Health Psychology Thesis

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Social Psychology

The field of Social Psychology assumes great importance in today's world of increasing violence and chaos that threaten to undermine the stability of our society. Currently America is leading the world in the number of divorces and every year more than a million American children are facing the transition into single parenthood. Understanding family dynamics is crucial for policy makers who are struggling to control crime and criminal behavior. In this review of research studies we will briefly discuss 4 research articles pertaining to divorce and its implications on children and how it influences their behavioral development. This overview of research assumes huge significance in that the social implications are far reaching.

Divorce and Depression (a long-Term consequence for Children) research by Stephen E. Gilman et.al (2003) studied the effects of family disruption and low economic status in early childhood on the propensity to depression among young adults. For this research the authors included a total of 1780 individuals enrolled under the national perinatal collaborative project. This longitudinal study was conducted in two phases. For the first phase that began in 1984, 995 females in the age group of 18-27 years were selected. For the second phase of this study (1996) 1,056 subjects in the age group of 30 and 39 were chosen and assessed for their mental health. The authors observed various indicators of childhood economic status such as parental occupation, education, and household income. The subjects were classified based on the marital status of the parents from their birth till they were 7 years old. Future changes in the parent's marital status were also taken into account.

Structured interviews were used to obtain information from the subjects between 18 and 39 years of age to assess their history of depression. Economic considerations like the growing poverty level in the single parent household were also considered. Data pertaining to history of parental conflict was obtained from the subjects later in their adult life using four questions and positive response to atleast three of the four questions were categorized high on the scale of parental conflict. Interviewers used the National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule to diagnose history of depression. Cox regression model was then applied to the retrospective data gathered pertaining to the onset of depression. 24.1% of the subjects had major depression later in their lives and the risk factor for depression in relation to family breakdown http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/math/khgr.gif

2=23.7, df =5, p=0.0003) indicated that children who experienced early parental divorce were more prone to severe depression in their adulthood.

The poverty levels in single female houses in America increased from 24.1% to 57.4% between 1959 and 1999. The shifting family structure due to divorce has clearly contributed to this poor trend. Results from the study clearly highlighted that parental divorce prior to age of seven increased the risk for development of depression two fold and this was irrespective of subsequent remarriage. The risk for depression was even higher when family disruption was coupled with lower socio economic status. The study concluded that divorce had a clear bearing on possible onset of depression in adulthood. The study also highlighted that the remarriage of parents had little effect on the trend and that lower socioeconomic status further increased risk of depression. [Stephen E. Gilman]

Co-Parenting

An exhaustive meta analytic review by Robert Bauserman analyzed the impact of divorce on children and how they adapt to the new circumstance. For this study, the author reviewed and compared results from several previous studies on the aspect of child adjustment post divorce. Children in joint legal custody were compared with sole custody and with children from intact families. Studies were carefully chosen and only those that included a statistical outcome pertaining to psychological or behavioral adjustments between the joint custody and sole custody groups were considered. Thus studies that included only one group (either joint custody or sole custody) and studies, which were purely qualitative in reporting the difference between the groups without any statistical comparisons, were excluded. Five different types of sample sources such as court records, school records, national samples, media advertisements and personal contacts, and clinical samples obtained from family health counseling services providing divorce counseling were obtained. To obtain a more exact comparison of the adjustment measures between the joint and sole custody groups the adjustment measures were categorized into 'general adjustment, emotional adjustment, self-esteem, behavioral adjustment, academic performance, family relations and divorce-specific adjustment'.

The samples thus obtained were also coded for conflict measures including current conflict and past conflict. The Straus Conflict Tactics Scale, the Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Scale were used and the DSTAT software was used for the data analysis.

In all, a total of 32 studies were used for this meta analytical review of which 11 were published research studies and the remaining were unpublished doctoral dissertations. A total of 140 measure level effect sizes were obtained from these studies and they included 1846 sole custody and 814 joint custody children. The study level effect sizes for joint custody vs. sole custody clearly revealed that the children under joint custody had significantly higher adjustment measures. d =.23 (SD =.27, 95% confidence interval (CI) = -.14-.32). Further analysis comparing joint legal to sole parenting n=15) d=-.22 (SD=.24, 95% CI =.10-.34), and joint physical to sole parenting samples (n _ 20 studies), d=.29 (SD=.30, 95% CI =.14-.42), showed not much difference in the value of the adjustment measures. Also it was found that there was not much difference between joint custody and intact families. d = -.0002 (95% CI = - 0.27-0.27).

These results clearly indicate that children in a joint custody or intact families fair significantly better than children growing in sole parenting setups. The implications are clear.

Children feel more secure and comfortable when they are in a healthy atmosphere and a stable family. Divorce, however, shakes this security and creates confusion and fear in them. Understanding the impact of divorce on the children is the foremost responsibility of couples considering a divorce. The best way to reduce the buildup of stress and to normalize things would be to establish a positive co-parenting atmosphere. This however, requires the divorced adults to overcome their personal conflicts and continue to work together in a long-term co-parenting relationship. Effective co-parenting is the next best alternative to a closely-knit family setting. Many studies have concluded that joint custody is the most ideal for children. According to the author of this study Robert Bauserman, psychologist at the Maryland's Department of Health and Mental hygiene, "Children in joint-custody arrangements were as well-adjusted as intact family children.... Joint-custody children showed better adjustment in parental relations and spent significant amounts of time with the father, allowing more opportunity for authoritative parenting." [Robert Bauserman] Some studies like (Bender, 1994) even indicate that joint custody would reduce parental conflict in the long-term.

Divorce and Incarceration

Another important study by Cynthia C. Harper from the University of California studied the relation between divorce and father absent households on the likelihood of incarceration among male youths. This was an extensive longitudinal study that used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth database. The first survey began in 1979 covering a total of 6403 male subjects between the age group of 14 and 22 years and the survey continued every year. The childhood family stress hypothesis was also tested by taking into account the time period of separation from the father.

A infancy to age 4, ages 5-9, ages 10-14). Age was also studied as a risk factor for incarceration.

It was found that 90% of the youths included in the study were born into double parent households but by the time of their adolescence only 60% remained with both the parents. According to the survey of the youths recorded in the NLSY, children from intact families had only 5% case of incarceration while 13% of youths from single parent families were incarcerated. Discrete-time logistic models were then applied to the survey data to obtain a clear picture of the various predictive factors for the probability of incarceration. It was also found that the odds of youth incarceration in step parent families and single parent families was 2.9 times and 1.9 times that of youths from intact families. The main finding of the survey was that the crime rate was much higher for single parent children independent of other factors such as economic position, education level of the parent, etc. [Cynthia C. Harper] in the times of increasing crimes and incarcerations which our prisons are struggling to manage, it is important to understand the predictive factors for criminal behavior. Divorce also incurs added adult responsibilities (like financial position) on the adolescents, which they are not yet prepared to deal with.

IMAPP Research

The IMAPP undertook an exhaustive review of research on family structure and delinquency using 23 peer-reviewed researches conducted in the U.S. between 2000 and 2005. It was found that out of the 23 studies 19 showed that family structure had a clear… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Health Psychology.  (2009, January 12).  Retrieved December 13, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/health-psychology/857572

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"Health Psychology."  12 January 2009.  Web.  13 December 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/health-psychology/857572>.

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"Health Psychology."  Essaytown.com.  January 12, 2009.  Accessed December 13, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/health-psychology/857572.