transition of divorce or remarriage. I also investigated the effects of gender, mother's education level, and family income as well as all possible two way interactions on these trajectories. The data was obtained from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY) data set. The results demonstrated that immediately following the marital transition, early adolescents in divorced and remarried families on average exhibited higher levels of internalizing and externalizing behaviors compared to children in nondivorced families with children in remarried families exhibiting the highest levels. However, by three to four years later children in remarried families had begun exhibiting similar levels of internalizing and externalizing behaviors as children in nondivorced families. Children in recently divorced families began demonstrating similar levels of internalizing behaviors as nondivorced children by four years later but they were still demonstrating higher levels of externalizing behaviors four years after the divorce. Children's behavioral adjustment to divorce and remarriage also significantly differed based on their mother's educational level. The initial effect of divorce and remarriage on adolescent's externalizing behaviors was significantly more prominent at lower education levels than at higher education levels, particularly for children of divorce. The effect of marital status on adolescent's externalizing behaviors over time had the opposite effect at high and low levels of mother's education, with children of divorced and remarried low educated mothers exhibiting a decrease in externalizing behaviors over time while children of divorced and remarried highly educated mothers exhibited an increase in externalizing behaviors. However, this effect was significantly more prominent in children of remarried families. There were no significant changes in mother/child attachment bond following a marital transition of divorce or remarriage but there was a significant negative relationship between mother/child bond and internalizing and externalizing behaviors.




Sprenkle, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Developmental psychology|Social psychology

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