Arizona State Psychologists Developing Program for Children of Divorce

  • Along with the classes and activities that exist to aid the adjustment of children of divorce, Arizona State University psychologists have developed a program.
  • Their program promotes effective parenting following family separation or divorce.
  • The program has been evaluated with the results intermittently showing long-term success among participating families.

With all of the logistical challenges that children of divorce have to face in adjusting to a new situation and new routines in how they spend their time, you, as a parent, can sometimes lose sight of the emotional challenges that a child may face.

With all of the countless studies that show the risks that children of divorce face, it is important to remember the role that a child’s emotional and psychological well-being play in helping them adjust to their new situation.

While classes and activities exist that aid the adjustment of children of divorce, psychologists at Arizona State University are working on a program that will continue to help children who have gone through a parental divorce.

The program

Sharlene Wolchik, professor of psychology at Arizona State, and Irwin Sandler, Regents’ professor of psychology at Arizona State created the New Beginnings Program for Divorcing and Separated Families, which is a 10-session program designed to promote effective parenting following family separation or divorce.

The program was founded in the early 1990s, and it has been subject to many studies that evaluate its effectiveness improving the parent-child relationship after a divorce or separation.

Evaluating the program

One particular evaluation, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, involved 240 families and included a follow-up assessments at six months, six years, 15 years, and an upcoming 26 years after their participation in the program. This included parents, children, and grandchildren of divorce.

The results of the assessment showed that they had 37 percent lower rates of diagnosed mental disorders and a lower level of mental health problems as well as lower uses of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. They also had higher grades and higher levels of self-esteem. Of the children whose parents were in the program, 35 percent of them had an A or B average in school than those in the control condition.

Children who had improved success in school six years after the program were found to be less likely to experience depression 15 years later.

The upcoming 26-year follow-up assessment will only include 210 of the families and researchers, who will be looking at the participants’ physical and mental health, as well as their relationships with others.

“We will again be studying the children, who are now adults, and will be assessing their parenting style,” Wolchik said to Kimberlee D’Ardenne, of the Arizona State Psychology Department. “We want to see if the program’s positive effects on parenting crossed generations.”

Domino effect

When coming up with the New Beginnings Program, Wolchik and Sandler studied a variety of exercises and programs that were designed to help children who have experienced a parental divorce. In their findings, they saw that teaching parenting skills to mothers was the most effective way of teaching coping skills to children, as opposed to a more direct approach.

The reason that they specified mothers is due to the overwhelming amount of child custody decisions that favor mothers. Due to the pervasive and outdated perceptions that can exist in some litigation circles, it is important to be well represented by a family law attorney who understands your case and the challenges you may face.

Spreading the word

According to Wolchik and Sandler, through the utilization of New Beginnings Program, children have been able to connect better with both parents after divorce.

This program has been so effective that Arizona State is no longer the only location utilizing the New Beginnings program. Maricopa County, Arizona’s family courts have partnered with the nonprofit, Southwest Human Development, and begun referring newly divorced parents to the program. The program also has been adopted in Louisiana and Indiana family courts.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Giving children understanding

These types of programs enable children to understand their feelings, regarding their parental divorce, so that they can avoid allowing these events to adversely affect their health moving forward.

They also give divorced co-parents the ability to communicate with one another how their child is doing. They have a chance of putting their child first, above any sort of hurt feelings or past history. Even though their relationship may not have worked, they still have the ability to provide their child with two co-parents who will put their well-being above their own egos.

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