Effects of parental divorce in childhood on intimacy, commitment and belief in equal rights in the adult years

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Leonard I. Jacobson - Committee Chair


One hundred college students from both intact and divorced family backgrounds participated in a study on intimacy, relationship commitment and sex-role attitudes. Fifty subjects were from divorced families and fifty subjects were from intact families. Intimacy was viewed within an Eriksonian (1968) model and was assessed by a semi-structured intimacy interview (Orlofsky & Roades, 1988). A new measure was developed to assess relationship commitment in young adults and consisted of four interpersonal scenarios involving couples who were experiencing conflict. The subjects were given a score based on the solutions they choose for each scenario. Sex-role attitudes were assessed using the Anderson-Jacobson Belief About Equal Rights Scale (BAERS). Individuals from divorced family backgrounds were more likely to be involved in superficial romantic relationships than individuals from intact family backgrounds. Young adults who were under the age of thirteen when their parents divorced were more likely to be involved in co-dependent relationships than those adults who were thirteen or older at the time of parental divorce. This data indicated that parental divorce is an event with long-term consequences for the quality and mutuality of dating relationships. There were no significant differences on commitment by gender, family background, or age at time of parental divorce. When BAERS scores are compared with other scores from people of the same gender, people scoring in the middle range were more likely to be involved in co-dependent relationships indicating that sex-role attitudes may be an important predictor of mutual, egalitarian relationships. The data indicates that divorce is an event with long-term consequences for the dating relationships of young adults.


Psychology, Developmental; Psychology, Clinical

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