Parental Divorce and Adult Psychological Distress: Evidence from a National Birth Cohort: A Research Note


Requests for reprints to: Dr Bryan Rodgers, NHMRC Psychiatric Epidemiology Research Centre, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.


An association was found between childhood parental divorce and adult psychological distress in a British national birth cohort at ages 23 and 33. No moderating effects were found for gender, age at separation, or remarriage of the custodial parent. Participants who were young adults when their parents divorced also showed increased levels of symptomatology, whereas those who experienced parental death in childhood showed no increased risk. An interaction between parental divorce and own divorce in women, giving particularly high symptom levels, arose from a selection process in those from divorced families of origin only, with high 23-year scores predicting subsequent divorce. Own divorce was associated with an increase in distress between age 23 and 33, but this was irrespective of family of origin.