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Short and long term effects of parental divorce

Dr. Yongmin Sun,  Department of Sociology
 Rank at time of award: Associate Professor


Over 40% of American children will experience parental divorce or separation during their childhood. Despite a substantial amount of prior research on divorce effects, most studies have treated children of divorce as one undifferentiated group and therefore, failed to carefully examine the potential variations in their post-divorce adjustments. The long-term objective of the proposed research is to examine how parental divorce affects children's academic performance, psychological well-being, behavior problems, and other well-being measures differently based on four waves of the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS). Specifically, this research will determine whether chronic, multiple family structure changes after divorce may further affect adolescent and adult offspring beyond the initial divorce. In addition, the proposed research will identify characteristics of children and their families that influence the changes in children's post-divorce well-being. Such analyses help explain why some children of divorce gradually recover from the initial aftermath of the divorce whereas others exhibit greater adjustment problems over time.
Finally, this research will examine whether children's developmental stage when divorce occurs plays a role in their educational attainment, income, job prestige, and other demographic behavior measures in their young adulthood. A variety of statistical techniques for longitudinal analyses, including change-score models, pooled time-series models and hierarchical linear growth-curve models, will be used in the proposed analyses. In short, the proposed research will enrich our understanding about what mechanisms explain important variations in divorce effects on children.
Project Narrative: Children are likely to have different levels of adjustment problems after their parents' divorce. By examining why parental divorce affects children's psychological well-being, academic performance, and behaviors differently, the proposed research will enhance our knowledge about different adjustment experiences  of millions of American children in divorced families.

Publications resulting from this seed grant

2008. Sun, Y. & Li, Y. Stable postdivorce family structures during late adolescence and socioeconomic consequences in adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 129-143.

2008. Sun, Y. & Li, Y. Parents’ marital disruption and its uneven effect on children’s academic performance – A simulation model.  Social Science Research, 37, 449-460. PMID: 19069054

2007. Sun, Y. & Li, Y. Racial and ethnic differences in experiencing parents’ marital disruption during late adolescence. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 742-762.