Divorce, Parental Status, and Adult Health and Well-Being

Kristi Williams, Ohio State University

Substantial evidence indicates that divorce has negative consequences for adult health and well-being. Because most research focuses on the average consequences of divorce, we know very little about factors that might moderate this association. The present study tests the following central hypothesis: The transition to divorce or separation is associated with a substantial decline in health and psychological well-being, but only among parents of young children. For those with older children and for childless individuals, divorce has only negligible consequences for adult health. Analysis of two waves of data from the National Survey of Families and Households supports this hypothesis. The transition to divorce is associated with: (a) increased depression only among parents of pre-school aged children, (b) increased alcohol abuse only among mothers of pre-school aged children, (c) diminished happiness for men regardless of parental status, and (d) diminished happiness only for women with pre-school aged children.

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Presented in Session 42: Union Dissolution