Healthy and Unhealthy Friendship and Hostility between Ex-Spouses

By Masheter, Carol | Journal of Marriage and Family, May 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Healthy and Unhealthy Friendship and Hostility between Ex-Spouses


Masheter, Carol, Journal of Marriage and Family


Using two indicators of postdivorce attachment, preoccupation and hostility, this article distinguishes between divorced survey respondents' (n = 232) healthy and unhealthy friendship and between healthy and unhealthy hostility toward the ex-spouse. The preoccupation indicator ranges from low (low scores) to high (high scores), whereas the hostility indicator ranges from high friendship (low scores) to high hostility (high scores). Respondents with low preoccupation and high friendship have significantly higher emotional well-being (M = 46.0, SD = 7.6) than those with high preoccupation and high friendship (M = 31.6, SD = 11.8). Respondents with low preoccupation and high hostility have significantly higher well-being (M = 47.4, SD = 9.0) than those with high preoccupation and high hostility (M = 38.1, SD = 6.8). Low preoccupation appears to be crucial to healthy postdivorce relationships, whether friendly or hostile. These quantitative findings confirm previously published qualitative findings based on research interviews and clinical cases.

Key Words: former spouses, friendship, hostility, postdivorce.

Though the divorce rate in the United States has leveled off and even decreased slightly, every year approximately 1.3 million couples divorce (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1991). Former spouses, as well as their children, face major changes and adjustments in their lives. Recent interest in the fostering of healthy, ongoing, postdivorce relationships between children and both of their parents has led to increased interest in the relationship between the former spouses themselves.

Most research on postdivorce relationships has emphasized hostility between former spouses, on one hand, and long-lasting bonds between them, on the other (Isaacs & Leon, 1988). In the interest of identifying healthy postdivorce relationships that could benefit former spouses, this article distinguishes between healthy and unhealthy friendship and between healthy and unhealthy hostility toward the ex-spouse using two indicators of postdivorce attachment: (a) preoccupation and (b) hostility.

In the following review, I consider postdivorce relationships between ex-spouses, their prevalence and intensity, how they are measured, and associations among them and individual variables, such as emotional well-being, gender, and parental, employment, and remarriage status.

POSTDIVORCE ATTACHMENT

Attachment as a Concept

Bowlby's (1969, 1973) and Ainsworth's (1982) original concept identifies both secure (healthy) and anxious (unhealthy) attachment between infants and their mothers. Both securely and anxiously attached infants seek contact with their mothers. Securely attached infants use their mothers as a safe base from which to explore the world and other people. Anxiously attached infants cling to their mothers, express prolonged distress when separated from their mothers, and tend not to explore the world and other people. Numerous divorce scholars have conceptualized attachment to the ex-spouse in terms similar to anxious infant attachment (see Kitson & Holmes, 1992, for a recent review). Investigators have defined postdivorce attachment in terms of separation distress (Parkes, 1973); separation anxiety and ambivalent feelings about the ex-spouse, such as missing the partner and wishes for reconciliation that oscillate with anger and hostility (Weiss, 1976); preoccupation with or intrusive thoughts about the exspouse or marriage (Berman, 1985; Tschann, Johnston, & Wallerstein, 1989); bereavement, mourning, or loss (Hazan & Shaver, 1992; Kitson, 1982, Kitson & Holmes, 1992); anger, blame, and the inability to achieve a balanced view of the ex-spouse (Tschann et al., 1989), as well as dependency and counterdependency (Johnston & Campbell, 1988). These definitions of attachment between ex-spouses, although not contradictory, are not synonymous. Nonetheless, rarely have investigators examined healthy or secure attachments between ex-spouses, an omission that this study attempts to remedy.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Healthy and Unhealthy Friendship and Hostility between Ex-Spouses
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?