Exploring the Memories and Well-being of College Students with Divorced Parents

Open Access
Author:
Maynor, Jessica Lynne
Area of Honors:
Sociology
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Stacy Silver, Thesis Supervisor
  • Stacy Silver, Honors Advisor
  • Jeffery Todd Ulmer, Faculty Reader
Keywords:
  • Divorce
  • Divorce-Stress-Adjustment Perspective
  • College Students
  • Qualitative
  • Stressors
  • Well-Being
  • Memories
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to explore how individuals interpret their childhood experiences of parental divorce as related to their current adult lives and families. The research questions explored were: 1) What divorce related changes in family life are remembered as stressors by the college students in my sample, whose parents all divorced when the student was under the age of 16? 2) How do college students with divorced parents describe their current family relations and to what extent do they see this as related to their parents’ divorce and resulting changes in family life? 3) How do college students with divorced parents describe their current beliefs about romantic relationships and to what extent do they see this as related to their parents’ divorce and resulting changes in family life? I conducted interviews with ten undergraduate students at The Pennsylvania State University whose parents divorced before they turned age 16. This was an exploratory study using qualitative data and the results were analyzed by transcribing and coding each interview and looking for patterns among them. Previous research suggests that divorce may create significant turmoil for children. Still, my respondents varied greatly in the way they felt certain stressors affected their well-being in the long-term. Several themes were evident though, including the loss of a relationship with one’s father, the rise of mothers as the sole authority figure, feelings of being in the middle of parental conflict, stress rooted in stepfamily formation and moving homes, changes in current family relations, and feelings of one’s ability to form their own romantic relationships. My findings are discussed with the aim of advancing our understanding of adult children’s memories of the divorce process and their perceptions of how this event influence their adult lives.