Exposure to parental separation in childhood and later parenting quality as an adult: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study
David M Fergusson
Background: Previous research has documented that exposure to parental separation/divorce during childhood can be associated with long-term consequences into adulthood. This study sought to extend this literature by examining associations between childhood exposure to parental separation/divorce and later parenting behavior as an adult in a New Zealand birth cohort. Methods: Data were drawn from the Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS), a longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1,265 children born in 1977 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Information about exposure to parental separation and divorce was gathered annually from birth to 15 years. At the 30-year follow-up, all cohort members who had become parents (biological or nonbiological) were assessed on several parenting dimensions (sensitivity, warmth, overreactivity, inconsistency, quality of child management, and physical punishment). Results: The analyses showed that exposure to more frequent parental separation in childhood and adolescence was associated with lower levels of parental sensitivity and warmth, greater overreactivity, and an increased use of physical punishment as a parent, after controlling for a wide range of family socioeconomic and psychosocial factors, and individual child characteristics. Conclusions: The findings suggest that as exposure to parental separation increases, so does the likelihood of experiencing multiple developmental challenges in childhood and adolescence. As an adult, these life-course experiences can have small but significant associations with the quality of parenting behavior.
Rights Statement: This version in OUR Archive is the author's manuscript accepted for publication after peer-review. The published version is: Friesen, M. D., Horwood, L. J., Fergusson, D. M., & Woodward, L. J. (2017). Exposure to parental separation in childhood and later parenting quality as an adult: Evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 58(1), 30-37. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12610
Keywords: Psychology; Psychiatry
Research Type: Journal Article