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Tracy Singer, Mary Jo Coiro, Ph.D.

Evaluation of a Psychoeducational Program for Children of Divorced Parents: Kids Connex

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Research suggests that divorce is one of the most difficult and stressful life changes that can affect a family (Pedro-Carroll, 2005), and that children of divorced parents have lower levels of adjustment than children from continuously intact families (Amato, 2001; Amato & Keith, 1991a; Lansford, 2009). Therefore, there is a need to address factors that are related to children’s adjustment and to help children cope with these family transitions. Research has pointed to three primary mediators related to the effect of divorce on children: parent-child relationships following divorce (Amato & Booth, 1996; Amato & Sobolewski, 2001), exposure to parental conflict following divorce (Amato & Keith, 1991; Burnman, John, & Margolin, 1987), and persistent emotional distress following divorce (Emery & Coiro, 1997).

Although there are programs that have been developed in an attempt to minimize children’s maladjustment to divorce, there is a scarcity of research showing empirical support for interventions for children that target these potential mediating factors (Grych & Fincham, 1992; Haine, Sandler, Wolchik, Tein, & Dawson-McClure, 2003). There remains a strong need to implement and evaluate programs for children of divorce that address these mediators as a way to improve children’s adjustment to this family transition.

The purpose of the current study is to evaluate a newly designed, community-based psychoeducational program, called KidsConnex, which aims to improve children’s adjustment to divorce. Participants will include 30 parents and children between the ages of 9-18 years old who register for the KidsConnex program at the National Family Resiliency Center (NFRC), which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help families deal with transitions such as separation, divorce, or the end of a relationship. The two and a half hour program is designed by the NFRC to help children and teens cope with the various losses and changes in their lives, including being in the middle of their parents' conflicts, experiencing emotional distress, and having strained parent-child relationships.  Although this study cannot directly evaluate the mediators of program effects because there is no comparison group of children of divorce who did not participate in the program, this study will examine associations between three hypothesized mediators and children’s adjustment two weeks after the program. The outcome of emotional and behavioral functioning will be measured by the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2; Reynolds & Kamphaus, 2006). The hypothesized mediators of post-divorce adjustment that will be measured are the quality of parent-child relationship (Children’s Report of Parental Behavior Inventory; Schaefer, 1965), self-blame and perceived threat of interparental conflict (Children’s Perception of Interparental Conflict Scale; Grych, Sied, & Fincham, 1992), and emotional distress about divorce (Painful Feelings about Divorce Scale; Laumann-Billings & Emery, 2000). This project uses a within-subjects design to examine pre-post differences on these variables as well as correlations among them. Furthermore, because the brief nature of the intervention and the short-term follow-up period limit the potential to identify changes in these variables, this study also aims to examine with a sample of younger children the reliability and validity of scores on a measure of distress about parental divorce that was originally developed for college-aged students (Laumann-Billings & Emery, 2000).

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