.. 995). There have been four studies that have directly addressed the relationship between number of family risk factors and psychosocial adjustment of youth in those families (Forehand et al., 1991; Luster & McAdoo, 1994; Rutter, 1979; Sameroff, Seifer, Barocas, Zax, & Greenspoon, 1987). The results found that as the number of family risk factors increased, behavior problems increased, grade point average and academic achievement decreased, presence of a child psychiatric disorder increased, and standardized intelligence test scores decreased (Forehand et al., 1991; Luster & McAdoo, 1994). Eventhough there has not been any major examination done on the long-term relationship between the number of family risk factors and youth psychosocial adjustment, one researcher did find some interesting information (Forehand, Biggar, & Kotchick, 1998).
She studied children which were classified as ‘at risk’ based on prenatal stress and other family variables such as poverty, parental divorce, and parental mental illness (Werner, 1989). She basically found that while most of the high risk children had problems in their teens, they were able to overcome those problems in their twenties and thirties (Werner, 1989). Although this study alluded to a temporary relationship between the number of family risk factors and the psychosocial adjustment of children in these families, Forehand and Wierson (1993) found something different. They proposed that the long term effects of living in a family with those multiple risk factors could lead to a disruption in youth psychosocial adjustment (Forehand and Wierson, 1993). Marital distress, conflict, and disruption were also found to be associated with a wide range of deleterious effects on children, including depression, withdrawal, poor social competence, health problems, poor academic performance, and a variety of conduct-related difficulties (Gottman, 1998). Another aspect to look at when researching the problems children have with divorce is the amount of contact lost between the child and the nonresidential father.
This has brought about much more research which is being done on the effect of the failure of a large proportion of fathers to maintain contact with their nonresidential children (Stone & McKenry, 1998). This, in turn, has led to several national studies, which have shown a decline in father contact after divorce (Stone & McKenry, 1998). One study found that of the fathers surveyed, 23% had had no contact with their 11- to 16-year-old children during the previous 5 years (Furstenberg, Morgan, & Allison, 1987). Another indicated that 19% of the children in their sample had contact fewer than one time per month, whereas 23% had not seen their fathers in the past year (Seltzer, Schaeffer, and Charng, 1989). Braver, Wolchik, Sandler, Fogas, & Zvetina (1991) feels that, eventhough recent studies have reported significantly lower visitation failure rates, it is difficult to interpret these findings due to sampling biases or geographical and cohort differences.
Researchers suggest that in order to study nonresidential father involvement, you must address a variety of factors (Stone & McKenry, 1998). A few suggested factors are; (a) positive child outcome with nonresidential visitation, (b) fathers’ post-divorce well-being and the extent of their contact with nonresidential children and (c) nonresidential father involvement and payment of child support (Arditti, 1992; Dudley, 1991). The real reasons nonresidential fathers decrease contact with their children following divorce in not really known (Dudley, 1991). The reason one researcher gives for the lack of quality research is that much of the research done on this has been based on mothers’ reports of fathers’ behavior (Bronstein, 1988; Kruk, IS94). One study did do some research on father involvement and found strong links between socioeconomic status and father involvement (Sweeney, 1997).
It also found that fathers with high levels of education are more accessible to and engaged with their school-age children. Another study also found, that when the father parenting role identity is high, there is an increase in the level of father involvement (Stone, 1998). However, it was found that in situations where the parents were divorced, if there is ongoing contact from both parents, it could make a considerable difference in the lives of these adolescents (Lebow, 1998). This study also found that if conflicts between the divorced parents continued, it has a negative consequence on the adolescents. Treatment Having discussed and looked at all the problems divorce can lead to, it should be one of our top priorities to reduce marital conflict and try to prevent divorce to the best of our abilities. Many researchers do not feel that divorce is always a negative outcome of marital therapy (Bray, 1995). In fact, Bray (1995) also says that many experienced clinicians can attest to the fact that some spouses presenting for marital therapy have already made up their minds that they want a divorce and seek marital therapy for reasons other than improving marital satisfaction.
However, many researchers agree that marital therapy can be effective in reducing conflict and increasing marital satisfaction, at least in the short term, when compared to no-treatment controls (Baucom & Hoffman, 1986; Bradbury & Fincham, 1990; Dunn & Schwebel, 1995). The most researched form of marital therapy, Behavioral marital therapy (BMT), has been repeatedly demonstrated both in the United States and in other countries (Hahlweg & Markman, 1988). BMT is a skills-oriented treatment that includes training in communication and problem-solving skills and behavior exchange principles (Bray, 1995). One researcher states that this approach is based, to some degree, on empirical research on functional and distressed marriages (Gottman, 1994). There are other therapy approaches, such as systems approaches or insight-oriented marital therapy.
However, they have been given less attention by marital therapy researchers eventhough data also supports the efficacy of these approaches when compared to no-treatment conditions (Bray, 1995). There are three methods for evaluating research on the effectiveness of marital therapy that most reviewers generally use (Bray, 1995). First, in a narrative approach reviewers evaluate studies on a case-by-case basis using a nonempirical approach to critique the studies; second is meta-analysis, which is a statistical technique that allows comparison of the effect sizes of various treatments across studies; third is the evaluation of clinical significance, which is a method of comparing studies to determine the clinical relevance of outcomes (Bray, 1995). Bray (1995) points out a couple more important points which are that effect size (ES) statistics reflect the magnitude of effect that a given treatment has in comparison to a control group and also, the larger the ES, the more effective the treatment. So, using the Marital Therapy method, the ES suggests that the probability of improvement at posttreatment is 40% greater for BMT than for no-treatment controls (Hahlweg & Markman, 1988) and that there is a 60% chance that a treatment couple will be better following marital therapy than a couple who did not receive therapy (Shadish et al., 1993).
However, eventhough reviewers agree that marital therapy is effective in reducing marital conflict, there is less support for the clinical significance of these outcomes (Bray, 1995). Jacobson and Addis (1993) conclude that “most tested treatments report no better than 50% success” (p. 86). It was also found by Shadish et al. (1993) that 41 % of couples in marital therapy moved from distressed to nondistressed status following treatment.
Another important factor that researchers are starting to look at is the long-term effect of treatment. However, to date very little is known about the long-term effect due to the follow-up (Bray, 1995). One particular treatment for children was the Divorce Adjustment Project which investigated the impact of three interventions on 82 children of divorce whose parents had been separated for 9 to 33 months (Stolberg & Garrison, 1985). Children from ages 7-13 were assigned to various support groups ranging from children’s support group condition, to concurrent children’s support, to a single parents’ support group and even a no-treatment support group. The various parents’ support groups worked to foster adults’ divorce adjustment, provide support and teach skills to facilitate adult development.
The children’s groups taught cognitive-behavioral skills to assist children in coping with divorce-related stressors, provided structured peer support, worked to clarify misunderstandings about the divorce and helped the children master developmental tasks that may have been disrupted by divorce (Stolberg, 1994). Within a 5-month follow-up, the children had increased their self-esteem and improved their social skills.