Academic journal article Family Relations

An Evaluation of a Newsletter Intervention for Divorced Mothers

Academic journal article Family Relations

An Evaluation of a Newsletter Intervention for Divorced Mothers

Article excerpt

Separation and divorce have become normative life events for many families in the United States. Despite some recent indications that the rate of divorce may be leveling off, Martin and Bumpass (1989) estimated that about two thirds of all first marriages are likely to be disrupted by separation or divorce. These trends suggest that scholars and clinicians interested in family life will continue to need to address issues related to marital transitions.

While separation and divorce are becoming more common among families, this has not resulted in a decrease in the potential negative effects that this experience can have for family members. In a recent review of the short-term effects of divorce on adults, Chase-Lansdale and Hetherington (1990) reported that divorced persons, when compared with never-divorced persons, experience more problems with daily living, economics, well-being, and parenting.

A recent longitudinal study documents some of the short-term psychological consequences of divorce. In a comparison of divorced and married women over a 2-year period, Wilcox (1986) found that divorced women reported a greater number of problems and less satisfaction with family life, housework, and finances at 2 years following the divorce. In terms of mental health, Wilcox reported that divorced mothers, when compared with never-divorced mothers, had lower levels of overall well-being throughout the 2-year period and higher levels of depression. Indeed, the findings suggest that about 30% of the divorced women would be classified as in need of psychological treatment for depression at 2 years following divorce. These findings highlight the need for preventive interventions following divorce.

The adverse reactions experienced by divorced persons have prompted clinicians and family life educators to develop intervention programs to help families coping with marital disruption. Several early studies have demonstrated that brief counseling or educational programs can result in better divorce adjustment and improved emotional health (Kessler, 1978; Thiessen, Avery, & Joannings, 1980). Recent and more rigorous efforts to examine the effects of divorce interventions with adults indicate more mixed outcomes. Warren and Amara (1984) compared participants and nonparticipants in a self-study program for divorced persons and reported significant improvements in the participants' level of depression immediately following the program; however, this effect was not present at a 1-year follow-up.

One of the most promising approaches to intervention was designed by Bloom and his colleagues (Bloom, Hodges, & Caldwell, 1982; Bloom, Hodges, Kern, & McFaddin, 1985). This program included the use of paraprofessional counselors who were available to clients and a series o workshops addressing parenting, psychological adjustment, financial, legal, and household issues. Posttests immediately following the intervention, as well as a 2-year follow-up, indicated that the treatment group showed greater improvements in life satisfaction and psychological well-being than the nontreatment group. These results demonstrate that some interventions can be effective over time.

Although these studies demonstrate that under some circumstances educational and clinical interventions can facilitate adjustment to the divorce transition, there is still a need to further our understanding of effective intervention strategies. A central problem with group methods is that they reach only a small segment of the population. Studies that have examined how adults would like to receive information consistently find that meetings and support groups are ranked very low (Hughes & Durio, 1983; Spiegel & Conone, n.d.). On the other hand, written materials in the form of newsletters and pamphlets are viewed more favorably by parents.

Recently, there has been some promising evidence that sequential newsletters sent through the mail may be a promising strategy for delivering parenting information. …

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