All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Patricia Drentea

Advisory Committee Members

Shawn Bauldry

Mieke Beth Thomeer McBride

Kristine Ria Hearld

Henna Budhwani

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2017

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

The primary objective of this study was to fill a gap by examining the effects of early parental divorce on multi-dimensional views of parent-child relationships (e.g. support, strain, contact), mental health, and alcohol consumption among adult children. Many studies have shown that parental divorce has impacts on children’s well-being, however, few studies have examined the long-term effects of parental divorce on adult health. Thus, this study aimed to examine the effects of early parental divorce on adult children’s depressive symptoms and alcohol use via relationships with parents. Drawing from the life course paradigm and the stress process model, I examined (1) whether any effects of parental divorce on their children’s depressive symptoms and alcohol use later in life are mediated by the relationships parents have with their adult children; (2) whether the age of the child when the parents were divorced alters the relationships between parental divorce on depression and alcohol use via parent-child relationships; and (3) whether parental divorce and parent-child relationships have a stronger association with depression for women and, in contrast, whether parental divorce and parent-child relationships have a stronger association with alcohol use for men. Data came from Americans’ Changing Lives (ACL), a nationally representative panel survey of individuals in the United States (US). I used three waves of data from the ACL: in 1986 (N=3,617), 1989 (N=2,867), and 1994 (N=2,562). Results of linear models show that childhood parental divorce is associated with adult children’s alcohol use (especially among adult daughters), but not with depressive symptoms. Further, the findings show that relationships with parents are multi-dimensional (e.g. support, strain, contact) and gendered (different consequences for mothers and fathers). Additionally, the results suggest that parental divorce, depressive symptoms, and alcohol use are not mediated by parent-child relationships, indicating that there may be some other mechanisms to affect these relationships. The project highlights that the relationships between parental divorce, parent-child relationships, mental health, and alcohol consumption are more complex than previously studied, and suggests greater attention be given to socioeconomic factors and the quality of family relationships.

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