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J Health Soc Behav. 1996 Jun;37(2):133-48.

Pathways linking parental divorce with adolescent depression.

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University of Massachusetts, Center for Survey Research, Boston 02125, USA. ASELTINE@UMBSKY.CC.UMB.EDU


This article examines the intervening pathways linking parental divorce with adolescent depression, using both cross-sectional and prospective data from a study of high school students in the Boston metropolitan area. Overall, findings reveal that parental divorce is linked with adolescent depression in two ways: (1) it is a source of numerous secondary problems and stresses that are causally related to depression, and (2) it alters youths' reactivity to these stresses, in some cases enhancing, but in other cases mitigating, their depressive effects. Analyses demonstrated the central role of economic hardship in linking family status with depression, with the strength of this indirect pathway partly attributable to the greater vulnerability of youths in single-parent families to financial stresses. In contrast, family conflict did not account for the distress of youths in single-parent families, largely because of their immunity to the effects of such conflict. Finally, prospective data failed to support the hypothesis that differences between youths in single-parent and intact families predate the divorce.

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