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Clin Psychol Sci. 2013 Mar 18;1(2):120-134.

Expressive Writing Can Impede Emotional Recovery Following Marital Separation.

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Department of Psychology, University of Arizona.
Department of Psychology, University of North Texas.


Marital separation and divorce are common life events that increases risk for poor health outcomes, yet few intervention studies explore how to mitigate this increased risk. This study implemented an expressive writing (EW; see Pennebaker, 1997) intervention for adults who experienced a recent marital separation. Ninety participants (32 men) were randomly assigned to and completed one of three experimental writing tasks: traditional EW, a novel (narrative-based) type of EW or control writing. Up to nine months after this writing, participants judged to be actively engaged in a search for meaning concerning their separation reported significantly worse emotional outcomes when assigned to either EW condition relative to control writing. Within the control condition, those participants actively engaged in a search for meaning reported the lowest levels of separation-related disturbance. We discuss these results in terms of the factors that may limit and promote psychological recovery following marital separation.


coping; divorce; expressive writing; marital separation; meaning-making; moderation; rumination; stress

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