Relationship paradigms and parental divorce: investigating the experiences of adult children from divorced families

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Virginia Tech

This study addresses the intimate relationships of college students whose parents are divorced. Twenty-one students completed in-depth interviews and written surveys regarding their relationships with their parents, their parents’ marriages, their own intimate relationships, and relationships in general. The purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of these students, and note if any connections can be made between the divorce of their parents and their own relationships, or their feelings about relationships in general. The experiences of the students were quite diverse, but with some common threads. The amount of conflict witnessed, and how the divorce was discussed, seemed to have greater impact on this study's participants than the divorce itself did. A number of students were actually in favor of the divorce due to the high level of conflict between their parents. In their relationships, most study participants avoided conflict. There seemed to be some lack of faith in love and marriage, although most students voiced a desire for both. The divorce seemed to have greater impact on the father-child relationship more so than the mother-child relationship. There needs to be further examination of the intimate relationships of adults with parents who are divorced through a comparison to a control group to determine if the experiences described here are specific to those persons with divorced parents. There also needs to be an examination of a more diverse sample, i.e. greater variance in age, economic status and race.