Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Consequences of Dating for Post-Divorce Maternal Well-Being

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Consequences of Dating for Post-Divorce Maternal Well-Being

Article excerpt

Repartnering after divorce is linked to better psychological and physical health outcomes for mothers, as it helps to alleviate the negative effects associated with post-divorce stress (Amato, 2000; Anderson & Greene, 2005; Hetherington, 2003; Skew, Evans, & Gray, 2009; Wang & Amato, 2000). However, this association presumes that any repartnering relationship is beneficial for maternal well-being, independent of relationship quality. Only recently have researchers sought to understand the role of relationship quality in dating relationships after divorce, despite previous calls from researchers (Anderson & Greene, 2005; Cartwright, 2010; Langlais, Anderson, & Greene, 2015; Symoens, Colman, & Bracke, 2014). Also, the positive effects associated with repartnering are primarily based on research of post-divorce cohabitating relationships and remarriages rather than on dating relationships that precede these relationship experiences (Coleman, Ganong, & Fine, 2000; Montgomery, Anderson, Hetherington, & Clingempeel, 1992; Wu & Schimmele, 2005). Subsequently, previous researchers have viewed repartnering as a static variable, rather than capturing the effects of entering and leaving post-divorce dating relationships (Anderson et al., 2004; Montgomery et al., 1992). Additionally, many mothers may choose not to enter romantic relationships after divorce (Hetherington, 2003), which also has implications for maternal well-being. The goal of the current investigation is to examine the effects of mothers' entering, maintaining, and ending dating relationships, as well as relationship quality, on maternal well-being in order to promote post-divorce adjustment.

The focus of the current study is divorced women with primary residential custody of children. These women are distinct from childless women and divorced fathers, as mothers arguably face the most difficulty after divorce, particularly in terms of psychological health, as a result of decreases in family income after divorce, increases in parental responsibilities, and reductions in their social network (Hetherington & Kelly, 2002; Symoens et al., 2014; Tavares & Aassve, 2013; Wu & Schimmele, 2005). To achieve the goals of this study, we examined different approaches to dating after divorce to capture the impact of relationship quality on varying repartnering transitions: no dating, dating only one partner (single-partner dating), dating multiple partners serially (dating more than one partner after divorce, but the relationships do not overlap), and dating multiple partners simultaneously (see Langlais et al., 2015, for more details).


Divorce-Stress-Adaptation Perspective

Divorce is a difficult experience for mothers (Amato, 2000; Wang & Amato, 2000; Zhang & Hayward, 2006), resulting in increased stress that is damaging for maternal health (Hetherington, 1999; Hetherington & Kelly, 2002; Wang & Amato, 2000). A prominent model explaining the processes promoting post-divorce stress is the divorce-stress-adaptation perspective, described by Amato (2000). The foundation of this perspective derives from family stress theory, which designates three variables that predict adjustment to divorce: accumulation of stressors, resources for coping with stress, and the definition of the stressful event (McCubbin et al., 1980). Amato (2000) centered on the resources for coping with stress in order to demonstrate how some families cope with post-divorce stress and how other families do not.

According to the divorce-stress-adaptation perspective, adults and children experience one of two different processes of adjustment subsequently after divorce: the short-term crisis model and the chronic strain model (Amato, 2000). With the short-term crisis model, post-divorce stress is relatively brief, with adults and children returning to pre-divorce stress levels. For this model, divorce is a temporary crisis that impedes well-being only in the short term. …

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