Grown-up children of divorce Experiences and health
Abstract: The comprehensive purpose of the thesis was to study the health and experiences, with a main focus on mental health, of a group of grown-up children of divorced parents in comparison to a group of persons without this experience. Mental health, experienced life events, narratives of divorce related experiences and personal resources were therefore examined in a group of young adults (age 22-33 years) whose parents divorced 15 years before the start of the first three studies. In addition to this, the presence of a child/adolescent and/or an adult psychiatric record and ten years of diagnosed physical health visits in the same but extended group (age 21-38 years) was examined 20 years after parental divorce. The outcomes of these examinations were compared with the outcomes of a group with married parents still living together, matched with the divorce group on age gender and living area. The results showed no major differences in mental health between the divorce and the non-divorce group, with the exception of women age 22-27 showing poorer mental health than the others in the study. Personal resources in this case SOC (Sense of Coherence) followed the same pattern, with no significant differences between the divorce and the non-divorce group, but with women age 22-27 showing lower SOC. The experiences/narratives told by the divorce group fell into one of two categories: one disappointment, the other contentment, with the first indicating non-optimal chances for adjustment to parental divorce and the other good. The run-through of psychiatric records showed no significant differences between the number of persons in need of adult psychiatric care in the divorce and the non-divorce group. A significant difference was present, however, in child- and adolescent psychiatric care pointing to a larger need for psychiatric care in the divorce group, a need most pronounced among girls. As concerned the number of diagnosed physical health care visits, only small differences between the groups were found. The main conclusion of the study was that experience of parental divorce in childhood is not found for a majority to be an experience determining poorer mental or somatic health in young adulthood.
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