Parental Divorce, Familial Risk for Depression, and Psychopathology in Offspring: A Three-Generation Study

Vousoura, Eleni; Verdeli, Helen; Warner, Virginia; Wickramaratne, Priya; Baily, Charles
October 2012
Journal of Child & Family Studies;Oct2012, Vol. 21 Issue 5, p718
Academic Journal
Research suggests a link between parental divorce and negative child outcomes; however, the presence of parental depression may confound this relationship. Studies exploring the simultaneous effects of depression and parents' divorce on the adjustment of their children are scarce and rarely have a longitudinal design. This is the first three-generation study of the relative effects of depression and divorce on offspring psychopathology, based on data from a 25-year longitudinal study with families at high and low risk for depression. One hundred seventy-eight grandchildren (mean age = 13.9 years) of depressed and nondepressed parents and grandparents were evaluated by raters blind to their parents' and grandparents' clinical status. We found that in both low and high-risk children, divorce had a limited impact on child adjustment over and above familial risk for depression. Divorce had a significant effect on child outcomes only among high-risk grandchildren with a depressed grandparent and non-depressed parents, with this group showing a threefold risk for anxiety disorders. Results support previous findings suggesting that familial risk for depression largely overshadows the effect of parental divorce on child psychopathology. Possible reasons for the lack of association between divorce and child psychopathology among low-risk offspring are discussed.


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