An exploratory study of women's experience of parental divorce
Olson, Christine Lynn
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore and describe six women’s experience of parental divorce as reflected in their personal stories. Data was collected from in depth interviews on each women’s story of parental divorce concerning the themes of communication, loss, violence and abuse, and views on future relationships. The narratives were analyzed according to Glaser and Strauss (1967) grounded theory method. In using constant-comparative analysis, the investigator identified five clinical themes. The five areas consist of: (1) developmental stage of the child, (2) relational dynamics, (3) exposure to a traumatic event, (4) post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomology, and (5) internal states and behavioral components. The first area, developmental stage of the child, examined the ability of the women to master the developmental task for preschool age children according to the research by Erickson (1960). The second area, relational dynamics, examined women’s accounts of relationship changes resulting from the divorce process that may have contributed to the degree of trauma. The third area, exposure to psychic trauma, examined the women’s exposure to abuse within the context of their story of parental divorce. The fourth area, PTSD symptomology, examined the women’s internal coping mechanisms. The fifth area, internal states and behavior components, examined the women’s thoughts and feelings of their parents’ divorce and how they have organized their lives around these feelings. The findings of this study are discussed in the context of the existing literature on long term effects of parental divorce on children. Suggestions on future research along with therapeutic and social implications are presented.