The impact of childhood exposure to destructive forms of inter-parental conflict and of separation/divorce

Jones, Richard T. (2018) The impact of childhood exposure to destructive forms of inter-parental conflict and of separation/divorce. DForenPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

Background: Existing theories and research are provided, detailing the harmful effects of childhood exposure to destructive forms of inter-parental conflict. This area of research is lacking in comparison to that of adult perpetrators and victims of domestic violence. Equally, there is a general emphasis towards inter-parental violence instead of other forms of inter-parental conflict.

Aims and Objectives: This thesis explores the impact of childhood exposure to destructive forms of inter-parental conflict and parental divorce/separation. The five research questions considered were:

1. Chapter Two: What is the quality of the literature regarding the association between exposure to inter-parental violence and trauma symptomatology amongst children?

2. Chapter Three: How valid and reliable is the revised Conflict Tactics Scales-2 (CTS; Straus et al., 1996) in measuring inter-parental conflict tactics in both clinical and research settings?

3. Chapter Four: How do university students appraise their experiences of inter-parental conflict and separation/divorce? And how did their appraisals impact on their academic performance and social relationships?

4. Chapter Five: How did individuals exposed to inter-parental conflict, violence and divorce recollect, make sense of and cope with their experiences?

Method: The following methods were undertaken to answer the above research questions; (1) a systematic review to assess the quality of the existing literature, (2) the CTS-2 was critically reviewed to determine its utility for clinical and research purposes, (3) a quantitative empirical research study, and (4) a qualitative empirical research study.

Findings: The following are the main findings identified in each chapter:

1. The systematic review in chapter two identified that exposure to inter-parental violence leads to elevated trauma symptomatology amongst children of all ages. However, the existing literature had a number of methodological concerns. Consequently, the link between exposure to inter-parental violence and trauma symptomatology was not considered to be strong.

2. It was concluded in the critique in chapter three that the CTS-2 is a robust psychometric measure if it is to be used alongside other complimentary assessment techniques. Although, more research is required to continue to assess its external validity and applicability across diverse populations, cultures and countries.

3. The results from the quantitative research in chapter 4 indicated that constructive forms of inter-parental conflict (e.g. negotiation conflict tactics) were strongly associated with more positive appraisals of inter-parental conflict. Furthermore, destructive forms of inter-parental conflict (e.g. psychological aggression and physical violence conflict tactics) were strongly associated with more negative appraisals of inter-parental conflict.

For those participants who had experienced parental separation or divorce, the perception of threat was significantly different between participants whose academic studies had suffered and those who had not suffered. Furthermore, significant differences were found in relation to perceived threat and negative appraisals between participants who reported that their social relationships had suffered and those who had not suffered.

4. The qualitative research in chapter 5 highlighted the individual’s experience of destructive forms of inter-parental conflict and divorce. Specifically, from the themes identified, inter-parental conflict and divorce were not time-limited and the individuals’ adjustment appeared to be mediated by the presence vulnerability and protective factors.

Conclusion: Exposure to destructive forms of inter-parental conflict, separation or divorce are considered harmful to the child. Exposure affects the amount of negative appraisals the child experiences regarding the inter-parental conflict in childhood and social relationships for those who had experienced separation or divorce. This can have longer term consequences on the exposed child throughout childhood and early adulthood. Researchers and clinicians should allocate more resources to better understand and provide support to individuals who have been exposed to destructive forms of inter-parental conflict, parental separation/divorce in the past and currently. Organisational initiatives and interventions are needed to provide independent support for children going through these adverse life experiences.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DForenPsy)
Supervisors: Browne, Kevin
Chou, Shihning
Keywords: Family violence; Divorce; Adverse life experiences; Psychological effect
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WS Pediatrics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 53338
Depositing User: Jones, Richard
Date Deposited: 21 May 2019 12:40
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 13:17
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/53338

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