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Publication Date

2008-04-09

Availability

UM campus only

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2007-12-05

First Committee Member

Margaret Crosbie-Burnett - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Barry B. Zwibelman - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Malcolm L. Kahn - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

Kristin M. Lindahl - Committee Member

Fifth Committee Member

Robert McMahon - Committee Member

Abstract

Parental divorce is a stressful process that has been associated with long-term developmental implications for the children involved. There have been mixed results from research regarding specific effects of parents' marital status on levels of psychological distress and academic achievement in late adolescence and early adulthood. Research using a clinical sample from a college counseling center was lacking altogether. The primary goal of this study was to establish if there are relationships between parents' marital status, students'degree of psychological distress and academic achievement within a clinical sample of college undergraduates. The secondary goal was to determine if student gender interacts with parents' marital status on measures of psychological distress and academic achievement. Participants included 324 undergraduate college students aged 17-24 years who received clinical services at a student counseling center of a private university in a large metropolitan area in the Southeastern United States. Primary analyses found no statistically significant differences for self-reported GPA and therapists' perception of psychological distress by parents' marital status (married, divorced or divorced/remarried). In addition, it was found that gender did not have a statistically significant interaction with parents' marital status on psychological distress or academic achievement. Student's residential status was found to significantly covary with psychological distress, suggesting that students who lived off campus were perceived as being significantly more distressed than students who lived on campus, independent of parents' marital status. Results of this study have implications for college counseling center personnel to obtain a thorough family history at intake and monitor changes in residential status throughout the course of treatment. Results of this study also have implications for university administrators and student affairs personnel to include researching, planning and implementing interventions and programming for commuter students, and possibly expanding on-campus housing.

Keywords

Grades; Marital Transition; Step Parent; Stress

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