Effective Parental Cooperation and Communication as Protective Factors for Adult Offspring of Divorce
Til Ogut, Damla
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Research and society have focused attention on how divorce affects family dynamics for decades. The clinical literature points to significant discrepancies in psychological variables between offspring from divorced versus intact families, suggesting that divorce contributes to negative psychosocial outcomes. Accordingly, investigations have revealed the adverse effects of co-parental conflict and antagonistic communication on divorce offspring’s psychological outcomes. Although parental cooperation and communication are suggested to serve as protective factors, more research is needed, given the current literature’s reliance on measures of psychopathology, yet making conclusions on psychological wellness. Among 244 college students, results indicated that divorce offspring reported lower levels of parental cooperation and communication. Effective parental communication appeared to be associated with higher levels of wellbeing (flourishing, quality of life) and self-esteem, regardless of family structure. Similarly, high parental cooperation appeared to be associated with higher wellbeing (mental and physical, and productivity) and self-esteem, regardless of family structure. Participants from divorced families reported higher levels of productivity wellbeing in adulthood if their parents communicated effectively. Among parents who could not effectively communicate, offspring of divorce reported greater quality of life suggesting divorce may have been beneficial to the family. It can be speculated that the divorce improved offspring’s quality of life in instances where there was significant preexisting turmoil and conflict in the family while the parents were together. Important contributions to this study lie in the validation that negative effects thought to be associated solely with divorce, may not have been so clear cut. More over-arching factors related to how parents communicate and cooperate with one another in the aftermath of the separation, may have significant mediating contributions. It is equally noteworthy, that the current study was able to examine the offspring’s effects within the context of psychological wellness, rather than simply focusing on observable symptoms of psychopathology, as has been traditionally done in the literature. From a clinical perspective, these findings also serve to inform a strength-based model for planning interventions that focus on fostering positive relationships between parents among divorced families for the optimal psychological wellbeing of their offspring.