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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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Farndale, Holly L 2005 , 'Anxiety in adolescents : the contribution of parental divorce, parental conflict, and quality of attachment to parents and peers', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Farndale, Holly L
Keywords: Anxiety in adolescence, Children of divorced parents, Children of divorced parents, Divorce, Marital conflict
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Additional Information:

Thesis (M.Psych.)--University of Tasmania, 2005. Includes bibliographical references

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