Citation
A structured small-group counseling intervention to assist children with adjustment to divorce

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Title:
A structured small-group counseling intervention to assist children with adjustment to divorce
Creator:
Sameck, April Merry, 1947-
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
ix, 124 leaves : ; 28 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Children of divorced parents -- Florida ( lcsh )
Child psychotherapy ( lcsh )
Counseling ( lcsh )
Counselor Education thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Counselor Education -- UF
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1990.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 107-114).
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by April Merry Sameck.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
025056131 ( ALEPH )
24229126 ( OCLC )
AHR5343 ( NOTIS )

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Full Text















A STRUCTURED SMALL-GROUP COUNSELING INTERVENTION
TO ASSIST CHILDREN WITH ADJUSTMENT TO DIVORCE










By

APRIL MERRY SAMECK


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY



UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1990































Copyright 1990

by

April Merry Sameck









ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


I would like to extend my gratitude to the many

individuals who supported and encouraged me as a graduate

student. A special debt of gratitude is extended to my

family, committee members, and friends.

Foremost I want to thank my children, Karen and Tommy,

for their support, understanding, and love. As children of

divorce themselves, they were a constant inspiration for my

endeavors to learn more about the impact of divorce on

young people.

I wish to extend special gratitude to my committee

chairperson, Dr. Joe Wittmer. His guidance, wisdom, and

encouragement seemed limitless.

I also want to thank Dr. Ellen Amatea for her

technical assistance with this study and her personal

support. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Dr.

Max Parker and Dr. Don Bernard for their interest,

encouragement, and willingness to assist. I extend a warm

message of gratitude to the memory of Dr. Paul Fitzgerald

for his constant messages of optimism.


iii






I wish to commend my dear and loyal friends, Glenda,

Carrie, and Jeanette, for their unconditional support and

their constant caring for me.

I extend a pride-filled thanks to my mom who has

always believed in me.

To my husband, Jack, I extend my heart-filled

gratitude and love for reminding me there was light at the

end of the tunnel and for being there when it was difficult

to believe.

I also want to thank the counselors, teachers, and

students who made this project possible.










TABLE OF CONTENTS



Page

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .................................... iii

ABSTRACT ............................................ vii

CHAPTERS

I INTRODUCTION .................................. 1

Overview ..................................... 2
Statement of the Problem ..................... 4
Need for the Study ........................... 5
Purpose of the Study ......................... 6
Rationale for the Study ...................... 8
Definition of Terms .......................... 11
Overview of the Remainder of the Study ....... 12

II REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE .................. 14

Theoretical Constructs ....................... 15
Effects of Divorce on Children ................ 21
Psychological Issues ......................... 31
Age and Sex Issues ........................... 37
Length of Time Since Divorce .................. 46
Comprehensive Studies on the Effects of
Divorce ................................... .. 47
Preventive Interventions for Children of
Divorce ................................... .. 51

III METHODOLOGY .................................. 57

Research Design .............................. 57
Hypothesis ................................... .. 58
Population ................................... .. 58
Participants ..................................... 59
Implementation of the Study ................... 61
Instrumentation .............................. 67
Self-Concept ................................ 67
School Behaviors .......................... 69
Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce 71
Analysis of Data ............................. 76







IV RESULTS ...................................... 77

Research Hypotheses ........................... 80
Research Hypothesis One .................... 80
Research Hypothesis Two .................... 84
Research Hypothesis Three .................. 87
Research Hypothesis Four ................... 90
Research Hypothesis Five ................... 91

V DISCUSSION ..................................... 92

Limitations .................................... 93
Evaluation of Research Hypotheses ............ 95
Research Hypothesis One .................... 95
Research Hypothesis Two .................... 96
Research Hypothesis Three .................. 98
Research Hypothesis Four ................... 99
Research Hypothesis Five .................. 100
Discussion, Implications, and Recommendations. 101
In Conclusion .......... ...................... 104

REFERENCES ........................ .................. 107

APPENDICES

A REVIEW AND EVALUATION MEMORANDUM AND
EVALUATION FORM ........................... 116

B LETTER OF INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN THE
STUDY ...................................... 120

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................. 123









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate
School of the University of Florida in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

A STRUCTURED SMALL-GROUP COUNSELING INTERVENTION
TO ASSIST CHILDREN WITH ADJUSTMENT TO DIVORCE

By

April Merry Sameck

December 1990

Chairman: Paul J. Wittmer
Major Department: Counselor Education

The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of

a small group counseling intervention designed to assist

fourth and fifth grade children with their adjustment to

their parents' divorce. Specifically, children's

adjustment was assessed by instruments which measured self-

concept, school behaviors, and beliefs about parental

divorce. The influence of student group, student gender,

and length of time since their parents' divorce were

investigated.

This experimental study utilized a randomized control

group, pretest-posttest design. Data were collected and

analyzed from the pretest and posttest group total mean

scores.

Participants were 88 fourth and fifth grade children

from 6 Florida schools whose parents were divorced.


vii






Participants lived with their mothers only, were not

concurrently receiving additional counseling while

participating in this study, and were not presently

enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a special

education program.

The researcher designed, developed, wrote, and tested

the intervention used in this study. It was structured and

designed for 7 hourly sessions over 7 consecutive weeks.

The sessions were led by the researcher-trained school

counselors at each of the 6 participating schools.

The results of data analysis did not reveal

significant differences on measures of self-concept and

school behaviors between the groups. Significant gains

were indicated for reducing children's problematic beliefs

about divorce for the experimental group. Experiment

participants scored significantly lower on posttests than

did control participants, indicating a decrease in

problematic beliefs concerning divorce.

The results from this study do suggest support for the

view that a focused, time-limited, school-based group

intervention with a specific program component can assist

children with their adjustment to parental divorce.

Results of testing also suggest that divorce does not

necessitate maladjustment of children but that adjustment

can be moderated or contained by providing support and by

teaching these children problem-solving skills.


viii






Additional research is needed to explore the

effectiveness of prevention-oriented programs for assisting

children with their adjustment to parental divorce. There

is a continued need for intervention models designed with

content and methods that address developmental and

sociocultural needs of children whose parents have

divorced.









CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION



The annual divorce rate in the United States is

currently reaching a plateau at about 22%. Thus, many

children are experiencing the divorce of their parents and,

for a large percentage, this disruption occurs during their

formative years (Bonkowski, Boomhower, & Bequette, 1985).

Current demographic figures indicate that by the end of

1990, 33% of the nation's children, under the age of 18,

will have experienced their parents' divorce (Kurdek,

1986). The U.S. Bureau of the Census (1987) reported that,

in 1987, 9,436,000 American children under the age of 18

were living in single parent homes as the result of

separation or divorce. Behind each of these statistics is

the dissolution of a family with all its attendant emotions

and adjustments.

The dissolution of parents' marriage has been ranked

as one of the major sources of stress for children (Hodges

& Bloom, 1984), and rising divorce rates have prompted a

growing body of research investigating the impact of

divorce on children's mental health (Goetting, 1981;

Isaacs, 1985; Kurdek, 1986; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). In

a recent national survey Peterson and Zill (1986) found

1









that children's mental health is directly related to

marital discord and the level of conflict in the family.

The effect of divorce on children is thus a prominent

family issue for practitioners and educators.

What role should the school play in providing

assistance to children with divorced or divorcing parents?

Specifically, what interventions might schools provide for

assisting children with problematic beliefs about parental

divorce? That is the focus of this study.

Overview

Parental separation and divorce can cause marked

changes in children's behaviors, particularly in school

(Peterson & Zill, 1986). These changes are likely to

include increased restlessness, obstinate acts,

disruptiveness, and impulsiveness. Along with these

behaviors, children's emotional reactions to parental

separation have been found to include confusion, anger,

guilt, fear, and depression, along with insecurity,

isolation, shame, and a feeling of being different

(Peterson & Zill, 1986; Stolberg & Garrison, 1985). Hodges

and Bloom (1984) found that children become more dependent,

disobedient, aggressive, demanding, and less affectionate

in the year following divorce.

There is ample evidence that parents' divorce has

adverse effects on child development (Bonkowski et al.,

1985; Hodges & Bloom, 1984; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985;








Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). The stress of divorce

interferes with the normal growth process by altering the

child's perceptions of social reality.

Children's perceptions of their parents' marriage may

affect the degree of psychological crisis they experience.

Apparently, the most severe consequences are experienced by

children who incorrectly perceive their parents' unhappy

marriages, prior to divorce, as being happy. The least

crisis is experienced when children accurately perceive

their parents' marriages as being unhappy (Kurdek & Berg,

1987; Wallerstein, 1983).

Children's adjustment to their parents' divorce may

also be affected by their beliefs about or understanding of

the divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987). Children often

construct problematic beliefs about both the nature of

parental divorce and their causal role in the divorce

decision (Mendell, 1983). These problematic beliefs

include thinking that they will be abandoned by the

custodial parent, expecting ridicule and rejection from

peers, seeing oneself as having to hold the family

together, believing that improved behavior will result in

parental reconciliation, and blaming one parent exclusively

for the divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987).

Wallerstein (1983) described six theoretical,

hierarchical, and interrelated tasks that children go

through when divorce occurs. The first two--acknowledging









the reality of the marital rupture and disengaging from

parental conflict and distress and resuming customary

pursuits--must be dealt with beginning with the separation.

Optimally, they will be mastered during the first year.

The next three--resolving loss, resolving anger and self-

blame, and accepting the permanence of the divorce--may

need to be reworked several times and often require many

years for completion. The final task, achieving realistic

understanding of relationships, often takes years to

complete.

The path to normal growth and development requires

that children cope with the many challenges of growing up.

The child experiencing marital disruption and

reorganization must confront additional psychological

tasks. These represent a major addition to the normal and

customary tasks of childhood and adolescence in our society

(Wallerstein, 1983).

Statement of the Problem

Researchers concur that the beliefs children have

about their parents' divorce are clearly associated with

subsequent social and emotional development (Gardener,

1976; Kurdek & Berg, 1983, 1987; Wallerstein & Kelly,

1980). Further, researchers have identified six

problematic beliefs frequently expressed (Emery,

Hetherington, & DiLalla, 1984; Kurdek & Berg, 1983, 1987;

Shantz, 1983): (a) fear of peer ridicule and avoidance,







5

(b) maternal blame, (c) paternal blame, (d) self-blame, (e)

fear of abandonment, and (f) hope of reunification.

Children's problematic beliefs about their parents'

divorce may effect the degree of crisis they experience and

the subsequent influence the divorce has on their normal

growth and development (Kurdek & Berg, 1987; Wallerstein,

1983). Problematic beliefs may also influence the nature

of their adjustment (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981). Professionals

working with children whose parents are divorced may

facilitate their adjustment by providing positive,

structured interventions designed to help them revise their

problematic beliefs (Bernard & Joyce, 1984).

Need for the Study

Despite rapid increases in the divorce rate in the

United States and ample evidence of its adverse effects,

there have been few controlled studies of preventive

interventions for the children it touches (Bloom, Hodges, &

Caldwell, 1982). The development of preventive

interventions, assisting children in their adjustment to

divorce is pressing (Bonkowski, Boomhower, & Bequette,

1985). If professional helpers are to gain an accurate

understanding of children and divorce, it is important to

consider what interventions might be most helpful in

assisting children with their problematic beliefs about

divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987). Additionally, if beliefs

are causally linked to affective and behavioral disorders,









the assessment of children's beliefs regarding parental

divorce will provide a foundation for intervention

strategies designed to assist them in revising faulty

beliefs (Bernard & Joyce, 1984; Ellis & Bernard, 1983,

Kurdek & Berg, 1987).

Because divorce has become so widespread, educators

must recognize that a significant number of their students

are children of divorced parents and that interventions and

strategies must be developed to help such children cope.

These children have special needs, distinct from children

of intact, two-parent families (Allers, 1982).

Divorce contributes additional tasks to children's

normal growth and development, and these appear to

interfere with expected learning (Wallerstein, 1983).

Because learning is the central developmental task of

school-age children, educators must consider the school's

role in assisting children with their adjustment to

parental divorce (Stolberg & Anker, 1983).

Purpose of the Study

Wallerstein (1983) reported that divorce carries the

potential for disrupting children's developmental

processes. However, she also stated that appropriate

interventions can reverse or modify this disruption. The

purpose of this study was to assess the impact of a small

group intervention on elementary school children in grades

4 and 5 whose parents have divorced. Using a control group








design, this researcher evaluated the effect of the

intervention in three areas: (a) children's problematic

beliefs regarding their parents' divorce, (b) children's

school behaviors, and (c) children's self-concepts.

Differences in the effectiveness of the treatment in

relationship to the sex of the child and the length of time

since the parents' divorce were also examined. The

treatment group was compared to a control group that was

given the opportunity to receive delayed treatment. The

counselor-led intervention included seven small-group

sessions designed to specifically address children's

problematic beliefs about divorce.

This study used the Children's Beliefs About Parental

Divorce Scale (Kurdek & Berg, 1987) as an objective scale

for assessing children's problematic beliefs regarding

parental divorce. The Teacher Report Form of the Achenbach

Child Behavior Checklist was used to assess student

behavior problems and adaptive functioning in a

standardized format. The Piers-Harris Children's Self-

Concept Scale was used to assess self-concept. All three

instruments were administered to all participants in both

treatment and control groups one week prior to beginning

the intervention and at the conclusion.

Elementary school children in grades 4 and 5 (a) whose

parents were divorced, (b) lived with their mother only,

(c) were not concurrently receiving additional counseling








while participating in this study, and (d) were not

presently enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a

special education program were identified. Children

meeting these four criteria were invited by a letter from

the researcher to participate in this study. The children

who participated were randomly placed in either a control

group or an experimental group.

Rationale for the Study

Children are involved in school-related activities

approximately one-third of their waking hours each week

(Drake, 1981). The school has the potential to be a

consistent and positive support system for children of

divorced parents. Further, children in schools have access

to such mental health practitioners as counselors, school

psychologists, school social workers, and teachers; when

help is provided in the school setting, the child and

parents do not have to cope with the possible stigma

associated with outside mental health facilities, the

expense of such treatment, or child and parental resistance

to outside help (Drake, 1981). Additionally, children in

schools are grouped by approximate academic level, maturity

level, and age level, providing an optimum setting for

counseling and crisis intervention.

Small group counseling, assisting children with their

problematic beliefs about their parents' divorce, may prove

to be an appropriate and effective way for schools to








provide support for a large number of children of divorce.

Specifically, small group work can provide the opportunity

for students to explore and attempt to modify their

negative attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. The group

process may also provide children with the opportunity to

more fully meet certain psychological needs: to be

accepted, to belong, to release negative feelings, and to

participate in a supportive atmosphere where self-

exploration is encouraged (Hansen & Hill, 1984). Small

group intervention has the additional benefit of serving

more children than individual interventions, no small

consideration in times of rising divorce rates.

This researcher developed an intervention that

addressed children's problematic beliefs regarding their

parents' divorce for three major reasons. First, knowledge

of children's perceptions about parental divorce extends

social-cognitive developmental research into an applied

setting (Shantz, 1983). Second, several studies have

indicated that children's views of divorce differ from

those attributed to them by parents (Kurdek & Berg, 1983,

1987; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Third, children's

appraisals of divorce-related events may affect their

adjustment to the divorce and their social development

(Kurdek & Berg, 1987).

The goals of this intervention included facilitating

children's adjustment to divorce and reducing the









problematic beliefs experienced by children whose parents

divorce. Additionally, objectives included helping the

child to accept the new family situation, increasing the

psychological distance between the parents' problems and

the child's problems, and providing the child with

additional coping strategies. Small group interventions

may significantly assist children of divorce in meeting

these goals (Drake, 1981).

The investigator of this study utilized six school

settings to provide elementary school children in grades 4

and 5 from families of divorce with an intervention

designed to assist them with their problematic beliefs


about their parents' divorce.


More specifically, this


study was done in an attempt to answer the following

questions:

1. What is the impact of a structured counsel:

preventive intervention on the problematic beliefs o:

children of divorced parents?

2. What is the impact of a structured counsel

preventive intervention on the school behavior of ch.

of divorced parents?

3. What is the impact of a structured counsel]

preventive intervention on the self-concepts of chil

divorced parents?


r-led

f


r-led

ildren


r-led

dren of


4. Does the length of time since the parents' divorce

have an effect on the impact of the intervention?









5. Does the sex of the child have an effect on the

impact of the intervention?

Definition of Terms

A binuclear family is a family in which the child

moves back and forth between the mother's residence and the

father's residence so that he or she holds membership in a

family that has two locations.

The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child

has his or her primary residence; the parent legally

responsible for the child.

Disengagement refers to withdrawing from the previous

involvement or position as a family member.

Family role refers to the part or function one plays

in a family, i.e., mother, father, son, daughter.

Fear of abandonment refers to children's belief that

contact with the custodial parent will also be lost.

Hope for reunification refers to children's belief

that the parents' separation is only temporary and that the

reunification can be hastened by their own activities.

Intact families are families in which the natural

parents and the child live together.

Maternal blame refers to children's belief that the

mother is entirely responsible for the divorce.

A noncustodial parent is the parent that does not have

primary residence with his or her child.









A nuclear family is a family in which the natural

mother, father, and child live together.

Paternal blame refers to children's belief that the

father is entirely responsible for the divorce.

Peer ridicule and avoidance refers to children's

belief that their parents' separation reflects negatively

on themselves.

Problematic beliefs refers to the thoughts children of

divorce construct about the nature of parental divorce and

their causal role in the divorce decision.

Self blame refers to children's belief that their

parents' separation is due to something they said or did.

Self-concept refers to a relatively stable set of

self-attitudes reflecting both a description and an

evaluation of one's own behavior and attributes.

Small-group refers to a group composed of 6-10

members.

Overview of the Remainder of the Study

The remainder of the study has been organized into

four additional chapters. Chapter II entails a review of

the current literature and the theoretical constructs

pertinent to this study. Chapter III includes a

description of the methodology, including the population

and design of the study; the hypotheses; the

instrumentation and data collection procedures; and the

analysis of the data. Chapter IV contains the data







13

analysis and research findings. A discussion of the

findings, implications, conclusions, and recommendations

for future research are provided in Chapter V.









CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE



The rapidly rising divorce rates in the United States

have produced a relatively recent but necessary concern

about the effects of divorce on children and their parents.

This chapter contains a literature review highlighting

theories important to this study, the effects of divorce on

children, children's problematic beliefs concerning their

parents' divorce, the need for interventions to assist them

in adjusting to these effects and beliefs, and types of

outcomes that seem important to the focus of this study.

The types of interventions found in the literature and the

status of outcomes are also covered and discussed in this

chapter.

Divorce is a phenomenon which effects, in varying

degrees, almost every individual in the United States.

Those who have not personally experienced divorce almost

certainly know a neighbor, friend, relative, or parent who

is divorced.

Nineteen-seventy-five was a sociologically significant

year; the number of American marriages ending in divorce

topped the million mark for the first time in history.

Between 1965 and 1975 the divorce rate more than doubled,

14








leading Americans to worry about a divorce epidemic

(Diamond, 1985).

Reports from the United States Bureau of the Census

(1987) indicated that in 1987 there were 130 currently

divorced persons for every 1,000 married persons living

with their spouses as compared with 100 per 1,000 in 1980.

In 1987, 23.9% of all children under 18 lived with one

parent, up from 19.7% in 1980.

Of the 15,071,000 children living in single parent

homes in 1987, 9,436,000 were as the result of divorce or

separation (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1987). Behind each

of these statistics is the dissolution of a family, with

all the emotions and adjustments attendant upon such a

transition. The child of divorce faces a special set of

challenges and carries an added burden. A few adjust

smoothly and quickly, but many undergo great frustration

and stress (Allers, 1982).

Divorce represents a special kind of stressful

experience for the child who has been reared within a two-

parent family. In several ways, a child's experience with

divorce is comparable to that of a child who loses a parent

through death. Each of these experiences strikes at and

disrupts close family relationships. Each weakens the

protection that the nuclear family provides, leaving in its

wake a diminished, more vulnerable family structure. Each

traces a pattern of time that begins with an acute, time-








limited crisis, and is followed by an extended period of

disequilibrium that may last several years. Each

introduces a chain of long-lasting changes that are not

predictable at the outset and that reach into multiple

domains of family life (Wallerstein, 1983).

Divorce is different from other life crises in that

anger more often erupts into physical and verbal violence

that can cause lasting and serious psychological harm for

many years. In most life crisis situations, parents

instinctively reach out and extend support to their

children bringing them to safety first. In the crisis of

divorce, however, mothers and fathers usually attend to

adult problems first and are often unable to extend

immediate support to their children. Divorce is also the

only major family crisis in which social supports often

diminish (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).

The reorganization and readjustments that are required

of the child of the divorcing family represent a major

addition to the normal and customary tasks of childhood and

adolescence in our society. Children are able to

comprehend their parents' divorce only when they are given

the necessary information, without which it becomes

increasingly difficult for them to cope with their

immediate environment (Wallerstein, 1983).

The adaptation of children to divorce will vary with

their developmental status. Different responses and coping









strategies would be expected from young children with

limited cognitive and social competencies and their

dependency on parents than those of the more mature and

self-sufficient older child or adolescent (Wallerstein &

Kelly, 1980).

Theoretical Constructs

Children's ability to comprehend divorce depends upon

their age. Theorists have suggested that there are

specific periods in children's lives when they are able to

understand certain concepts and certain other periods when

they cannot.

Piaget's (1950) theory of cognitive development

identified four stages of development, the latter three of

which involve school-age children: the sensorimotor

period, from birth to 2 years of age; the preoperational

period, from 2 to 7 years of age; the concrete operational

stage, from 7 to 11 years of age; and the formal

operational period, from 11 years through adulthood.

Piaget stressed that these age ranges represent normative

ranges and that they are more clearly definable and

understandable when the content of what occurs during these

stages of development is examined rather than when they

began.

Piaget's notion of stages reflects and emphasizes the

structural transitions that take place during different

developmental periods, rather than a simple description of









different child behaviors at different times. Stages of

development are convenient organizers because they assist

in placing behavior at different ages in perspective.

However, Piaget emphasized that these stages are not bound

by anything other than very general time guidelines.

The sensorimotor stage of development begins at birth

with the simple reflexes of the neonate and terminates at

approximately 2 years of age with the onset of symbolic

thought, representing early childlike language.

During Piaget's preoperational period (from 2 to 7

years of age), children are limited in cognitive

development. They tend to focus on a single detail of a

problem rather than shift among many dimensions. They are

also egocentric and have trouble understanding that others'

view of the physical and social environment differs from

their own.

During the concrete operational period (from 7 to 11

years of age), children have internalized actions that

permit them to do "in their heads" what previously would

have been accomplished through overt actions. According to

Piaget, by the end of the concrete operational period,

children are remarkably adept at solving problems.

During the last stage of development (from 11 years

through adulthood), formal operational, children are able

to think about their thoughts, construct ideas, and reason

realistically about the future. They can draw hypotheses









from their observations and are able to deduce and induce

principles regarding the world around them.

Children can be expected to comprehend the meaning of

divorce within the context of their cognitive stage.

Children in the preoperational stage might handle some

basic facts about divorce but might not comprehend fully

the impact of divorce on themselves or their family.

During Piaget's concrete operational stage, children might

more fully grasp the concept of divorce and might, to some

extent, understand what the divorce means to their future.

The young adults in the formal operational stage would

understand and question more fully the impact of divorce on

themselves and their families.

Piaget stressed that the developing individual is

active rather than reactive. He defined development as a

spontaneous process and emphasized the individual's

inherent capability of being dynamic, not remaining static.

The essence of development is the interaction between the

individual's internal motivational system and the demands

of the environment. Piaget termed this striving for order

or balance equilibration, a self-regulatory process that

keeps the individual on the right track. This right track

is not a genetic predisposition toward a specific behavior

but a characteristic of the entire development of the

individual (Salkind, 1985).







20

Other cognitive developmental theorists have used some

of Piaget's work as a basis for their own theory regarding

how children learn to think. One such theorist was Jerome

Bruner, an Oxford University psychologist.

Bruner (1966) believed that at different stages along

the developmental process, from primarily inactive

processing of the world to primarily symbolic processing,

children are ready for different things at different times.

Bruner identified six characteristics of growth in the

developmental and learning process: (a) intellectual

growth is accompanied by an increased ability to represent

and understand the environment; (b) intellectual growth

depends on the use of a storage system to remember objects,

events, and experiences; (c) the key to increased

intellectual growth is the use of language; (d) the growth

of the child's intellect is a reflection of the interaction

between the child and the teacher; (e) the use of language

greatly enhances the effectiveness of teaching and

subsequent learning; and (f) the growing child learns to

deal with several alternative events at the same time

(Salkind, 1985).

Bruner clearly outlined the necessity for specific

tasks to be considered in instruction for children. To

begin with, he believed that readiness for learning is

crucial to the success of the developmental and learning








processes and that the environment must be suited to the

child's level of readiness.

The first task is to clearly identify what the

concepts are that must be taught. Next, the child's level

of readiness must be considered. The third task is the

presentation of information so that for every new step the

child takes toward learning new skills, the previous skills

are reviewed. The final step is for the child to go beyond

the information given by exploring on his or her own the

next logical step in the sequence.

In accordance with Bruner's theory, children can be

expected to process and comprehend the meaning of divorce

most effectively when their level of readiness is first

considered. This level of readiness will determine what

information the child is prepared to comprehend and will

also help determine what exploration the child will do in

determining his or her own next logical steps.

Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) have developed a theory

which identifies age as the best predictor of how children

initially react to their parents' divorces. They found

that preschoolers react differently from early elementary

school-aged children and that older elementary school-aged

children and adolescents react differently from both

younger groups. These theorists interpreted these findings

within a psychodynamic framework, but acknowledged that

children's levels of cognitive development also shape their









reactions; most of the preschoolers, for example,

egocentrically assumed that they were responsible for the

divorce (Nichols, 1984).

Children in the latency age group are often

preoccupied with feelings of loss, rejection, guilt, and

loyalty conflicts. They are profoundly worried that they

will forever lose the parent who has left home. They are

especially worried about being replaced (Wallerstein &

Blakeslee, 1989).

In the later latency years (9-12 years), children rely

tremendously on their parents for stability. With a

divorce occurring at this stage, children may become

intensely anxious about their stability. This anxiety is

often reflected in their behavior. Many children this age

become intensely angry with their parents for divorcing and

especially angry with the parent whom they blame for the

divorce. They often worry about their parents and

sometimes take on very adult roles, especially in relation

to a needy parent. This can drain the child emotionally.

If there is a common thread uniting many theoretical

perspectives, it is that the child's development is a

result of conflict and the manner in which it is resolved.

A simple example of this is the way people avoid or

approach a problem until some resolution is established.

If we understand the child's placement in the developmental

sequence, the demands of the environment can be adjusted to








assure that the optimal degree of growth can occur

(Salkind, 1985).

Divorce is not a specific entity or event. Instead,

it is a process within the family's history that works

parallel to the developmental phases in a child's life

(Pfeffer, 1981).

Effects of Divorce on Children

Hetherington (1979) has noted that almost all children

experience the transition of divorce as painful.

Children's individual responses to divorce vary due to

several factors such as temperament, developmental status,

sex of the child, number of and relationship to siblings,

emotional stability, general adjustment, length of time

since the divorce, and the manner in which the parents

handle the situation. Wallerstein (1989) found that the

psychological condition of children and adolescents was

related to the overall quality of life in the post-divorce

family.

The experience of divorce is entirely different
for parents and for children because the children
lose something that is fundamental to their
development--the family structure. The family
compromises the scaffolding upon which children
mount successful developmental stages, from
infancy into adolescence. It supports their
psychological, physical, and emotional ascent
into maturity. When that structure collapses,
the children's world is temporarily without
supports. And children, with a vastly compressed
sense of time, do not know that the chaos is
temporary. What they do know is that they are
dependent on the family. Whatever its
shortcomings, children perceive the family as the
entity that provides the support and protection








that they need. With divorce, that structure
breaks down, leaving children who feel alone and
very frightened about the present and future.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 11-12)

A review of the research on the effects of divorce on

children indicates that the four most common emotional

responses of children in the immediate post divorce

situation are guilt, fear, anger, and depression (Freeman &

Couchman, 1985).

It is not uncommon for children to assume guilt for

being the cause of the divorce (Allers, 1982; Hetherington,

1979; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985; Walsh, 1980). Children

may also view divorce as a punishment for wrongdoing and

believe that if they correct inappropriate behavior or act

better, then their parents will reconcile. Many children

feel guilty and some feel that it is their duty to mend the

marriage (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989). Some children

may believe that their parents' divorce is due to something

they said or did. Such beliefs can lead to guilt (Berg &

Kurdek, 1987).

The fear that children often experience is the fear of

abandonment by their other parent or the loss of both of

their parents (Allers, 1982; Hetherington, 1979; Pedro-

Carroll & Cowen, 1985; Walsh, 1980). Children of all ages

feel intensely rejected when their parents divorce. When

one parent leaves the other, the children interpret the act

as including them (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989). Some

children may believe that they will eventually lose contact








with one or both of their parents. This may lead to

excessive dependency and obsessive thoughts and fears about

such loss (Kurdek & Berg, 1987). More generalized anxiety

may be caused by less parental attention and children's

concern over who will love and take care of them.

Children's feelings of abandonment may also stem from their

belief that they are not worthy of affection and are not

loved by their parents (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).

The feeling of intense anger is another emotional

response for many children experiencing divorce (Allers,

1982; Hetherington, 1979; Hodges & Bloom, 1984; Wallerstein

& Kelly, 1980).

Children get angry at their parents for violating
the unwritten rules of parenthood--parents are
supposed to make sacrifices for children, not the
other way around. Some keep their anger hidden
for years out of fear of upsetting parents or for
fear of retribution and punishment; others show
it. (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 12)

Researchers have found that children may become aggressive

(Allers, 1982; Hess & Camara, 1979), destroying things and

occasionally becoming self-destructive in their behavior.

Related to the anger is a sense of powerlessness. Children

feel that they have no say, no way to influence this major

event in their lives (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).

Depression is an additional emotional response of many

children who face divorce (Hetherington, 1979; Kalter &

Plunkett, 1984; Peterson & Zill, 1986; Wallerstein & Kelly,

1980). When families break up, children's sense of sadness







26

and loss is often profound. Children grieve over the loss

of the family, the loss of the parent who has left home,

and the imagined loss of both parents (Wallerstein &

Blakeslee, 1989). This sadness and depression may exhibit

itself in moodiness, self-criticism, loss of appetite,

hopelessness, frequent daydreaming, and inattentiveness.

Children may display other behaviors in reaction to

their parents' divorce. Some children are unable to accept

the fact of their parents' divorce, and actually deny it

and even lie to friends about it. Other children may cling

to the hope that their parents will reconcile (Allers,

1982; Freeman & Coachman, 1985; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980),

becoming preoccupied with the reconciliation and inventing

plans to engineer it.

Divorce is often preceded by several separations,
each of which may seem decisive but turn out not
to be final. These can confuse children and lead
them to expect reconciliation, if not
immediately, then eventually. Moreover, divorce
is usually a partial loss and most children tend
to see the departed parent for many years
afterward. As a result, children who experience
divorce are more likely to feel a persistent,
gnawing sense that the loss of the intact family
is not final; maybe it can be repaired. People
who divorce can remarry. People who separate can
rejoin. Thus children's capacity to cope with
divorce is very much decreased by the uncertainty
of the event itself, by its elusive causes, and
by what children regard and keep alive as its
potential reversibility. Perhaps the most
important factor in keeping alive children's hope
for reconciliation is their intense need to think
of their parents as mutually affectionate and
together. This feeling can endure for decades.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 14)








Many children develop psychosomatic symptoms and

complain of headaches and stomachaches (Allers, 1982,

Fulton, 1979). Some children may show evidence of

hypermaturity (Allers, 1982; Walsh, 1980; Weiss, 1979),

assuming adult mannerisms and additional responsibilities

and becoming super-efficient helpers.

Cognitive, affective behavioral, and

psychophysiological problems have been reported in many

children of divorce (Coddington & Troxell, 1980;

Hetherington, 1979; Kurdek & Siesky, 1981; Peterson & Zill,

1986). Cognitive reactions include self-blame, feeling

different from peers, and heightened sensitivity to

interpersonal incompatibility (Kelly & Berg, 1978; Kurdek &

Siesky, 1981; Wallerstein, 1983). Deficits in prosocial

behavior and high frequencies of acting out and aggressive

behaviors have also been found among children of divorce

(Stolberg, Camplair, Currier, & Wells, 1984). Their

academic performance is often hampered by classroom

behaviors that interfere with performance and require

special handling (Guidubaldi, Cleminshaw, Perry, &

McLoughlin, 1983). They are more often diagnosed as having

serious illnesses than peers from intact families

(Coddington & Troxell, 1980; Jacobs & Charles, 1980).

The environmental changes many times accompanied by

divorce, often place demands on children for new skills,

weaken their support systems, and result in feelings of








anger and rejection (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981; Stolberg &

Anker, 1983; Stolberg et al., 1984).

In a study begun in 1979 by the National Association

of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the Kettering

Foundation's Institute for the Development of Educational

Activities (I/D/E/A), researchers addressed the school

needs of children from one-parent families and concluded

that these children are at risk and that some may need

special assistance at school. Prior to this study, this

issue had never been systematically investigated.

To conduct the study, NAESP and I/D/E/A researchers

gathered information on students from 26 elementary and

secondary schools in 14 states. In addition to sampling

the major regions of the country (Arizona, California,

Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana,

Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio,

Washington, and Wisconsin), the schools represented a

cross-section of inner-city, suburb, small-town, and rural

areas (Lazarus, 1980).

Educators have for generations assumed that children

from one-parent households have more trouble in school than

do children whose families fit what we think of as the

traditional nuclear family mold. The findings of the

NAESP-I/D/E/A study help to confirm that assumption. The

results indicate that one-parent children, as a group, have

lower achievement and present more discipline problems than









do their two-parent peers in both elementary and high

school. They were also reported to be absent more often,

late to school more often, and to reveal more health

problems. It was also found that one-parent students are

more than twice as likely to drop out of school than are

students from two-parent households. A definite positive

correlation between school performance and family status

was also determined by the researchers (Lazarus, 1980).

One of the many things which adds to the child's

difficulties is the concept of divorce itself. Divorce

seems relatively simple to adults--two people no longer

wish to live together. Each feel that his or her needs are

no longer met by, nor can he or she meet the needs of his

or her spouse. To the child, however, divorce is confusion

consisting of unanswered questions, arguments, loneliness,

and anger (Allers, 1982). Many people have wanted to

believe that what is good for adults will be good for their

children. Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) stated, "It is

seductively simple to think a child's psychological

problems are mainly a reflection of family problems--as if

children were not people with reactions of their own,

separate from those of adults" (p. 10).

The research clearly and strongly supports the notion

that divorce results in psychological distress for children

(Blechman, 1982; Black, 1979; Guidubaldi et al., 1983;

Peterson & Zill, 1986; Wallerstein, 1983). Children of







30

divorce face an additional set of tasks specific to divorce

in addition to the normal developmental tasks of growing

up. Growing up is inevitably harder for children of

divorce because they must deal with psychological issues

that children from well-functioning, intact families do not

have to face (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).

While literature on separation and divorce abounds,

research on how divorce affects children is sparse. It

seems important to report that, in spite of the potential

that divorce has for disrupting a child's development,

there is little in the literature suggesting how best to

help children to cope with the crisis of divorce. Despite

substantial concern about the consequences of marital

instability for children, little systematic theory has been

developed that adequately conceptualizes this area of

inquiry (Peterson & Zill, 1984).

There is clearly a lack of literature available that

addresses interventions for children of divorce. Most of

the literature has focused on the effects of divorce on the

family members and the resulting behaviors that occur.

Divorce threatens the psychological and physical well-being

of individuals and families and it is the way in which

people respond to the divorce that is critical in shaping

the outcomes.

In order to develop helpful interventions to assist

children in their adjustment to their parents' divorce, it









seems logical that we must first be aware of the special

tasks and effects these children must respond to.

Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) have conceptualized

the child's divorce adjustment process as a series of

several psychological tasks that are added to the customary

tasks of childhood and adolescence. Other researchers

(Gardner, 1976; Kurdek & Berg, 1987; Mendell, 1983;

Tessman, 1978) have further observed that children often

construct problematic beliefs about both the nature of

parental divorce and their causal role in the divorce

decision.

Psychological Issues

Our physical growth and development throughout life

has a predictable cycle. There is also a predictable

progression in our psychological and social growth and

development. Each stage in this progression presents us

with a sequence of tasks we must confront. As children

move upward along a common developmental ladder, each at

his or her own pace, a sense of self is consolidated. In

this process they develop coping skills, conscience, and

the capacity to give and receive love.

Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) propose that children

who experience divorce face an additional set of tasks

specific to divorce in addition to the normal developmental

tasks of growing up. They further propose that growing up

is inevitably harder for children of divorce because they








must deal with psychological issues that children from

well-functioning, intact families do not have to face.

The additional psychological tasks encountered by

children of divorce are (a) understanding the divorce, (b)

strategic withdrawal, (c) dealing with the loss, (d)

dealing with anger, (e) working out guilt, (f) accepting

the permanence of the divorce, and (g) taking a chance on

love.

Perhaps the first and most basic task for children at

the time of separation is to understand realistically what

the divorce means in their family and what its specific/

concrete consequences will be. This understanding occurs

in two stages. First is the stage of accurately perceiving

the immediate changes that divorce brings and being able to

differentiate fantasy fears and hopes from reality. The

second stage usually occurs later when children are able at

a greater distance and with more mature understanding to

evaluate their parents' actions and to draw useful lessons

for their own lives.

After the divorce, as soon as possible, children and

adolescents need to get on with their own lives, to resume

their normal activities at school and play and to get back

physically and emotionally to the normal tasks of growing

up. Their task is not to ignore the divorce but instead to

acknowledge their concern and to provide appropriate help

to their parents and siblings. Additionally, they should








strive to remove the divorce from the center of their own

thoughts and get back to their own pleasures, interests,

problems, and peer relationships. They need the

encouragement to remain children.

Children experience two profound losses following a

divorce. One is the loss of the intact family and the

second is the loss of the presence of one parent from their

daily lives. Children often mask their unhappiness

associated with these losses by fantasizing.

Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) have suggested that

the absorbing of these losses is perhaps the single most

difficult task imposed by divorce.

At its core, the task requires children to
overcome the profound sense of rejection,
humiliation, unlovability, and powerlessness they
feel with the departure of one parent. When the
parent leaves, children of all ages blame
themselves. They conclude that had they been
more lovable, worthy, or different, the parent
would have stayed. In this way, the loss of the
parent and lowered self-esteem become
intertwined. (p. 290)

In order to cope with the intensely painful feelings

of rejection, children may continue to undo the divorce

scenario. Perhaps if they could bring their parents back

together or win back the affection of the absent parent,

the pain of the loss would go away. Children are not only

pained at the outset of divorce, but remain vulnerable,

sometimes increasingly over the years.

Dealing with these losses appears to be a task

children respond to in a number of ways. Children who have









a good relationship with their parents, as well as a good

visitation and/or joint custody arrangement, find this task

easier to achieve.

Some children are able to use a good, close
relationship with the visiting parent to promote
their growth within the divorced family. Others
are able to acknowledge and accept that the
visiting parent could never become the kind of
parent they need, and they are able to turn away
from blaming themselves. Still others are able
to reject on their own, a rejecting parent or to
reject a role model that they see as flawed. In
so doing, these youngsters are able to
effectively master the loss and get on with their
lives. (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 29)

The true cause of divorce lies in the parents' failure

to maintain the marriage, and is always a voluntary

decision for at least one of the partners in a marriage.

Children of divorce therefore face a terrible dilemma.

Their unhappiness has been caused by the very people

charged with their protection and care. Their parents have

voluntarily become the agents of their distress.

The dilemma lies in the children's anger at their

parents for divorcing while also being aware of their

parents' weaknesses, neediness, and anxiety about life's

difficulties. Although children may lack understanding of

the divorce, they do recognize how unhappy and disorganized

their parents become, and this frightens them very much.

The children become caught in a combination of anger and

love--frightened and guilty about their anger because they

love their parents and see their unhappiness and personal








struggles. Acknowledging their anger can be very

difficult.

Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) identify this

struggle with anger as a major task for children. A task

that requires recognizing their parents as human beings

capable of making mistakes and learning to respect them for

their real efforts and their real courage.

Cooling of anger and the task of forgiveness go
hand in hand with children's growing emotional
maturity and capacity to appreciate the various
needs of the different family members. As anger
diminishes, young people are better able to put
the divorce behind them and experience relief.
As children forgive their parents, they forgive
themselves for feeling anger and guilt and for
failing to restore the marriage. In this way
children can free themselves from identification
with the angry or violent parent or with the
victim. (p. 92)

Often young children feel responsible for divorce and

believe that their misbehavior may have caused the divorce.

Guilt feelings are often numerous at the time of divorce

but naturally dissipate as children mature.

Some guilt feelings persist and are rooted in

children's realization that they were a cause of marital

difficulty. Children often know the stresses they place on

the marriage--financially, emotionally, mentally, and

psychologically. Their awareness that they have caused

this wedge between their parents reinforces their guilt

feelings.

Children of divorce need to separate from guilty ties

that bind them too closely to their troubled parent or









parents and to go on with their lives with compassion and

love (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).

Initially, children feel a strong need to deny the

divorce. This early denial may be a first step in the

coping process. The denial allows a piece by piece

confrontation with the reality of the divorce.

Wallerstein (1989) found in her longitudinal study

that some children and adolescents refuse to accept the

permanence of the divorce 5 and even 10 years after it has

occurred. They continue to hope, consciously or

unconsciously, that the marriage will be restored.

In accepting permanence, the children of divorce
face a more difficult task than children of
bereavement. Death cannot be undone, but divorce
happens between living people who can change
their minds. A reconciliation fantasy taps deep
into children's psyches. Children need to feel
that their parents will still be happy together.
They may not overcome this fantasy of
reconciliation until they themselves finally
separate from their parents and leave home.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 293)

Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) suggested that the

most important psychological task for growing children and

for society is to "take a chance on love" (p. 3). They

must hold on to a realistic vision that they can both love

and be loved. It becomes a task for children of divorce

because they must do this despite what life has dealt them

and despite their lingering fears and anxieties. They must

grow and become open to the possibility of success or

failure and take a chance on love.









Taking a chance on love is a central task for all

children during adolescence and young adulthood. For

children who lose their intact family through divorce, they

must also take a chance on love, knowing realistically and

experientially that divorce is always possible. The task

for children also involves being able to turn away from the

model of parents who could not stay committed to each

other.

This last task, taking a chance on love, involves
being able to venture, not just thinking about
it, and not thinking one way and behaving
another. It involves accepting a morality that
truly guides behavior. This is the task that
occupies children of divorce throughout their
adolescence. It is what makes adolescence such a
critical and difficult time for them. The
resolution of life's tasks is a relative process
that never ends, but this last task, which is
built on successfully negotiating all the others,
leads to psychological freedom from the past.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, pp. 293-294)

Age and Sex Issues

Existing research findings of the effect of the age of

the child on the response to the divorce or parents can be

examined in three general age groups: preschool (birth to

5 years of age); latency (5 to 11 years of age); and

adolescence (12 to 18 years of age) (Hodges & Bloom, 1984).

Children in each of these age groups appear to respond

differently to the divorce of their parents.

Preschoolers are often viewed as the most vulnerable

group of children because their level of cognitive

development precludes their constructing an accurate








interpretation of events transpiring around them, because

their level of psychosexual development is thought by some

to place them in the midst of resolving Oedipal conflicts,

and because their young parents are likely to have limited

financial resources. These children are prone to form

faulty perceptions of the reasons for the parents'

separation and may experience nightmares, depressed play,

eating disturbances, bed-wetting, lowered self-esteem

problems with sexual identity, and guilt over having caused

the departure of the noncustodial parent (Hetherington,

1979; McDermott, 1970; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). In

general, Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) reported that

preschoolers are the most frightened and show the most

dramatic symptoms when marriages break up.

Preschool children have been found to respond to

marital separation with regression, anxiety, tantrums,

fantasies of reconciliation, anger, aggression, problems in

academic achievement, lowered self-esteem, problems in

basic trust, and, for the 1 to 3 year age group, loss of

recently acquired perceptual motor skills (Santrock, 1975;

Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976). Hetherington (1979) noted that

young preschool children were less able to appraise

accurately their own role in the separation and were likely

to experience the separation as abandonment.

Kalter and Rembar (1981) found that if separation

occurred before the age of 2, at latency, boys and girls








exhibited more nonaggressive disturbances in the parent-

child relationship than children who were older at the time

of their parents' separation. Wallerstein and Blakeslee

(1989) suggested that this may be the result of very young

children not being haunted by the memories of the intact

family. They may also feel less nostalgia for what was

lost and have fewer memories of turmoil and conflict

stemming from the divorce.

From a theoretical perspective, separation at the

preschool age should have strong adverse consequences.

Empirically, maladjustment would seem to be a common

outcome although the form differs from study to study. The

long-term effects are less clear (Hodges & Bloom,1984). On

the positive side, younger children may experience more

consistent and regular parenting in the post-divorce period

(Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).

Felner, Stolberg, and Cowen (1975) noted that acting

out and aggression were more common in latency age children

of divorced families than other types of families. Fulton

(1979) reported an increase in nightmares for children when

divorce occurred from ages 6 to 12. Kelly and Wallerstein

(1977) noted that for 7- and 8-year-olds, sadness,

grieving, fear, feelings of deprivation, fantasies of

responsibility and reconciliation, lowered self-esteem,

anger, and conflicts of loyalty were characteristic

responses to the divorce of their parents. Wallerstein and







40

Blakeslee (1989) reported that in their longitudinal study,

half of the children in this age group suffered a year long

precipitous decline in school performance.

Largely because of their affective investment in both

parents, latency-age children often view the noncustodial

parent's leaving as a profound personal loss. Common

reactions include depression, withdrawal, marked

deterioration in school performance, and persistent

requests for an explanation as to why the parental

separation had to occur (Kelly & Wallerstein, 1977;

Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). As a result of their own

psychological needs, many children this age cast the

divorce as a fight in which they feel required to take

sides. They are often tormented by these loyalty

conflicts.

Adolescents have been perceived as having the

cognitive maturity to comprehend the dynamics underlying

the reasons for the separation. Opinion is divided,

however, on the nature of their affective responses. Some

view the adolescent's personality development as being

minimally affected by the divorce because the adolescent

can turn to sources outside of the home for comfort,

advice, and nurturance. Others, however, see the

adolescent's personality as being maximally affected

because of the likelihood of his or her having been exposed

to longer periods of parental conflict. Such exposure has








been linked to adolescents' problems with interpersonal

relations, self-identity, self-esteem, and independence

(Sorosky, 1977; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).

Sorosky (1977), in a review of the literature,

identified aggression, sexual identity problems,

depression, and social conflicts in adolescents in response

to the divorce of parents. In contrast, Reinhard (1977)

found that, while adolescents were unhappy and disappointed

about the divorce, they were also sensible and realistic.

Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) reported that, in

their studies, adolescents are especially upset and

frightened by divorce. This appears to be the result of

their need for family structure to help them set limits on

their own sexual and aggressive impulses. Adolescents are

often fearful that they will repeat their parents failures

and that their own marriages might fail.

In summary, different researchers have indicated

different types of responses to the divorce of parents of

adolescents. Some studies have obtained differences in

aggression, depression, and social conflicts, while others

have found little impact.

Besides developmental status, children's sex has also

been related to their divorce adjustment. It has been

suggested by several investigators that gender may

influence the vulnerability of children of divorce or

parental separation because boys have been reported to cope








less effectively than girls (Biller, 1974; Hetherington,

Cox, & Cox, 1978; Lamb, 1977; McDermott, 1970). Boys

rather than girls in divorcing families are reported to

exhibit lower levels of socially competent behavior (e.g.,

more noncompliant and acting out responses) (Hetherington

et al., 1978; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). It may be that

boys experience greater trauma because their same sex role

models are usually the persons who disengage from family

roles (Hetherington, 1979). Hetherington et al. (1978)

also reported that male children seem to receive more

punitive and inconsistent responses to misbehavior from

custodial parents than do female children.

Sons of divorced parents appear to experience more

problems in the areas of both general cognitive, emotional,

and social development and more specific divorce adjustment

difficulty (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980) than do daughters of

divorced parents. However, it appears that sex differences

may dissipate over the course of the post-divorce period

and that they are less pronounced in older children (Kurdek

& Siesky, 1980; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Clear-cut

explanations for the findings have not been advanced. It

has been suggested that younger boys may be exposed to more

stress, frustration, and aggression as well as less support

and nurturance from mothers, teachers, and peers than

younger girls (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981). Since the mother is

generally the custodial parent, it is also possible that







43

the preponderance of boys' adjustment difficulty is due to

specific stresses arising from boys' living with an

opposite-sex custodial parent (Wallerstein, 1983). The

nature of these stresses is likely to involve a complex

reciprocal relation among children's developmental status,

children's expectancies of the custodial parent, parent's

disciplinary practices, and the quality of available

support systems.

These global and normative descriptions alert us to

the importance of developmental status in divorce

adjustment, but do not delineate specific age-related or

sex-related factors that may mediate divorce reaction and

adjustment. For example, Hetherington (1979), Longfellow

(1979), and Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) have speculated

that these global age changes are likely due to specific

developmental changes in children's ability to appraise the

divorce situation, to make sense out of the complex

sequence of disruptive events, to infer the motives and

feelings of parents, to assess accurately their own causal

role in the divorce decision, and to experience some degree

of control over their outcomes. A study by Kurdek and

Siesky (1981) on correlates of children's long-term

adjustment to their parents' divorce supports some of these

speculations. This study demonstrated moderately positive

relations between children's divorce adjustment and both

interpersonal reasoning (a composite variable including








perspective taking, intent assessment, and knowledge of

factors related to the initiation, maintenance, and

termination of friendships) and internal locus of control.

Thus, there is a support for a cognitive-developmental

perspective on children's divorce adjustment which may more

readily accommodate individual cognitive factors that

modulate children's perceptions of divorce as a life

stress.

A cognitive-developmental focus on children's divorce

adjustment also warns us against perceiving the child's

divorce experience from an adult perspective (Damon, 1979).

It is of note that the few studies assessing nonclinical

children's viewpoints of the divorce have revealed fairly

high levels of divorce adjustment (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981;

Reinhard, 1977) along with feelings that the divorce has

been a painful experience (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981;

Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Berg and Kelly (1979) have

noted that parents' perceptions of children's divorce

adjustment may be colored by their own psychological needs

and defenses making it unlikely that parents' and child's

view of the divorce adjustment will be congruent (Kurdek &

Siesky, 1981).

Kurdek and Siesky (1981) in their study to determine

how children themselves perceive various aspects of their

parents' divorce showed a consistent pattern of factors

contributing to children's adjustment to their parents'








divorce. Favorable adjustments were seen in children who

defined divorce in terms of psychological separation,

shared news of the divorce with friends, had relatively

positive evaluations of both parents, and saw themselves as

having acquired strengths and responsibilities as a result

of the divorce. This study further identified beneficial

effects (comfort in discussing divorce with friends,

emotional adjustment to the divorce, attitudes toward

interpersonal relationships) of children's sharing divorce-

related concerns with their friends. They have further

suggested that peers function as a support system for

children experiencing their parents' divorce.

At a time when the parents themselves are likely
to be caught up with their own thoughts and
feelings, children may more easily turn to their
friends for advice and comfort. Given the
increase in the number of children affected by
divorce, groups of children who themselves have
also experienced divorce may be the source of
greatest support in both clinical and non-
clinical settings. (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981, p.
98)

In summary, Kurdek and Siesky (1981), in their

findings that children acquired strengths and

responsibilities in the course of adjusting to the divorce,

concluded that divorce need not be a traumatic experience

for all children. Additionally, they view children's

perceptions of the divorce as greatly influencing the

nature of adjustment. A child who sees the divorce as an

opportunity for personal growth will encounter fewer

difficulties than the child who views the divorce in terms







46

of parental desertion or self-blame. Professionals working

with children whose parents are divorced may assist them in

generating both the positive and negative consequences of

their parents' divorce (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981).

Length of Time Since the Divorce

In the period during and immediately following divorce

the child may be responding to changes in his or her life

situation. In this period, therefore, stresses associated

with conflict, loss, change, and uncertainty may be the

critical factors (Hetherington, 1979).

Findings in the divorce literature to date point to

the first post-separation year as one in which a majority

of children are prone to show emotional or behavioral

difficulties of some kind, although there is less agreement

across studies as to the probability of longer term effects

(Hetherington et al., 1978; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980;

Young & Parish, 1979). Hetherington et al. (1978) found

the first two years after the separation to be a period of

maximum disequilibrium for children.

Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989), in the first and

only 10 year reports on the psychological effects of

divorce on men, women, and children, have reported that

life may be unstable and home may be unsettled for several

years after the divorce.

The effects of length of time since marital disruption

may also vary according to the child's age at the time of







47

disruption (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976). Age at the time of

divorce is an important determinant of psychopathology with

children between 5 and 9 years experiencing the greatest

behavioral and cognitive/perceptual difficulties (Deredyn,

1977; Kurdek & Siesky, 1981; Stolberg, Mauger, Marks, &

Zinober, 1978; Tooley, 1976). Inasmuch as maximum

cognitive sensitivity to interpersonal stimuli occurs

between ages 7 and 11 (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969), one would

expect maximum cognitive/perceptual changes due to divorce

to occur in this age range.

Comprehensive Studies on the Effects of Divorce

Three large-scale comprehensive studies published on

the effects of divorce on children have produced a number

of significant findings.

Wallerstein and Kelly (1974, 1975, 1976) and Kelly and

Wallerstein (1976) studied the reactions of 131 preschool,

early latency, late latency, and adolescent children to

their parents' divorce both shortly after the parents'

separation and in a 12- to 18-month follow-up. Three major

findings were obtained: (a) Children's reactions to their

parents' divorce were largely negative and varied as a

function of their developmental level, (b) the functioning

of the custodial parent following the divorce played a

large part in the first year following the divorce, and (c)

adjustment among older children was related to the

custodial parent refraining from perceiving their children







48

as sources from which their own emotional and social needs

were to be met.

In the second major study of the effects of divorce on

children, Hetherington, Cox, and Cox (1978) described

alterations in the relationship between 48 custodial

mothers and noncustodial fathers and their nursery school

aged children in the two year period following the divorce.

The authors found that fathers became increasingly

unavailable to their children while mothers experienced

marked child behavioral problems, especially with their

sons. These behavioral problems were somewhat mitigated

when the mother and father maintained support and positive

attitudes toward one another.

Finally, Jacobson (1978) investigated the impact of

marital separation/divorce on 61 6- to 17-year-old children

during the 12 month period following parental separation.

They found that child maladjustment was related both to

time lost in the presence of the father and to the degree

of interparent hostility in the preseparation period.

Children who were seen as well adjusted had, on the other

hand, received parents' help in dealing with the separation

and were encouraged to discuss separation-related problems.

On the basis of the three studies described above, it

appears that divorce occasions crisis and disequilibrium

for the children as well as the parents. Children's own

perceptions of the events compressed within the divorce








were not systematically obtained in these three studies.

From a cognitive-developmental theoretical perspective, the

child experiencing his or her parents' divorce is actively

structuring and interpreting the complex events transpiring

before, during, and after the separation period. More

importantly, the nature of these resulting perceptions may

greatly influence the extent to which the child is either

positively or negatively affected by the divorce (Kurdek &

Siesky, 1981).

The importance of considering children's perceptions

of their parents' divorce is demonstrated by two studies

whose conclusions offset the crisis tone of the studies

reported above. Rosen (1977) interviewed 92 9- to 28-year-

olds who strongly maintained that their parents' separation

was more beneficial than remaining together in conflict.

Additionally, they indicated that (a) they did not feel

adversely affected by the divorce, (b) they would have

preferred free access to the noncustodial parent, and (c)

many perceived themselves as having benefitted from the

divorce by acquiring an understanding of human emotions and

developing a sense of maturity and responsibility (Kurdek &

Siesky, 1980).

Reinhard (1977) reviewed responses to a 99-item

questionnaire of 46 12- to 18-year-olds regarding their

parents' divorce. The results indicated that (a) they did

not possess negative reactions to the divorce, (b) they saw








the divorce as a reasonable decision on the part of their

parents, (c) they did not feel the divorce affected their

peer relations, and (d) they saw themselves as having

acquired maturity and responsibility as a result of

experiencing their parents' divorce.

Clearly children's perceptions tend to mollify the

crisis-flavored tone of the literature regarding the

effects of divorce on children (Kurdek & Siesky, 1980). In

response to the lack of such studies, Kurdek and Siesky

(1981) systematically investigated children's perceptions

of various aspects of their parents' divorce. An open-

ended interview and a structured questionnaire were used to

accomplish this. The information gathered consistently

indicated that the children were not adversely affected by

various aspects of the divorce. The children did report

that the divorce decision, adjusting to the changed family

circumstances, and the loss of the noncustodial parent were

distressing experiences, but they also saw their parents'

divorce as a more desirable alternative to their parents'

living in conflict (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981).

These studies did not suggest that divorce is not a

crisis situation for some children. Rather they indicate

that from the child's perspective the crisis need not be a

chronic one.

There is, as we have found from many years of

observation, no necessary progression toward resolution or








closure to the dissolution experience. Although many

divorcing families make their way through the acute phase

of the divorce experience and after several years of

disequilibrium reach stability and closure in the post-

divorce or remarried family, many of the family members may

remain fixated for many years at the acute phase of the

divorce (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).

Given both the short-term acute reactions to divorce

and the potential long-term damage that may occur, it seems

appropriate for those involved in working with children and

adolescents to undertake interventions which will support

children through this difficult time in their lives as well

as reduce the potential for long-term effects (Freeman &

Couchman, 1985).

Preventive Interventions for Children of Divorce

Despite rapid increases in the divorce rate and ample

evidence of its adverse effects, Bloom, Asher, and White

(1978) reported that there had been few controlled studies

of preventive interventions for the people it touches. In

an attempt to help fill that void, Bloom, Hodges, and

Caldwell (1982) developed a 6-month preventive program for

newly separated adults. The program was based on support

principles and building adaptive skills in divorce-related

problem areas. The results recorded at the end of the

program and at the 30- and 48-month follow-up points,

indicated that participants significantly exceeded controls








in overall adjustment and in life coping skills (Bloom,

Hodges, Kern, & McFadden, 1985).

Several pilot preventive interventions based primarily

on support principles for children have been witnessed.

Cantor (1977) found little evidence of positive behavior

change in program children, based on parent and teacher

judgments. Guerney and Jordon (1979) had very positive

feedback from program children. Each of these studies

involved nine children and were evaluated

impressionistically and lacked rigorous control.

A recent more carefully evaluated program, the Divorce

Adjustment Project (Stolberg & Cullen, 1983, Stolberg,

Cullen, & Garrison, 1982), had two main components: (a)

the Children's Support Group (CSG), a group intervention

for 82 children of divorce 7 to 13 years of age and their

mothers emphasizing support and the building of

communication, anger control, and relaxation skills; and

(b) the Single Parent Support Group, also based on support

and discussions oriented to participants as individuals and

as parents. Subjects in the study consisted of pairs of

divorced mothers and their children assigned either to the

previously mentioned conditions alone, a combined parent

and child intervention, or a no-program control group.

Outcome comparisons at the end of the 12-week intervention

and five months later indicated that children in the

support group alone improved most in self-concept and that








parents in the parent group alone condition improved most

in adjustment. The combined condition did not yield

parallel improvements (Stolberg & Garrison, 1985).

Pedro-Carroll and Cowen (1985) evaluated the efficacy

of a modified Children's Support Group for fourth through

sixth grade suburban children of divorce. Although this

more recent Children of Divorce Intervention Program

(CODIP) maintained the Children's Support Group (CSG)

emphasis on support and skill-building, it (a) added an

early affective component focusing on divorce-related

feelings and experiences; (b) supplemented Children's

Support Group cognitive skill building units by using

discussion, filmstrips, and role plays of emotionally laden

divorce-related experiences; and (c) reduced the number of

anger control sessions from five to three.

Program outcome was assessed from the perspectives of

teachers, parents, group leaders, and children to represent

key domains of the child's current adjustment. Program

children made significantly greater adjustment gains than

controls. Teachers judged them to have shown significantly

greater reductions in shyness, anxiety, and learning

problems and to have improved more on total competence and

specific competencies such as frustration tolerance, peer

sociability, compliance with rules, and adaptive

assertiveness. Parent and group leader reports indicated

significant decreases in problem areas such as feelings of







54

self-blame about the divorce and increases in competency in

the ability to solve personal problems. The program

children also reported significantly less anxiety than

controls at post and tended to have less negative self-

attitudes and perceptions about the divorce (Pedro-Carroll

& Cowen, 1985).

On the basis of these findings, Sterling (1986)

adapted CODIP for second and third grade suburban children

and conducted and evaluated the new program. This study

included 77 children of divorce randomly assigned to an

immediate 8-week, 16 session intervention and a delayed 5-

week, 11 session program that omitted the 5 session

problem-solving unit (Alpert-Gillis, Pedro-Carroll, &

Cowen, 1989). The program was assessed using child,

parent, teacher, and group leader measures of adjustment.

Significant gains in the participants' adjustment by

parents and group leaders were reported more so in the full

than the abbreviated intervention. Participants in the

full intervention also increased significantly in their

understanding of adjustment and divorce. These gains were

not confirmed by classroom teachers. Conceivably, time

constraints necessitating that the 16 session intervention

be conducted twice weekly in 30-35 minute sessions may not

have allowed enough time for children to consolidate key

program concepts and apply them in the classroom (Alpert-

Gillis et al., 1989).








Based on these findings, Alpert-Gillis et al. (1989)

developed and evaluated a new version of the CODIP. The

program had the same goals as the prior CODIP interventions

with a modified format and content to reflect developmental

and sociocultural realities of young children. More

emphasis was placed on teaching children (a) the use of

extended family members and other caring adults as sources

of support and (b) to cope with the problem of infrequent

contact with noncustodial parents.

The study included 185 second- and third-grade

children from eight urban schools in Rochester, New York:

52 program subjects, 52 divorce control subjects, and 81

intact comparison subjects. Groups were compared, pre and

post, on child, parent, and teacher adjustment scales

(Alpert-Gillis et al., 1989).

The main findings from this study indicate that the

program children's adjustment gains significantly exceeded

those of control and comparison children from all

perspectives and across most measures.

However important a supportive environment is in

helping children to identify, express, and deal with

salient feelings about their parents' divorce, it may not

by itself be enough to produce positive program outcomes

(Cantor, 1977). Acquiring specific competencies for

dealing with the concrete challenges that parental divorce

often creates is a co-equal need (Pedro-Carroll & Cowen,







56

1985). Clinicians need to regard divorce today as a "life

experience which has exposed children to certain challenges

and demands without predetermining the emotional valance of

the event" (Bernard & Nesbitt, 1981, p. 40).

Primary prevention programs for children of divorce

should focus on the important influences on adjustment and

on modifying constructively the child's response to them

(Stolberg & Garrison, 1985). Individual variables that

predict children's divorce adjustment include age, sex, and

emotional predisposition of the child (Hetherington, 1979;

Kurdek & Siesky, 1981).

Highlighting relationships between environmental and

familial changes and children's divorce adjustment helps to

identify activities that may be integral components of a

preventive intervention. Lost support systems must be

replaced. Altered living circumstances and reduced

parental availability and financial resources may result in

increased feelings of anger and frustration in children.

Helping children to understand these confusing events

should also serve to reduce their anger, frustration, and

self-blame (Stolberg & Garrison, 1985).










CHAPTER III
METHODOLOGY



This study was designed to investigate the

effectiveness of a structured small-group counseling model,

developed by the researcher, to assist children in grades 4

and 5 with adjustment to their parents' divorce.

Specifically, children's adjustment was assessed by

instruments which measured problematic beliefs about

divorce, school behaviors, and self-concept. The remainder

of this chapter includes a description of the population

and participants, randomization procedures,

instrumentation, data collection, and the data analyses.

Research Design

This experimental study utilized a randomized control

group, pretest-posttest design. Data were collected and

analyzed from the pretest and posttest mean total scores.

The dependent variables in this study were the

students' (a) problematic beliefs about parental divorce,

(b) behaviors in school, and (c) self-concepts. The

independent variables included (a) group (small group

counseling or no counseling), (b) gender, and (c) the

length of time since the parents' divorce.









Hypotheses

The hypotheses of this study were:

Ho 1: There is no significant difference between

experimental and control group students' mean

total scores on the Children's Beliefs About

Parental Divorce Scale.

Ho 2: There is no significant difference between

experimental and control group students' mean

total scores on the Teacher Report Form of the

Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist.

Ho 3: There is no significant difference between

experimental and control group students' mean

total scores on the Piers-Harris Children's

Self-Concept Scale.

Ho 4: The length of time since the parents' divorce

has no significant impact on the effectiveness

of the intervention by group.

Ho 5: The gender of the child has no significant

impact on the effectiveness of the intervention

by group.

Population

The population from which the participants for this

study were selected was students in grades 4 and 5 whose

parents' were divorced at (a) P. K. Yonge Laboratory

School, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; (b)

Idylwild Elementary School, Gainesville, Florida; (c)









Melrose Elementary School, Melrose, Florida; (d)

Interlachen Elementary School, Interlachen, Florida; (e)

Padgett Elementary School, Lakeland, Florida; and (f)

Lincoln Avenue Elementary School, Lakeland, Florida.

Ninety-six students agreed to participate in the study.

An invitation to participate in this study was first

extended to the Directors of Student Services in Alachua,

Putnam, and Polk Counties. The invitation was made by

submitting a brief, written summary of the study and the

specific involvement necessary by school personnel and

students. Once approved by the Directors of Student

Services, all schools in each county were extended

permission by the Directors of Student Services to

participate in the study via a memorandum sent to each

school principal. All schools that indicated an interest

in participating in the study were included.

Participants

Selection of students for participation in this study

was made from fourth and fifth grade students attending the

6 participating elementary schools who met the following

criteria:

1. Parents were divorced.

2. Child lived with the mother only.

3. Child was not concurrently receiving counseling

while participating in the study.








4. Child was not presently enrolled in or eligible

for enrollment in a special education program.

A letter from the researcher was sent to the parents of all

eligible students in grades 4 and 5 of the participating

schools requesting permission to have their child

participate in the study. The letters were distributed to

the students to take home in a sealed envelope. This was

done to prevent any embarrassment or discomfort to

potential participants and their families and to protect

the disclosure of information some families may consider

confidential. The parents were asked to return the

permission forms to their child's classroom teacher. A

total of 96 students met the criteria for participation in

the study and returned permission forms signed by their

parents. All 96 students participated in the initial 2

weeks of the study. Eight students withdrew from school

before the completion of the study leaving a final number

of participants at 88.

The subjects with permission to participate in the

study were randomly placed in one of two groups--

experimental or control, at their respective schools.

Prior to this random placement the subjects were further

identified by gender and length of time since their

parents' divorce. The name of each male whose parents were

divorced for 2 years or less (4/88 through 4/90) were

written on an index card and placed in a box marked








accordingly (males--parents divorced 2 years or less).

This process was also used with the following categories of

subjects: males whose parents were divorced for more than

2 years (before 3/88), females whose parents were divorced

for 2 years or less (4/88 through 4/90), and females whose

parents were divorced for more than 2 years (before 3/88).

This provided a more equal distribution of subjects by

gender and length of time since divorce in each of the

control and experimental groups. The final number of

participants in each cell was as follows:


EXPERIMENTAL


CONTROL


-2 years +2 y


MALES


-2 years


FEMALES


+2 y


12 1


'ears



7



'ears



.6


-2 years +2 years



11 8



-2 years +2 years



8 16


Total Experimental = 45 Total Control = 43

Total N = 88


Implementation of the Study

All of the participants were notified of their

eligibility for participation in the study by their









classroom teacher. They were told that they had been

selected to participate in a special program with the

school counselor and a counselor from Gainesville, Florida.

This type of group introduction to any activity outside of

the classroom is often used by teachers at these schools.

The classroom teachers were specifically instructed by the

guidance counselor to say:

"Our guidance counselor has been invited to
participate in a very important project with a
graduate student from the University of Florida by
the name of April Sameck. Several students from
our school in grades 4 and 5 will participate in
this project. If I call your name, you are one of
these students. You will meet with (Guidance
counselor's name) today (date) at (time).
(Guidance counselor's name) will explain how you
might participate in this project and answer any
questions you might have. Your participation in
the project will be voluntary but you are
requested to attend this meeting before making a
decision about whether you will or will not
participate."

The elementary school counselor at each school led the

structured small-group intervention used in this study.

The researcher developed and wrote the intervention titled

K.I.D.S. (Kids in Divorce Situations). The idea for the

intervention was initially conceived by this researcher as

a response to the need for a guide in assisting children

with their adjustment to their parents' divorce. At that

time, she was an elementary school guidance counselor. The

K.I.D.S. intervention for grades 4 and 5 was written

specifically for use in this study.








The purpose of the K.I.D.S. small-group counseling

intervention was to assist elementary school children in

grades 4 and 5 with adjustment to their parents' divorce.

Specifically, this intervention was designed to explore

problematic beliefs often associated with divorce. The

primary goals of the intervention were to provide an

opportunity for the children to explore these problematic

beliefs and to attempt to modify any negative beliefs.

K.I.D.S. was extensively reviewed prior to this study

by 12 professional school counselors and 6 licensed mental

health counselors and school psychologists for their

responses to questions regarding (a) the clarity of the

directions provided for the counselor to lead the

intervention, (b) the appropriateness of the information

and activities for the grade levels for which the

intervention is designed, (c) the appropriateness of the

coordination of the problematic beliefs and the

corresponding role play activities, (d) these

professionals' evaluations regarding the appropriateness of

the specific problematic beliefs addressed in this

intervention as common issues of children of divorce, (e)

whether they would themselves use this intervention in

their work with children whose parents are divorced, and

(f) whether they would like a copy of the intervention.

All 18 evaluators responded yes to all questions. Many

added expletives such as "great," "always," "excellent,"








64

etc. The only recommendations for changes were related to

typographical errors.

The intervention was structured and designed for seven

one-hour sessions over seven consecutive weeks. The

sessions for this study were scheduled by the school

counselor with the assistance of the appropriate classroom

teachers. The sessions were not held during primary

academic instruction time in the regular classroom nor

during resource class times.

The sequence of the K.I.D.S. small group sessions and

the objectives of each session are as follows:


WEEK I INTRODUCTION TO THE GROUP

Welcome participants.
Introduction of leader.
Explanation of the purpose of the group.
Definition of the criteria for eligibility
as a group member.
Explanation and guidelines of expectations
of group members and the leader.
Presentation of the topics to be discussed
and the types of activities that will
occur during the intervention.
To become acquainted with one another.

WEEK II SELF BLAME

To become further acquainted with one
another.
To explain the problematic belief of SELF
BLAME to the group members.
To brainstorm group lists of the advantages
and disadvantages of divorce for the
children of the family.
To role play situations related to SELF
BLAME.








WEEK III PEER RIDICULE AND AVOIDANCE

To become aware of each group member's
present family structure and the
differences in these structures.
To explain the problematic belief of PEER
RIDICULE AND AVOIDANCE to the group
members.
To role play situations related to PEER
RIDICULE AND AVOIDANCE.

WEEK IV PATERNAL/MATERNAL BLAME

To explain the problematic beliefs of
PATERNAL and MATERNAL BLAME to the
group members.
To identify possible reasons that children
have for blaming one parent for the
divorce.
To role play situations related to PATERNAL
and MATERNAL BLAME.

WEEK V FEAR OF ABANDONMENT

To participate in a "Trust Walk" with a
partner.
To explain the problematic belief of FEAR
OF ABANDONMENT to the group members.
To role play situations related to the FEAR
OF ABANDONMENT.

WEEK VI HOPE FOR REUNIFICATION

To participate in the "IF I Had A Magic
Wand" Activity.
To explain the problematic belief of the
HOPE FOR REUNIFICATION to the group
members.

To role play situations related to the HOPE
FOR REUNIFICATION.

WEEK VII GROUP EVALUATION AND CLOSURE

To review the problematic beliefs addressed
in the previous six sessions.
To discuss the advantages and disadvantages
of the group intervention in assisting
the members with adjusting to their
parents' divorce.
To participate in a Trust Walk with a
partner.










To write a letter of "thank you" to their
parents for permitting them to
participate in this group.


The researcher trained the school counselors

participating in this study in the use of the K.I.D.S.

intervention. This training required approximately six

hours of reading instruction and preparation of all

materials necessary for implementation of the K.I.D.S.

intervention. Each counselor was trained at the school

setting on a day and at a time convenient to the counselor.

The specific training process included the following

sequence:

1. Counselors were given the written intervention

several days prior to the training meeting and asked to

read it in its entirety before the meeting.

2. At the training meeting the researcher

a. reviewed the intervention with the counselor

and discussed the specifics to be covered

in each session and answered any questions.

b. discussed and demonstrated how each instrument

was to be administered.

c. assisted, when requested, with the preparation

of any materials necessary to implement the

intervention (i.e., balance beams, charts,

etc.).








Instrumentation

Each student in the control and experimental groups

was administered the following instruments: (a) the Piers-

Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale (1984 edition), (b)

the Teacher's Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior

Checklist (1983), and (c) the Children's Beliefs About

Parental Divorce Scale (Kurdek & Berg, 1987).

Self-Concept

The Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale,
subtitled The Way I Feel About Myself, is a brief,
self-report measure designed to aid in the
assessment of self-concept in children and
adolescents. Self-concept, as assessed by this
instrument, is defined as a relatively stable set
of self-attitudes reflecting both a description
and an evaluation of one's own behavior and
attributes. Items on the scale are scored in
either a positive or negative direction to reflect
this evaluative dimension. A high score on the
scale suggests a positive self-evaluation, whereas
a low score suggests a negative self-evaluation.
The Piers-Harris focuses on children's conscious
self-perceptions, rather than attempting to infer
how they feel about themselves from their
behaviors or the attributions of others. It was
developed as a research instrument to provide a
quantitative, self-report measure of children's
self concepts. It is intended for use with
children in grades 4 through 12 (ages 8 through 18
years). To insure that the respondents understand
the nature of the task and do not have any
unanswered questions about individual items, the
scale generally should not be administered to more
than 8 or 10 children at a time. (Piers & Harris,
1984, pp. 1)

The scale consists of 80 test items that measure

children's evaluations of their behavior, intellectual and

school status, physical appearance and attributes, anxiety,

popularity, and satisfaction. The test consists of a








series of declarative or unsuccessful functioning in each

of these areas.

Because this is a self-report measure, it is
particularly susceptible to conscious and
unconscious distortions. For this reason, it
should not be used as the sole method of
assessing self-concept where this is being used
to influence important decisions about a child.
To guard against overinterpretation only very low
scores (e.g., 16th percentile or below) should be
considered significant and even these should be
interpreted cautiously. Likewise, extremely high
scores may result because of defensiveness or
social desirability.

The test was normed on a sample of 1,183 Pennsylvania

school children in grades 4-12. Experimental variations of

the test have been suggested, such as rewriting items

tapping the affective domain (Michael, Smith, & Michael,

1975) and replacing the dichotomous response format with a

Likert scale (Lynch & Chaves, 1975). These suggestions

have not been empirically explored.

The Piers-Harris is a paper-and-pencil test designed

to be administered individually or in small groups with

verbal instructions from the examiner. The test is self-

paced. When reading the items aloud, the examiner must

wait for all examinees to respond before proceeding to the

next item. When subjects read the items to themselves they

are allowed as much time as needed to make their responses.

For this study the Piers-Harris was read to the examinees

by the school counselor in small groups of 8 or less.

Studies on the reliability of the Piers Harris Scale

have been conducted on a variety of child populations. The








internal consistency of the test as a whole is relatively

high. Alpha coefficients of .90-.91 have been reported for

male and female populations and reliabilities of .88-.93

have been cited for males and females using the Kuder-

Richardson formula 20 (Piers & Harris, 1984). Similarly

high internal consistency measures have been found with

special populations, including the learning disabled (Smith

& Rogers, 1978) and native Americans (Lefley, 1974).

Test-retest reliabilities range from .42 to .96 in the

literature with retest intervals of a few weeks to six

months. These reliabilities have been established in

normal populations (e.g., Shavelson & Bolus, 1982),

learning disabled students (Smith, 1978), and in children

from different ethnic backgrounds, including black and

Mexican American children (Platten & Williams, 1979, 1981),

Mexican-American migrant workers (Henggeler & Tavormina,

1979), and American Indian students (Lefley, 1974).

School Behaviors

The students' school behaviors were assessed using the

Teacher Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior

Checklist. This instrument is designed to obtain teachers'

reports of their pupils' problems and adaptive functioning

in a standardized format. It is modeled on the Child

Behavior Checklist, which was developed to obtain parents'

reports of their children's problems and competencies

(Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983).








The Child Behavior Checklist is designed to be used

with children 4 through 16 years of age. To reflect sex

and age differences, separate versions of the teacher

profile have been constructed for each sex at ages 6-11 and

12-16.

The percentiles and normalized T scores of the profile

were derived from data provided by 665 teachers in grades 1

through 10 regular classrooms who completed the Teacher

Report Form (TRF) on one randomly selected boy and girl in

their classes. These data were obtained in 1981-82 from

teachers in public and parochial schools in Omaha,

Nebraska, Nashville, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh,

Pennsylvania.

Teachers are asked to rate responses to 118 items

related to behavior problems, academic performance, and

adaptive functioning which includes how hard the child is

working, how appropriately he or she is working, how

appropriately he or she is behaving, how much he or she is

learning, and how happy he or she is.

The validity and reliability of the instrument are

described in the administration manual (Achenbach &

Edelbrock, 1983). Pearson correlations for test-retest

reliability are generally in the high .80s and .90s, with

minimal changes in mean scores over the test-retest

reliability periods. Sensitivity to longer-term change in

treated children has been evident in significant declines








in problem scores over periods of 3, 6, and 18 months.

Pearson correlations for agreement between mothers and

fathers and between teachers are in the .60s and .70s.

Discriminate validity has been demonstrated by significant

differences between item and scale scores for

demographically matched referred and nonreferred children.

Numerous studies of clinical, epidemiological, and research

applications of the assessment procedures are underway in

several countries.

The teachers of each of the students in this study

completed the Teacher Report Forms.

Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce

The Children's Beliefs About Parental Separation Scale

(CBAPS) was used to assess children's problematic beliefs

regarding parental divorce.

The Children's Beliefs About Parental Separation
Scale (CBAPS) began as a 52-item projective test
(Kelly & Berg, 1978). It was then revised into a
70-item yes/no objective scale (Kurdek & Berg,
1983). The current (1987) 36-item version was
developed by item analysis of the 70-item version
and by rewriting several items to control for a
yes/no response set. The CBAPS contains six items
for each of six belief domains (subscales) that
were selected on the basis of the problematic
beliefs cited in clinical literature (Gardner,
1976; Kelly & Berg, 1978; Mendell, 1983;
Wallerstein, 1983). (Kurdek & Berg, 1987, p. 712)

The subscales and their clinical significance are

described as:

1. Self-Blame Subscale. Some children may believe

that their parents' separation is due to








something they themselves said or did. Such

beliefs can lead to guilt and depression.

2. Peer Ridicule and Avoidance Subscale. Children

may believe that their parents' separation

reflects negatively on themselves. Thus, they

may avoid peers and get upset when peers ask

questions about their parents. This belief may

preclude the child's using friends as a source of

emotional support.

3. Paternal Blame and Maternal Blame Subscales.

Children may believe that one parent is entirely

responsible for the separation. This belief may

contribute to negative interactions with that

parent in the postseparation period.

4. Fear of Abandonment Subscale. Because separation

involves one parent moving out of the house,

extensive contact with that parent may be lost.

Some children may believe that they will

eventually lose contact with the resident parent

as well, which may lead to excessive dependency

and obsessive thoughts and fears about such loss.

5. Hope of Reunification Subscale. Some children may

believe that the parents' reunification will be

hastened by their own activities, for instance by

wishing for it or by getting sick. Such beliefs

can result in children's repeated disappointment.








Items on the scale are keyed for problematic

responding. Scores for the six subscales are derived by

summing the number of problematic beliefs within each

subscale (total possible score per subscale = 6). A total

possible score is derived by summing the number of

problematic beliefs across all items (total possible score

= 36). A high score indicates the child has a number of

problematic beliefs which may need to be addressed by a

professional helper.

A study was conducted in 1987 to evaluate psychometric

properties of the CBAPS regarding internal consistency,

factor structure and test-retest reliability. The study

further presented descriptive data on the relationship

between the CBAPS and the child's age and gender, the

length of parental separation, and the family structure

(single parent with mother or father or reconstituted

family with stepmother or stepfather). To assess

concurrent validity, CBAPS scores were related to

multiscore, multivariable assessments of children's

adjustment that included self-report measures of self-

concept, control beliefs, social support, anxiety, and

interpersonal problem-solving as well as parent and teacher

ratings of internalizing and externalizing behavior

problems.

The subjects of this latter study were 170 children

(84 boys, 86 girls; mean age = 11.06 years, SD = 2.64








74

years) with divorced parents. The age range of the sample

was 6-17. Most of the children (56%) lived with single

mothers; 24% with remarried mothers; 12% with single

fathers; and 3% with other (e.g., grandmother, aunt).

Subjects were recruited from court records of

dissolutions of marriage in Montgomery County, Ohio (1984),

grades 3-6 of a public elementary school, and grades 7-9 of

a junior high school in the same school district

(Montgomery County). Despite the nonclinical nature of the

sample, an appreciable number of the children held

problematic beliefs regarding their parents' divorce. Most

of the item total correlations were moderately high (range

= .15-.65; M = .46) and the alphas were somewhat higher

(range = .54-.78, M = .70). Cronbach's alpha for the total

score (M = 8.20, SD = 4.98) was .80.

A principal components analysis with varimax rotation

was conducted to further examine internal consistency. Six

factors were requested to check for empirical support for

the priori construction of the six subscales. These

factors had eigenvalues ranging from 1.44 to 5.42 and

accounted for 50% of the total variance. The relative

independence of the subscales was further confirmed by

computing Pearson correlations among the six subscales.

These ranged from .06 to .46 with a mean correlation of

.18. Self-blame factors did not emerge as a separate










factor but the subscale was retained in further analysis

because the items in this subscale did cluster together.

Test-retest (9 week) data were collected from the 30

junior high school sample (mean age 12.69 years). For the

Peer Ridicule and Avoidance, Hope of Reunification, Fear of

Abandonment, Maternal Blame, Paternal Blame, and Self Blame

subscales, the respective Pearson correlations were (.41,

.51, .52, .51, .72, and .43 (p < .01). The correlation for

the total scale was .65 (p < .01).

Pearson correlations were computed between the seven

scores (total score and six subscales) and age, gender, and

length of parental separation. Given the number of

correlations computed the Type I error rate per test was

set at .002 (alpha of .05 divided by the number of

significance tests). Using this criterion, only one

coefficient was significant. The number of Hope for

Reunification beliefs was negatively related to age r = -

.48.

The CBAPS is a paper-and pencil test designed to be

administered individually or in small groups with verbal

instruction from the examiner. It is self-paced, therefore

the examiner must wait for all examinees to respond before

proceeding to the next item. For this study the CBAPS was

read to the examinees by the school counselor in small

groups of 8 or less.









Analysis of Data

Hypotheses one through five of this study were

analyzed by an analysis of variance using the statistical

package GLM procedure to assess significant differences in

the pretest and posttest mean total scores. A three-way

factoral ANOVA (group by gender by length of time since

divorce) with repeated measures was conducted to determine

if significant differences existed between the experimental

and control groups for gender and length of time since

divorce on the dependent variables of problematic beliefs,

school behaviors, and self-concept. The alpha levels were

set at .05.









CHAPTER IV
RESULTS



The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of

a small group intervention on elementary school children in

grades 4 and 5 whose parents were divorced. The

independent variables included student groups (small group

counseling or no counseling), student gender, and length of

time since their parents' divorce.

The dependent variables were measured using the

Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce Scale (1987), the

Teacher's Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior

Checklist (1983), and the Piers-Harris Children's Self-

Concept Scale (1984).

The study included 88 fourth- and fifth-grade children

from six different Florida schools. There were 45

experimental program participants and 43 control

participants. Criteria for inclusion in the program

included student (a) participants' parents were divorced,

(b) participants lived with their mothers only, (c)

participants were not concurrently receiving counseling

while participating in the study, and (d) participants were

not currently enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a

special education program.









78

Letters describing the study were sent to the parents

of fourth- and fifth-grade children in all 6 participating

schools whose parents were divorced. Ninety-six of the

returned letters were from students meeting the criteria

for participation in the study. All 96 students

participated in the first two weeks of the study. Eight of

the student participants withdrew from school during the

first two weeks of the study leaving a final number of

participants at 88 who completed the study.

The participants included 52 females and 36 males: 32

females' parents had been divorced more than 2 years, 20

females' parents had been divorced 2 years or less; 15

males' parents had been divorced more than 2 years, and 21

males' parents had been divorced less than 2 years.

Random within-school division of the total participant

pool yielded group intervention (experimental, E; n=45) and

no group intervention (Control, C; n=43) groups matched for

gender and length of time since their parents' divorce

(Table 1).

The experimental and control groups had six mixed

gender and mixed length of time since divorce subgroups.

The group's participants met in their home schools for

seven weekly, 60-minute sessions during the school day.

The group counseling intervention was led by the













Table 1

Participant Characteristics by Gender and Length of Time
Since Parents' Divorce



Experimental Control
-2 years +2 years -2 years +2 years


MALES 10 7 11 8


FEMALES 12 16 8 16


Total Experimental = 45 Total Control = 43

Total N = 88



Participating Elementary Schools



Name of School City County


Idylwild Elementary School Gainesville, FL Alachua
Interlachen Elementary School Interlachen, FL Putnam
Lincoln Elementary School Lakeland, FL Polk
Melrose Elementary School Melrose, FL Putnam
Padgett Elementary School Lakeland, FL Polk
P. K. Yonge Elementary School Gainesville, FL Alachua







80

previously, specially trained guidance counselor at each of

the six participating schools.

Pretesting on all measures for all participants was

completed approximately one week before the intervention

was initiated. Testing with children was done in small

groups of 6-8 with experimental and control participants

being tested separately. Posttesting on all measures for

all participants was completed using the same procedures

one week after the intervention ended.

The results of data analyses are presented in this

chapter including the patterns and trends found in the

data.

Research Hypotheses

Research Hypothesis One

Hypothesis one addressed whether there would be

significant differences between the experimental and

control group students' mean total scores on the Children's

Beliefs About Parental Divorce Scale (CBAPDS). Table 2

includes pretest and posttest group means, standard

deviations, and univariate group x time interactions for

the CBAPDS.

Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects

yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 0.92 PR > 0.3397 indicating no

significant differences by group on the CBAPDS mean total

scores. Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects

effects revealed significance in the interaction of time by









group (Table 3). The experimental groups posttest total

mean score was lower than the pretest total mean score.

The control group's posttest total mean score was higher

than the pretest total mean score.

A three-way factoral ANOVA (group x sex x length of

time since divorce) with repeated measures was conducted

for Hypothesis One (Table 4).

Comparison of mean CBAPDS scores at pretest for

experimental (M=7.73, SD=4.65) and control (M=7.37,

SD=4.19) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1.80) of 0.56,

PR>0.4575. There were no significant group differences at

pretest on CBAPDS total scores.

Comparison of mean CBAPDS scores at posttest for

experimental (M=5.86, SD=4.02) and control (M=8.51,

SD=4.98) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 6.00,

PR>0.0165. The experimental group scored significantly (at

the .05 level) lower than the control group. A lower score

on the scale indicates a decrease in problematic beliefs

regarding parental divorce.

The statistical data for total mean scores by group on

the CBAPDS yielded a significant difference and null

hypothesis one is thus rejected at the .05 level of

significance (Figure 1).














I--


I --


I --

I --


I --


I --


I --


I --


I --


I --


I --

I --


I --

I --


I--

I-


Pretest


Posttest


Figure 1. Total mean scores on the Children's Beliefs
About Parental Divorce Scale.


(C=8.51)


(E=7.73)



(C=7.37)



(E=5.86)









Table 2
Group Pretest (Pre) and Posttest (Post) Means, Standard
Deviations, and Univariate Group X Time Interactions for
the CBAPDS



Scores E(n=45) C(n=43) Group x Time
Pre Post Pre Post F PR>F


CBAPDS
(df=1,80)

Mean 7.73 5.86 7.37 8.51 12.70 0.0006*

S.D. (4.65) (4.02) (4.19) (4.98)


Note: E=experimental group; C=control group;
CBAPDS=Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce
Scale



Table 3

Univariate Tests of Hypothesis for Within Subjects Effects
for the CBAPDS



Dependent
Variable Source DF SS F PR>F


CBAPDS Time 1 1.80 0.23 0.6334
Time*Group 1 100.24 12.70 0.0006*
Time*Gender 1 15 61 1.98 0.1635
Time*Group*Gender 1 2.36 0.30 0.5857
Time*Divorce 1 0.36 0.05 0.8294
Time*Group*Divorce 1 13.78 1.75 0.1901
Time*Gender*Divorce 1 0.76 0.10 0.7575
Time*Group*Gender
*Divorce 1 0.62 0.08 0.7796


Note. Time=pretest and posttest;
Group=experimental and control;
Gender=male and female;
Divorce=+2 years and -2 years












Table 4

Analysis of Variance With Repeated Measures for CBAPDS by
Group, Gender, and Divorce



Dependent
Variable Source DF SS F PR>F


CBAPDS
(Pretest)







CBAPDS
(Posttest)


Group
Gender
Group*Gender
Divorce
Group*Divorce
Gender*Divorce
Group*Gender*Divorce


Group
Gender
Group*Gender
Divorce
Group*Divorce
Gender*Divorce
Group*Gender*Divorce


10.80
9.29
0.50
47.99
12.02
0.96
44.77


118.20
74.60
2.13
36.83
3.18
0.06
31.08


0.56
0.48
0.03
2.48
0.62
0.05
2.31


6.00
3.79
0.11
1.87
0.16
0.00
1.58


0.4575
0.4907
0.8719
0.1196
0.4333
0.8240
0.1325


0.0165*
0.0551
0.7426
0.1753
0.6889
0.9550
0.2126


Research Hypothesis Two

Hypothesis two addressed whether there would be

significant differences between the experimental and

control group students' mean total scores on the Teachers'

Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist

(TRFACBC). Table 5 includes pretest and posttest group

means, standard deviations and univariate group x time

interactions for the TRFACBC.









Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects

yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 1.67 PR > 0.1060 indicating no

significant differences by group on the TRFACBC.

Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects effects

did not reveal significance in the interaction of time by

group (Table 6).

A three-way factoral ANOVA (group x gender x length of

time since divorce) with repeated measures was conducted

for Hypothesis 2 (Table 7).

Comparison of mean TRFACBC scores at pretest for

experimental (M=26.93, SD=28.32) and control (M=40.72,

SD=37.60) yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 3.21, PR>0.0769.

There were no significant group differences at pretest on

the TRFACBC total scores.

Comparison of mean TRFACBC scores at posttest for

experimental (M=28.28, SD=28.04) and control (M=37.90,

SD=31.25) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 1.79,

PR>0.1847. There were no significant group differences at

posttest on TRFACBC total scores.

The statistical data for total mean scores by group on

the TRFACBC were not significant and null hypothesis two is

not rejected.








Table 5

Group Pretest (Pre) and Posttest (Post) Means, Standard
Deviations, and Univariate Group X Time Interactions for
the TRFACBC



Groups
Scores E(n=45) C(n=43) Group x Time
Pre Post Pre Post F PR>F


TRFACBC
(df=1,80)

Mean 26.93 28.28 40.72 37.90 1.06 0.3052

S.D. (28.32) (28.04) (37.60) (31.25)


Note: E=experimental group; C=control group;
TRFACBC= Teachers Report Form of the Achenbach Child
Behavior Checklist


Table 6

Univariate Tests of Hypothesis for Within Subjects Effects
for the TRFACBC



Dependent
Variable Source DF SS F PR>F


TRFACBC Time 1 144.35 1.07 0.3043
(df 1,80) Time*Group 1 143.80 1.06 0.3052
Time*Gender 1 1009.83 7.48 0.0077*
Time*Group*Gender 1 40.08 0.30 0.5874
Time*Divorce 1 32.55 0.24 0.6248
Time*Group*Divorce 1 323.75 2.40 0.1255
Time*Gender*Divorce 1 99.52 0.74 0.3932
Time*Group*Gender
*Divorce 1 80.20 0.59 0.4432


Note. Time=pretest and posttest;
Group=experimental and control;
Gender=male and female;
Divorce=+2 years and -2 years









Table 7


Analysis of Variance With Repeated Measures for TRFACBC by
Group, Gender, and Divorce



Dependent
Variable Source DF SS F PR>F


TRFACBC Group 1 3099.63 3.21 0.0769
(Pretest) Gender 1 16737.68 17.34 0.0001*
Group*Gender 1 118.17 0.12 0.7273
Divorce 1 504.97 0.52 0.4716
Group*Divorce 1 130.88 0.14 0.7137
Gender*Divorce 1 403.37 0.42 0.5198
Group*Gender*Divorce 1 18.29 0.02 0.8908


TRFACBC Group 1 1498.86 1.79 0.1847
(Posttest) Gender 1 7129.01 8.51 0.0046*
Group*Gender 1 3.67 0.00 0.9473
Divorce 1 207.44 0.25 0.6200
Group*Divorce 1 1360.63 1.62 0.2061
Gender*Divorce 1 35.71 0.04 0.8369
Group*Gender*Divorce 1 287.06 0.34 0.5599


Research Hypotheses Three

Hypothesis three addressed whether there were

significant differences between the experimental and control

group students' mean total scores on the Piers-Harris

Children's Self-Concept Scale (PHCSCS). Table 8 includes

pretest and posttest group means, standard deviations, and

univariate group x time interactions for the PHCSCS.

Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects

yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 0.51 PR > F 0.4787 indicating









no significant differences by group on the PHCSCS.

Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects effects

revealed significance in the interaction of time by group

(Table 9). The experimental groups posttest total mean

score was higher than the pretest total mean score. The

control group posttest total mean score was higher than the

pretest total mean score.

A three-way factoral ANOVA (group x gender x divorce)

with repeated measures was conducted for Hypothesis Three

(Table 10).

Comparison of mean PHCSCS scores at pretest for

experimental (M=51.48, SD=16.16) and control (M=54.55,

SD=12.58) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 1.87,

PR>0.1753. there were no significant differences at

pretest on the PHCSCS total scores.

Comparison of mean PHCSCS scores at posttest for

experimental (M=58.15, SD=14.89) and control (M=56.74,

SD=13.79) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 0.00,

PR>0.9656. There were no significant differences at

posttest on the PHCSCS total scores.

The statistical data for total mean scores by group on

the PHCSCS were not significant and null hypothesis three

is not rejected.








Table 8

Group Pretest (Pre) and Posttest (Post) Means, Standard
Deviations, and Univariate Group X Time Interactions for
the PHCSCS



Scores E(n=45) C(n=43) Group x Time
Pre Post Pre Post F PR>F


PHCSCS
(df=1, 80)


51.48 58.15


54.55 56.74


4.32 0.0408*


(16.16) (14.89) (12.58) (13.79)


Note: E=experimental group; C=control group;
PHCSCS=Piers Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale




Table 9

Univariate Tests of Hypothesis for Within Subjects Effects
for the PHCSCS



Dependent
Variable Source DF SS F PR>F


PHCSCS Time 1 796.32 16.28 0.0001*
(df 1,80) Time*Group 1 211.44 4.32 0.0408*
Time*Gender 1 126.36 2.58 0.1120
Time*Group*Gender 1 25.73 0.53 0.4704
Time*Divorce 1 25.94 0.53 0.4686
Time*Group*Divorce 1 0.48 0.01 0.9210
Time*Gender*Divorce 1 116.36 2.38 0.1270
Time*Group*Gender
*Divorce 1 4.92 0.10 0.7519


Note. Time=pretest and posttest;
Group=experimental and control;
Gender=male and female;
Divorce=+2 years and -2 years


Mean

S.D.









Table 10

Analysis of Variance With Repeated Measures for PHCSCS by
Group, Gender, and Divorce



Dependent
Variable Source DF SS F PR>F


PHCSCS Group 1 397.77 1.87 0.1753
(Pretest) Gender 1 147.14 0.69 0.4081
Group*Gender 1 437.96 2.06 0.1552
Divorce 1 4.92 0.02 0.8795
Group*Divorce 1 50.17 0.24 0.6285
Gender*Divorce 1 235.24 1.11 0.2962
Group*Gender*Divorce 1 92.74 0.44 0.5110


PHCSCS Group 1 0.38 0.00 0.9656
(Posttest) Gender 1 785.54 3.84 0.0536
Group*Gender 1 189.13 0.92 0.3394
Divorce 1 99.76 0.43 0.5122
Group*Divorce 1 65.09 0.32 0.5745
Gender*Divorce 1 0.00 0.00 0.9954
Group*Gender*Divorce 1 42.14 0.21 0.6513


Research Hypothesis Four

Hypothesis four addressed whether the length of time

since the parent's divorce would have a significant impact

on the effectiveness of the intervention by group.

Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects for

group by divorce interactions were not significant for any

of the dependent variables. Univariate tests of hypotheses

for within subjects effects for the interaction of time by

group by divorce were not significant (Tables 3, 6, and 9).









The ANOVAs for group by divorce interactions (Tables

4, 7, and 10) were not significant for any of the dependent

variables.

The statistical data for group by divorce total mean

scores were not significant and null hypothesis four is not

rejected.

Research Hypothesis Five

Hypothesis five addressed whether the gender of the

child would have a significant impact on the effectiveness

of the intervention by group.

Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects for

group by gender interactions were not significant for any

of the dependent variables. Univariate tests of hypotheses

for within subjects effects for the interaction of time by

group by gender were not significant (Tables 3, 6, and 9)

for any of the dependent variables.

The ANOVAs for group by gender interactions (Tables 4,

7, and 10) were not significant for any of the dependent

variables.

The statistical data for group by gender total mean

scores were not significant and null hypothesis five is not

rejected.




Full Text
45
divorce. Favorable adjustments were seen in children who
defined divorce in terms of psychological separation,
shared news of the divorce with friends, had relatively
positive evaluations of both parents, and saw themselves as
having acguired strengths and responsibilities as a result
of the divorce. This study further identified beneficial
effects (comfort in discussing divorce with friends,
emotional adjustment to the divorce, attitudes toward
interpersonal relationships) of children's sharing divorce-
related concerns with their friends. They have further
suggested that peers function as a support system for
children experiencing their parents' divorce.
At a time when the parents themselves are likely
to be caught up with their own thoughts and
feelings, children may more easily turn to their
friends for advice and comfort. Given the
increase in the number of children affected by
divorce, groups of children who themselves have
also experienced divorce may be the source of
greatest support in both clinical and non-
clinical settings. (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981, p.
98)
In summary, Kurdek and Siesky (1981), in their
findings that children acquired strengths and
responsibilities in the course of adjusting to the divorce,
concluded that divorce need not be a traumatic experience
for all children. Additionally, they view children's
perceptions of the divorce as greatly influencing the
nature of adjustment. A child who sees the divorce as an
opportunity for personal growth will encounter fewer
difficulties than the child who views the divorce in terms


70
The Child Behavior Checklist is designed to be used
with children 4 through 16 years of age. To reflect sex
and age differences, separate versions of the teacher
profile have been constructed for each sex at ages 6-11 and
12-16.
The percentiles and normalized T scores of the profile
were derived from data provided by 665 teachers in grades 1
through 10 regular classrooms who completed the Teacher
Report Form (TRF) on one randomly selected boy and girl in
their classes. These data were obtained in 1981-82 from
teachers in public and parochial schools in Omaha,
Nebraska, Nashville, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania.
Teachers are asked to rate responses to 118 items
related to behavior problems, academic performance, and
adaptive functioning which includes how hard the child is
working, how appropriately he or she is working, how
appropriately he or she is behaving, how much he or she is
learning, and how happy he or she is.
The validity and reliability of the instrument are
described in the administration manual (Achenbach &
Edelbrock, 1983). Pearson correlations for test-retest
reliability are generally in the high .80s and .90s, with
minimal changes in mean scores over the test-retest
reliability periods. Sensitivity to longer-term change in
treated children has been evident in significant declines


CHAPTER III
METHODOLOGY
This study was designed to investigate the
effectiveness of a structured small-group counseling model,
developed by the researcher, to assist children in grades 4
and 5 with adjustment to their parents' divorce.
Specifically, children's adjustment was assessed by
instruments which measured problematic beliefs about
divorce, school behaviors, and self-concept. The remainder
of this chapter includes a description of the population
and participants, randomization procedures,
instrumentation, data collection, and the data analyses.
Research Design
This experimental study utilized a randomized control
group, pretest-posttest design. Data were collected and
analyzed from the pretest and posttest mean total scores.
The dependent variables in this study were the
students' (a) problematic beliefs about parental divorce,
(b) behaviors in school, and (c) self-concepts. The
independent variables included (a) group (small group
counseling or no counseling), (b) gender, and (c) the
length of time since the parents' divorce.
57


114
United States Bureau of the Census. (1987). Current
population reports (Series P-20, no. 417).
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Wallerstein, J. S. (1983). Children of divorce: The
psychological tasks of the child. American Journal of
Orthopsychiatry. 53., 230-243.
Wallerstein, J. S., & Blakeslee, S. (1989). Second
chances. New York: Ticknor and Fields.
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1974). The effects of
parental divorce: The adolescent experience. In E.
J. Anthony & C. Koupernik (Eds.), The child is his
family (Vol. 3) (pp. 53-66). New York: Wiley.
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1975). The effects of
parental divorce: Experiences of the preschool child.
Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry.
14, 600-616.
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1976). The effects of
parental divorce experiences of the child in later
latency. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 46.
256-269.
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1980). Surviving the
breakup: How children and parents cope with divorce.
New York: Basic Books.
Walsh, H. M. (1980). Introducing the young child to the
school world. New York: Macmillan.
Weiss, R. S. (1979). Growing up a little faster: The
experience of growing up in a single-parent household.
Journal of Social Issues. 35, 97-111.
Young, E., & Parish, T. (1979). Impact of father absence
during childhood on the psychological adjustment of
college females. The Journal of Psychology. 102. 143-
155.


7
design, this researcher evaluated the effect of the
intervention in three areas: (a) children's problematic
beliefs regarding their parents' divorce, (b) children's
school behaviors, and (c) children's self-concepts.
Differences in the effectiveness of the treatment in
relationship to the sex of the child and the length of time
since the parents' divorce were also examined. The
treatment group was compared to a control group that was
given the opportunity to receive delayed treatment. The
counselor-led intervention included seven small-group
sessions designed to specifically address children's
problematic beliefs about divorce.
This study used the Children's Beliefs About Parental
Divorce Scale (Kurdek & Berg, 1987) as an objective scale
for assessing children's problematic beliefs regarding
parental divorce. The Teacher Report Form of the Achenbach
Child Behavior Checklist was used to assess student
behavior problems and adaptive functioning in a
standardized format. The Piers-Harris Children's Self-
Concept Scale was used to assess self-concept. All three
instruments were administered to all participants in both
treatment and control groups one week prior to beginning
the intervention and at the conclusion.
Elementary school children in grades 4 and 5 (a) whose
parents were divorced, (b) lived with their mother only,
(c) were not concurrently receiving additional counseling


72
something they themselves said or did. Such
beliefs can lead to guilt and depression.
2. Peer Ridicule and Avoidance Subscale. Children
may believe that their parents' separation
reflects negatively on themselves. Thus, they
may avoid peers and get upset when peers ask
questions about their parents. This belief may
preclude the child's using friends as a source of
emotional support.
3. Paternal Blame and Maternal Blame Subscales.
Children may believe that one parent is entirely
responsible for the separation. This belief may
contribute to negative interactions with that
parent in the postseparation period.
4. Fear of Abandonment Subscale. Because separation
involves one parent moving out of the house,
extensive contact with that parent may be lost.
Some children may believe that they will
eventually lose contact with the resident parent
as well, which may lead to excessive dependency
and obsessive thoughts and fears about such loss.
5. Hope of Reunification Subscale. Some children may
believe that the parents' reunification will be
hastened by their own activities, for instance by
wishing for it or by getting sick. Such beliefs
can result in children's repeated disappointment.


109
Felner, D. F., Stolberg, A., & Cowen, E. L. (1975).
Crisis events and school mental health referral
patterns of young children. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology. 43. 305-310.
Felner, R. D., Norton, P., Cowen, E. L., & Farber, S. S.
(1981). A prevention program for children
experiencing life crisis. Professional Psychology.
12, 446-452.
Freeman, R., & Couchman, B. (1985). Coping with family
changes: A model for therapeutic group counseling
with children and adolescents. School Guidance
Worker. 40(5), 44-50.
Fulton, J. A. (1979). Parental reports of children's post
divorce adjustment. Journal of Social Issues. 35.
126-139.
Gardener, R. A. (1976). Psychotherapy with children of
divorce. New York: Aronson.
Goetting, A. (1981). Divorce outcome secured. Journal of
Family Issues. 2, 393-397.
Guerney, L., & Jordon, L. (1979). Children of divorcea
community support group. Journal of Divorce. 2.(3) ,
283-294.
Guidubaldi, J., Cleminshaw, A. K., Perry, J. D., &
Mcloughlin, C. S. (1983). The legacy of parental
divorce: A nationwide study of family status and
selected mediating variables on children's academic
and social competencies. School Psychology Review.
12, 300-323.
Hansen, D. A., & Hill, R. (1984). Families under stress.
In H. T. Christensen (Ed.), Handbook of marriage and
the family (pp. 174-186). Chicago: Rand McNally.
Henggeler, S. W., & Tavormina, J. B. (1979). Stability of
psychological assessment measures for children of
Mexican American migrant workers. Hispanic Journal of
Behavioral Sciences. 1(3), 263-270.
Hess, R. D., & Camara, K. A. (1979). Post divorce family
relationships as mediating factors in the consequences
of divorce for children. Journal of Social Issues.
35(4), 79-95.
Hetherington, E. M. (1979). Divorce: A child's
perspective. American Psychologist. 34. 851-858.


79
Table 1
Participant Characteristics by Gender and Length of Time
Since Parents1 Divorce
Experimental
Control
-2 years +2 years
-2 years
+2
years
MALES 10 7
11
8
FEMALES 12 16
8
16
Total Experimental =45
Total Control
= 43
Total N = 88
Participating Elementary Schools
Name of School
City
County
Idylwild Elementary School
Interlachen Elementary School
Lincoln Elementary School
Melrose Elementary School
Padgett Elementary School
P. K. Yonge Elementary School
Gainesville, FL
Interlachen, FL
Lakeland, FL
Melrose, FL
Lakeland, FL
Gainesville, FL
Alachua
Putnam
Polk
Putnam
Polk
Alachua


2
that children's mental health is directly related to
marital discord and the level of conflict in the family.
The effect of divorce on children is thus a prominent
family issue for practitioners and educators.
What role should the school play in providing
assistance to children with divorced or divorcing parents?
Specifically, what interventions might schools provide for
assisting children with problematic beliefs about parental
divorce? That is the focus of this study.
Overview
Parental separation and divorce can cause marked
changes in children's behaviors, particularly in school
(Peterson & Zill, 1986). These changes are likely to
include increased restlessness, obstinate acts,
disruptiveness, and impulsiveness. Along with these
behaviors, children's emotional reactions to parental
separation have been found to include confusion, anger,
guilt, fear, and depression, along with insecurity,
isolation, shame, and a feeling of being different
(Peterson & Zill, 1986; Stolberg & Garrison, 1985). Hodges
and Bloom (1984) found that children become more dependent,
disobedient, aggressive, demanding, and less affectionate
in the year following divorce.
There is ample evidence that parents' divorce has
adverse effects on child development (Bonkowski et al.,
1985; Hodges & Bloom, 1984; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985;


15
leading Americans to worry about a divorce epidemic
(Diamond, 1985).
Reports from the United States Bureau of the Census
(1987) indicated that in 1987 there were 130 currently
divorced persons for every 1,000 married persons living
with their spouses as compared with 100 per 1,000 in 1980.
In 1987, 23.9% of all children under 18 lived with one
parent, up from 19.7% in 1980.
Of the 15,071,000 children living in single parent
homes in 1987, 9,436,000 were as the result of divorce or
separation (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1987). Behind each
of these statistics is the dissolution of a family, with
all the emotions and adjustments attendant upon such a
transition. The child of divorce faces a special set of
challenges and carries an added burden. A few adjust
smoothly and quickly, but many undergo great frustration
and stress (Allers, 1982).
Divorce represents a special kind of stressful
experience for the child who has been reared within a two-
parent family. In several ways, a child's experience with
divorce is comparable to that of a child who loses a parent
through death. Each of these experiences strikes at and
disrupts close family relationships. Each weakens the
protection that the nuclear family provides, leaving in its
wake a diminished, more vulnerable family structure. Each
traces a pattern of time that begins with an acute, time-


61
accordingly (malesparents divorced 2 years or less).
This process was also used with the following categories of
subjects: males whose parents were divorced for more than
2 years (before 3/88), females whose parents were divorced
for 2 years or less (4/88 through 4/90), and females whose
parents were divorced for more than 2 years (before 3/88).
This provided a more equal distribution of subjects by
gender and length of time since divorce in each of the
control and experimental groups. The final number of
participants in each cell was as follows:
EXPERIMENTAL
-2 years +2 years
MALES
10
-2 years +2 years
FEMALES
12
16
CONTROL
-2 years +2 years
11
-2 years +2 years
16
Total Experimental = 45 Total Control = 43
Total N = 88
Implementation of the Study
All of the participants were notified of their
eligibility for participation in the study by their


APPENDIX A
REVIEW AND EVALUATION MEMORANDUM
AND EVALUATION FORM


CHAPTER IV
RESULTS
The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of
a small group intervention on elementary school children in
grades 4 and 5 whose parents were divorced. The
independent variables included student groups (small group
counseling or no counseling), student gender, and length of
time since their parents' divorce.
The dependent variables were measured using the
Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce Scale (1987), the
Teacher's Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior
Checklist (1983), and the Piers-Harris Children's Self-
Concept Scale (1984).
The study included 88 fourth- and fifth-grade children
from six different Florida schools. There were 45
experimental program participants and 43 control
participants. Criteria for inclusion in the program
included student (a) participants' parents were divorced,
(b) participants lived with their mothers only, (c)
participants were not concurrently receiving counseling
while participating in the study, and (d) participants were
not currently enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a
special education program.
77


13
analysis and research findings. A discussion of the
findings, implications, conclusions, and recommendations
for future research are provided in Chapter V.


85
Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects
yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 1.67 PR > 0.1060 indicating no
significant differences by group on the TRFACBC.
Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects effects
did not reveal significance in the interaction of time by
group (Table 6).
A three-way factoral ANOVA (group x gender x length of
time since divorce) with repeated measures was conducted
for Hypothesis 2 (Table 7).
Comparison of mean TRFACBC scores at pretest for
experimental (M=26.93, SD=28.32) and control (M=40.72,
SD=37.60) yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 3.21, PR>0.0769.
There were no significant group differences at pretest on
the TRFACBC total scores.
Comparison of mean TRFACBC scores at posttest for
experimental (M=28.28, SD=28.04) and control (M=37.90,
SD=31.25) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 1.79,
PR>0.1847. There were no significant group differences at
posttest on TRFACBC total scores.
The statistical data for total mean scores by group on
the TRFACBC were not significant and null hypothesis two is
not rejected.


Date
University of Florida
Department of Counselor Education
1215 Norman Hall
Gainesville, FL 32611
Dear Parent:
We have been given permission to conduct a study in
your child's school. The purpose of this study is to
investigate the effectiveness of a structured, small group
counseling intervention in assisting children in grades 4
and 5 in their adjustment to their parent's divorce.
Results of this study should provide information regarding
the usefulness of such interventions in schools.
If your child meets the following gualifications, we
would appreciate your permission for him/her to participate
in this study: (1) parents are divorced, (2) child lives
with his/her mother only, (3) child is not presently
receiving counseling, and (4) child is not presently
enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a special
education program.
Your child would be assigned to one of two groups. In
the first group, the children will participate in a small
group counseling intervention that will meet once a week
for 60 minutes for seven consecutive weeks. These meetings
will take place at school and will be scheduled so that
they do not interfere with your child's academic
responsibilities. The second group will not participate in
the small group counseling intervention. All of the
children in both groups will be given three instruments to
measure self-concept, school behaviors, and problematic
beliefs related to divorce. These instruments will be
given before and after the 7 week counseling sessions have
been administered.
During the intervention period, students participating
in the small group counseling sessions will participate in
counselor led activities that will include: group
120


101
Previously conducted studies that used standardized
measures for the same dependent variables in this study
reported similar results (Alpert & Gillis et al., 1989;
Hodges & Bloom, 1984; Kurdek & Siesky, 1980; Pedro-Carroll
& Cowen, 1985).
Discussion. Implications, and Recommendations
This study's main goal was to assess the impact of a
school-based, preventive intervention program for children
of divorce. The outcome was assessed from teacher's and
children's perspectives. From these findings, there appear
to be several implications for theory, training, practice,
and research.
The goal of this intervention was to assist children
with their adjustment to parental divorce by reducing
problematic beliefs regarding the divorce. Among others,
the intervention used role playing activities to provide
children with the opportunity to learn additional coping
strategies for assisting them in accepting their new family
situations and for increasing the psychological distance
between their parents' problems and their problems.
Experimental children in this study made significantly
greater adjustment in reducing problematic beliefs about
divorce than did the control children. Perhaps the success
indicated by the intervention's assessment of problematic
beliefs can be attributed to the specific program
components. The active elements of this intervention were


59
Melrose Elementary School, Melrose, Florida; (d)
Interlachen Elementary School, Interlachen, Florida; (e)
Padgett Elementary School, Lakeland, Florida; and (f)
Lincoln Avenue Elementary School, Lakeland, Florida.
Ninety-six students agreed to participate in the study.
An invitation to participate in this study was first
extended to the Directors of Student Services in Alachua,
Putnam, and Polk Counties. The invitation was made by
submitting a brief, written summary of the study and the
specific involvement necessary by school personnel and
students. Once approved by the Directors of Student
Services, all schools in each county were extended
permission by the Directors of Student Services to
participate in the study via a memorandum sent to each
school principal. All schools that indicated an interest
in participating in the study were included.
Participants
Selection of students for participation in this study
was made from fourth and fifth grade students attending the
6 participating elementary schools who met the following
criteria:
1. Parents were divorced.
2. Child lived with the mother only.
Child was not concurrently receiving counseling
while participating in the study.
3.


89
Table 8
Deviations.
and Univariate Grouo
X '
rime Interactions for
the PHCSCS
Scores
E(n=45) C(n=43)
Group
x Time
Pre Post Pre
Post
F
PR>F
PHCSCS
(df=l,80)
Mean
51.48 58.15 54.
55
56.74
4.32
0.0408*
S.D.
(16.16) (14.89) (12.
58)
(13.79)
Note: E=experimental group; C=control group;
PHCSCS=Piers Harris Children
s Self-Concept
Scale
Table 9
Univariate
Tests of Hvoothesis for Within Subiects
Effects
for the PHCSCS
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
SS
F
PR>F
PHCSCS
Time
1
796.32
16.28
0.0001*
(df 1,80)
Time*Group
1
211.44
4.32
0.0408*
Time*Gender
1
126.36
2.58
0.1120
Time*Group*Gender
1
25.73
0.53
0.4704
Time*Divorce
1
25.94
0.53
0.4686
Time*Group*Divorce
1
0.48
0.01
0.9210
Time*Gender*Divorce
1
116.36
2.38
0.1270
Time*Group*Gender
*Divorce
1
4.92
0.10
0.7519
Note. Time=pretest and posttest;
Group=experimental and control;
Gender=male and female;
Divorce=+2 years and -2 years


39
exhibited more nonaggressive disturbances in the parent-
child relationship than children who were older at the time
of their parents' separation. Wallerstein and Blakeslee
(1989) suggested that this may be the result of very young
children not being haunted by the memories of the intact
family. They may also feel less nostalgia for what was
lost and have fewer memories of turmoil and conflict
stemming from the divorce.
From a theoretical perspective, separation at the
preschool age should have strong adverse consequences.
Empirically, maladjustment would seem to be a common
outcome although the form differs from study to study. The
long-term effects are less clear (Hodges & Bloom,1984). On
the positive side, younger children may experience more
consistent and regular parenting in the post-divorce period
(Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).
Felner, Stolberg, and Cowen (1975) noted that acting
out and aggression were more common in latency age children
of divorced families than other types of families. Fulton
(1979) reported an increase in nightmares for children when
divorce occurred from ages 6 to 12. Kelly and Wallerstein
(1977) noted that for 7- and 8-year-olds, sadness,
grieving, fear, feelings of deprivation, fantasies of
responsibility and reconciliation, lowered self-esteem,
anger, and conflicts of loyalty were characteristic
responses to the divorce of their parents. Wallerstein and


88
no significant differences by group on the PHCSCS.
Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects effects
revealed significance in the interaction of time by group
(Table 9). The experimental groups posttest total mean
score was higher than the pretest total mean score. The
control group posttest total mean score was higher than the
pretest total mean score.
A three-way factora1 ANOVA (group x gender x divorce)
with repeated measures was conducted for Hypothesis Three
(Table 10).
Comparison of mean PHCSCS scores at pretest for
experimental (M=51.48, SD=16.16) and control (M=54.55,
SD=12.58) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 1.87,
PR>0.1753. there were no significant differences at
pretest on the PHCSCS total scores.
Comparison of mean PHCSCS scores at posttest for
experimental (M=58.15, SD=14.89) and control (M=56.74,
SD=13.79) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 0.00,
PR>0.9656. There were no significant differences at
posttest on the PHCSCS total scores.
The statistical data for total mean scores by group on
the PHCSCS were not significant and null hypothesis three
is not rejected.


29
do their two-parent peers in both elementary and high
school. They were also reported to be absent more often,
late to school more often, and to reveal more health
problems. It was also found that one-parent students are
more than twice as likely to drop out of school than are
students from two-parent households. A definite positive
correlation between school performance and family status
was also determined by the researchers (Lazarus, 1980).
One of the many things which adds to the child's
difficulties is the concept of divorce itself. Divorce
seems relatively simple to adultstwo people no longer
wish to live together. Each feel that his or her needs are
no longer met by, nor can he or she meet the needs of his
or her spouse. To the child, however, divorce is confusion
consisting of unanswered guestions, arguments, loneliness,
and anger (Allers, 1982). Many people have wanted to
believe that what is good for adults will be good for their
children. Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) stated, "It is
seductively simple to think a child's psychological
problems are mainly a reflection of family problemsas if
children were not people with reactions of their own,
separate from those of adults" (p. 10).
The research clearly and strongly supports the notion
that divorce results in psychological distress for children
(Blechman, 1982; Black, 1979; Guidubaldi et al., 1983;
Peterson & Zill, 1986; Wallerstein, 1983). Children of


67
Instrumentation
Each student in the control and experimental groups
was administered the following instruments: (a) the Piers-
Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale (1984 edition), (b)
the Teacher's Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior
Checklist (1983), and (c) the Children's Beliefs About
Parental Divorce Scale (Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
Self-Concept
The Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale,
subtitled The Way I Feel About Myself, is a brief,
self-report measure designed to aid in the
assessment of self-concept in children and
adolescents. Self-concept, as assessed by this
instrument, is defined as a relatively stable set
of self-attitudes reflecting both a description
and an evaluation of one's own behavior and
attributes. Items on the scale are scored in
either a positive or negative direction to reflect
this evaluative dimension. A high score on the
scale suggests a positive self-evaluation, whereas
a low score suggests a negative self-evaluation.
The Piers-Harris focuses on children's conscious
self-perceptions, rather than attempting to infer
how they feel about themselves from their
behaviors or the attributions of others. It was
developed as a research instrument to provide a
quantitative, self-report measure of children's
self concepts. It is intended for use with
children in grades 4 through 12 (ages 8 through 18
years). To insure that the respondents understand
the nature of the task and do not have any
unanswered questions about individual items, the
scale generally should not be administered to more
than 8 or 10 children at a time. (Piers & Harris,
1984, pp. 1)
The scale consists of 80 test items that measure
children's evaluations of their behavior, intellectual and
school status, physical appearance and attributes, anxiety,
popularity, and satisfaction. The test consists of a


84
Table 4
Analysis of Variance With Repeated Measures for CBAPDS by
Group, Gender, and Divorce
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
SS
F
PR>F
CBAPDS
Group
1
10.80
0.56
0.4575
(Pretest)
Gender
1
9.29
0.48
0.4907
Group*Gender
1
0.50
0.03
0.8719
Divorce
1
47.99
2.48
0.1196
Group*Divorce
1
12.02
0.62
0.4333
Gender*Divorce
1
0.96
0.05
0.8240
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
44.77
2.31
0.1325
CBAPDS
Group
1
118.20
6.00
0.0165*
(Posttest)
Gender
1
74.60
3.79
0.0551
Group*Gender
1
2.13
0.11
0.7426
Divorce
1
36.83
1.87
0.1753
Group*Divorce
1
3.18
0.16
0.6889
Gender*Divorce
1
0.06
0.00
0.9550
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
31.08
1.58
0.2126
Research Hypothesis Two
Hypothesis two addressed whether there would be
significant differences between the experimental and
control group students' mean total scores on the Teachers'
Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist
(TRFACBC). Table 5 includes pretest and posttest group
means, standard deviations and univariate group x time
interactions for the TRFACBC.


40
Blakeslee (1989) reported that in their longitudinal study,
half of the children in this age group suffered a year long
precipitous decline in school performance.
Largely because of their affective investment in both
parents, latency-age children often view the noncustodial
parent's leaving as a profound personal loss. Common
reactions include depression, withdrawal, marked
deterioration in school performance, and persistent
requests for an explanation as to why the parental
separation had to occur (Kelly & Wallerstein, 1977;
Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). As a result of their own
psychological needs, many children this age cast the
divorce as a fight in which they feel required to take
sides. They are often tormented by these loyalty
conflicts.
Adolescents have been perceived as having the
cognitive maturity to comprehend the dynamics underlying
the reasons for the separation. Opinion is divided,
however, on the nature of their affective responses. Some
view the adolescent's personality development as being
minimally affected by the divorce because the adolescent
can turn to sources outside of the home for comfort,
advice, and nurturance. Others, however, see the
adolescent's personality as being maximally affected
because of the likelihood of his or her having been exposed
to longer periods of parental conflict. Such exposure has


104
Instead these programs assume that life crises require
problem solving and coping skills and often have an impact
on children's overall development. It is the opinion of
this researcher that such models should emphasize the
prevention of problems by teaching and facilitating problem
solving and coping skills. Such strategies would also be
meaningful to the extent that they could be used in other
settings (i.e., classroom, home) and perhaps achieve
similar results. Effective preventive programs should also
be designed to place emphasis on developmental and
sociocultural issues in program content and method.
Long-term changes in the nature of children's
adjustment to divorce should also be assessed by future
researchers. At present, longitudinal information on the
effects of divorce and of children's adjustment to divorce
are limited. If professionals are to develop supportive,
constructive, and long-lasting results from the
interventions implemented and aimed at children adjusting
to divorce, it is imperative that future researchers
investigate the long-term effects of divorce and the
ultimate personal adjustment of the children it touches.
In Conclusion
The purpose of this study was to determine the impact
of a group intervention on elementary school children in
grades 4 and 5 whose parents were divorced. The dependent
variables of self-concept, school behaviors, and


3
Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). The stress of divorce
interferes with the normal growth process by altering the
child's perceptions of social reality.
Children's perceptions of their parents' marriage may
affect the degree of psychological crisis they experience.
Apparently, the most severe consequences are experienced by
children who incorrectly perceive their parents' unhappy
marriages, prior to divorce, as being happy. The least
crisis is experienced when children accurately perceive
their parents' marriages as being unhappy (Kurdek & Berg,
1987; Wallerstein, 1983).
Children's adjustment to their parents' divorce may
also be affected by their beliefs about or understanding of
the divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987). Children often
construct problematic beliefs about both the nature of
parental divorce and their causal role in the divorce
decision (Mendell, 1983). These problematic beliefs
include thinking that they will be abandoned by the
custodial parent, expecting ridicule and rejection from
peers, seeing oneself as having to hold the family
together, believing that improved behavior will result in
parental reconciliation, and blaming one parent exclusively
for the divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
Wallerstein (1983) described six theoretical,
hierarchical, and interrelated tasks that children go
through when divorce occurs. The first twoacknowledging


26
and loss is often profound. Children grieve over the loss
of the family, the loss of the parent who has left home,
and the imagined loss of both parents (Wallerstein &
Blakeslee, 1989). This sadness and depression may exhibit
itself in moodiness, self-criticism, loss of appetite,
hopelessness, frequent daydreaming, and inattentiveness.
Children may display other behaviors in reaction to
their parents' divorce. Some children are unable to accept
the fact of their parents' divorce, and actually deny it
and even lie to friends about it. Other children may cling
to the hope that their parents will reconcile (Allers,
1982; Freeman & Coachman, 1985; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980),
becoming preoccupied with the reconciliation and inventing
plans to engineer it.
Divorce is often preceded by several separations,
each of which may seem decisive but turn out not
to be final. These can confuse children and lead
them to expect reconciliation, if not
immediately, then eventually. Moreover, divorce
is usually a partial loss and most children tend
to see the departed parent for many years
afterward. As a result, children who experience
divorce are more likely to feel a persistent,
gnawing sense that the loss of the intact family
is not final; maybe it can be repaired. People
who divorce can remarry. People who separate can
rejoin. Thus children's capacity to cope with
divorce is very much decreased by the uncertainty
of the event itself, by its elusive causes, and
by what children regard and keep alive as its
potential reversibility. Perhaps the most
important factor in keeping alive children's hope
for reconciliation is their intense need to think
of their parents as mutually affectionate and
together. This feeling can endure for decades.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 14)


A STRUCTURED SMALL-GROUP COUNSELING INTERVENTION
TO ASSIST CHILDREN WITH ADJUSTMENT TO DIVORCE
By
APRIL MERRY SAMECK
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1990



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99
mean scores could be attributed to gender and divorce.
There were no significant differences indicated for the
control group on gender or divorce or their interaction
effects. There was a significant time effect indicated for
the experimental group. Significance was revealed for the
experimental group posttest scores by gender. Females
scored higher than males at posttest. Caution should be
exercised in interpreting these scores because females in
this study began the study with higher scores. Caution
should further be exercised in interpreting these scores
since the experimental group started with a lower total
mean score than did the control group. The pretest and
posttest scores were not significantly different by group.
The rate of change was different, but some of the change
may be due to the initial differences.
Research Hypothesis Four
Hypothesis four addressed whether the length of time
since the parents divorce had a significant impact on the
effectiveness of the intervention by group.
The results of the data analyses did not reveal
significant difference for group by divorce mean total
scores on the dependent variables of problematic beliefs
about parental divorce, self-concept, or school behaviors.
This researcher was unable to locate additional
preventive interventions that controlled for the variable
of divorce but researchers in similar studies have reported


Yes
No
Do you find the role plays to coordinate with the
problematic belief that they have been matched with
in the intervention? (i.e., Do the role plays under
Self-Blame address Self-Blame issues?)
Comments:
As a whole, are the problematic beliefs addressed in Yes No
this intervention problems children of divorce often
discuss with you as a counselor?
Specifically. Self Blame
Paternal Blame
Maternal Blame
Hope of Reunification
Fear of Abandonment
Peer Ridicule and Avoidance
Do you think you would like to use this intervention Yes No
in your work with children?
Would you like to receive a copy of this intervention Yes No
when it is in its final revision?
Please make any additional comments, constructive criticisms,
suggestions, etc.
April M. Sameck
911 N.W. 42nd Terrace
Gainesville, FL 32605


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iii
ABSTRACT V
CHAPTERS
IINTRODUCTION 1
Overview 2
Statement of the Problem 4
Need for the Study 5
Purpose of the Study 6
Rationale for the Study 8
Definition of Terms 11
Overview of the Remainder of the Study 12
IIREVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE 14
Theoretical Constructs 15
Effects of Divorce on Children 21
Psychological Issues 31
Age and Sex Issues 37
Length of Time Since Divorce 46
Comprehensive Studies on the Effects of
Divorce 47
Preventive Interventions for Children of
Divorce 51
IIIMETHODOLOGY 57
Research Design 57
Hypothesis 58
Population 58
Participants 59
Implementation of the Study 61
Instrumentation 67
Self-Concept 67
School Behaviors 69
Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce 71
Analysis of Data 76
v


54
self-blame about the divorce and increases in competency in
the ability to solve personal problems. The program
children also reported significantly less anxiety than
controls at post and tended to have less negative self
attitudes and perceptions about the divorce (Pedro-Carroll
& Cowen, 1985).
On the basis of these findings, Sterling (1986)
adapted CODIP for second and third grade suburban children
and conducted and evaluated the new program. This study
included 77 children of divorce randomly assigned to an
immediate 8-week, 16 session intervention and a delayed 5-
week, 11 session program that omitted the 5 session
problem-solving unit (Alpert-Gillis, Pedro-Carroll, &
Cowen, 1989). The program was assessed using child,
parent, teacher, and group leader measures of adjustment.
Significant gains in the participants' adjustment by
parents and group leaders were reported more so in the full
than the abbreviated intervention. Participants in the
full intervention also increased significantly in their
understanding of adjustment and divorce. These gains were
not confirmed by classroom teachers. Conceivably, time
constraints necessitating that the 16 session intervention
be conducted twice weekly in 30-35 minute sessions may not
have allowed enough time for children to consolidate key
program concepts and apply them in the classroom (Alpert-
Gillis et al., 1989).


CHAPTER V
DISCUSSION
The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of
a small group intervention on elementary school children in
grades 4 and 5 whose parents were divorced. The dependent
variables measured were children's beliefs about parental
divorce, school behaviors and self-concepts using the
Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce Scale (1987), the
Teachers Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior
Checklist (1983) and the Piers-Harris Children's Self
Concept scale (1984), respectively. The independent
variables included student groups, student gender, and time
since their parents' divorce.
Results of analyses yielded significant differences in
total mean scores by group for one of the three dependent
variables. This difference occurred on the group posttest
total mean scores on the Children's Beliefs About Parental
Divorce Scale. Differences on total mean scores by group
for divorce and gender were not significant for any of the
dependent variables.
The remainder of this chapter includes the limitations
of this study, evaluation of the research hypotheses,
92


32
must deal with psychological issues that children from
well-functioning, intact families do not have to face.
The additional psychological tasks encountered by
children of divorce are (a) understanding the divorce, (b)
strategic withdrawal, (c) dealing with the loss, (d)
dealing with anger, (e) working out guilt, (f) accepting
the permanence of the divorce, and (g) taking a chance on
love.
Perhaps the first and most basic task for children at
the time of separation is to understand realistically what
the divorce means in their family and what its specific/
concrete consequences will be. This understanding occurs
in two stages. First is the stage of accurately perceiving
the immediate changes that divorce brings and being able to
differentiate fantasy fears and hopes from reality. The
second stage usually occurs later when children are able at
a greater distance and with more mature understanding to
evaluate their parents' actions and to draw useful lessons
for their own lives.
After the divorce, as soon as possible, children and
adolescents need to get on with their own lives, to resume
their normal activities at school and play and to get back
physically and emotionally to the normal tasks of growing
up. Their task is not to ignore the divorce but instead to
acknowledge their concern and to provide appropriate help
to their parents and siblings. Additionally, they should


20
Other cognitive developmental theorists have used some
of Piaget's work as a basis for their own theory regarding
how children learn to think. One such theorist was Jerome
Bruner, an Oxford University psychologist.
Bruner (1966) believed that at different stages along
the developmental process, from primarily inactive
processing of the world to primarily symbolic processing,
children are ready for different things at different times.
Bruner identified six characteristics of growth in the
developmental and learning process: (a) intellectual
growth is accompanied by an increased ability to represent
and understand the environment; (b) intellectual growth
depends on the use of a storage system to remember objects,
events, and experiences; (c) the key to increased
intellectual growth is the use of language; (d) the growth
of the child's intellect is a reflection of the interaction
between the child and the teacher; (e) the use of language
greatly enhances the effectiveness of teaching and
subsequent learning; and (f) the growing child learns to
deal with several alternative events at the same time
(Salkind, 1985).
Bruner clearly outlined the necessity for specific
tasks to be considered in instruction for children. To
begin with, he believed that readiness for learning is
crucial to the success of the developmental and learning


43
the preponderance of boys' adjustment difficulty is due to
specific stresses arising from boys' living with an
opposite-sex custodial parent (Wallerstein, 1983). The
nature of these stresses is likely to involve a complex
reciprocal relation among children's developmental status,
children's expectancies of the custodial parent, parent's
disciplinary practices, and the quality of available
support systems.
These global and normative descriptions alert us to
the importance of developmental status in divorce
adjustment, but do not delineate specific age-related or
sex-related factors that may mediate divorce reaction and
adjustment. For example, Hetherington (1979), Longfellow
(1979), and Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) have speculated
that these global age changes are likely due to specific
developmental changes in children's ability to appraise the
divorce situation, to make sense out of the complex
sequence of disruptive events, to infer the motives and
feelings of parents, to assess accurately their own causal
role in the divorce decision, and to experience some degree
of control over their outcomes. A study by Kurdek and
Siesky (1981) on correlates of children's long-term
adjustment to their parents' divorce supports some of these
speculations. This study demonstrated moderately positive
relations between children's divorce adjustment and both
interpersonal reasoning (a composite variable including


98
revealed an ANOVA F(l,80) 8.51 PR > 0.0046. Females
posttest scores were significantly lower than males.
Caution should be used in interpreting these results.
The rate of change for males and females was different, but
this may be due in part to the initial gender differences.
Research Hypothesis Three
Hypothesis three addressed whether there were
significant differences between the experimental and
control group students1 mean total scores on the Piers-
Harris Children's Self Concept Scale (PHCSCS).
The results of testing indicated no significant
differences by group on the PHCSCS. Children did not
report significant gains in self-concept following the
intervention. Other studies using preventive interventions
for assisting children with their adjustment to divorce
(Alpert-Gillis et al, 1989; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985)
reported similar results in regard to self-concept and
self-confidence. Experimental children in these previously
conducted studies did not indicate significant gains in
self-concept. However, Stolberg and Garrison (1985)
reported significant gains in self-concept for experimental
children.
Additional data gathered in the present study were
analyzed with a two-way factoral ANOVA with repeated
measures. The purpose of conducting the ANOVA was to
determine the extent to which the variance in group total


55
Based on these findings, Alpert-Gillis et al. (1989)
developed and evaluated a new version of the CODIP. The
program had the same goals as the prior CODIP interventions
with a modified format and content to reflect developmental
and sociocultural realities of young children. More
emphasis was placed on teaching children (a) the use of
extended family members and other caring adults as sources
of support and (b) to cope with the problem of infrequent
contact with noncustodial parents.
The study included 185 second- and third-grade
children from eight urban schools in Rochester, New York:
52 program subjects, 52 divorce control subjects, and 81
intact comparison subjects. Groups were compared, pre and
post, on child, parent, and teacher adjustment scales
(Alpert-Gillis et al., 1989).
The main findings from this study indicate that the
program children's adjustment gains significantly exceeded
those of control and comparison children from all
perspectives and across most measures.
However important a supportive environment is in
helping children to identify, express, and deal with
salient feelings about their parents' divorce, it may not
by itself be enough to produce positive program outcomes
(Cantor, 1977). Acquiring specific competencies for
dealing with the concrete challenges that parental divorce
often creates is a co-equal need (Pedro-Carroll & Cowen,


22
reactions; most of the preschoolers, for example,
egocentrically assumed that they were responsible for the
divorce (Nichols, 1984).
Children in the latency age group are often
preoccupied with feelings of loss, rejection, guilt, and
loyalty conflicts. They are profoundly worried that they
will forever lose the parent who has left home. They are
especially worried about being replaced (Wallerstein &
Blakeslee, 1989).
In the later latency years (9-12 years), children rely
tremendously on their parents for stability. With a
divorce occurring at this stage, children may become
intensely anxious about their stability. This anxiety is
often reflected in their behavior. Many children this age
become intensely angry with their parents for divorcing and
especially angry with the parent whom they blame for the
divorce. They often worry about their parents and
sometimes take on very adult roles, especially in relation
to a needy parent. This can drain the child emotionally.
If there is a common thread uniting many theoretical
perspectives, it is that the child's development is a
result of conflict and the manner in which it is resolved.
A simple example of this is the way people avoid or
approach a problem until some resolution is established.
If we understand the child's placement in the developmental
sequence, the demands of the environment can be adjusted to


Participants lived with their mothers only, were not
concurrently receiving additional counseling while
participating in this study, and were not presently
enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a special
education program.
The researcher designed, developed, wrote, and tested
the intervention used in this study. It was structured and
designed for 7 hourly sessions over 7 consecutive weeks.
The sessions were led by the researcher-trained school
counselors at each of the 6 participating schools.
The results of data analysis did not reveal
significant differences on measures of self-concept and
school behaviors between the groups. Significant gains
were indicated for reducing children's problematic beliefs
about divorce for the experimental group. Experiment
participants scored significantly lower on posttests than
did control participants, indicating a decrease in
problematic beliefs concerning divorce.
The results from this study do suggest support for the
view that a focused, time-limited, school-based group
intervention with a specific program component can assist
children with their adjustment to parental divorce.
Results of testing also suggest that divorce does not
necessitate maladjustment of children but that adjustment
can be moderated or contained by providing support and by
teaching these children problem-solving skills.
viii


11
5. Does the sex of the child have an effect on the
impact of the intervention?
Definition of Terms
A binuclear family is a family in which the child
moves back and forth between the mothers residence and the
father's residence so that he or she holds membership in a
family that has two locations.
The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child
has his or her primary residence; the parent legally
responsible for the child.
Disenoagement refers to withdrawing from the previous
involvement or position as a family member.
Family role refers to the part or function one plays
in a family, i.e., mother, father, son, daughter.
Fear of abandonment refers to children's belief that
contact with the custodial parent will also be lost.
Hope for reunification refers to children's belief
that the parents' separation is only temporary and that the
reunification can be hastened by their own activities.
Intact families are families in which the natural
parents and the child live together.
Maternal blame refers to children's belief that the
mother is entirely responsible for the divorce.
A noncustodial parent is the parent that does not have
primary residence with his or her child.


series of declarative or unsuccessful functioning in each
of these areas.
68
Because this is a self-report measure, it is
particularly susceptible to conscious and
unconscious distortions. For this reason, it
should not be used as the sole method of
assessing self-concept where this is being used
to influence important decisions about a child.
To guard against overinterpretation only very low
scores (e.g., 16th percentile or below) should be
considered significant and even these should be
interpreted cautiously. Likewise, extremely high
scores may result because of defensiveness or
social desirability.
The test was normed on a sample of 1,183 Pennsylvania
school children in grades 4-12. Experimental variations of
the test have been suggested, such as rewriting items
tapping the affective domain (Michael, Smith, & Michael,
1975) and replacing the dichotomous response format with a
Likert scale (Lynch & Chaves, 1975). These suggestions
have not been empirically explored.
The Piers-Harris is a paper-and-pencil test designed
to be administered individually or in small groups with
verbal instructions from the examiner. The test is self-
paced. When reading the items aloud, the examiner must
wait for all examinees to respond before proceeding to the
next item. When subjects read the items to themselves they
are allowed as much time as needed to make their responses.
For this study the Piers-Harris was read to the examinees
by the school counselor in small groups of 8 or less.
Studies on the reliability of the Piers Harris Scale
have been conducted on a variety of child populations. The


74
years) with divorced parents. The age range of the sample
was 6-17. Most of the children (56%) lived with single
mothers; 24% with remarried mothers; 12% with single
fathers; and 3% with other (e.g., grandmother, aunt).
Subjects were recruited from court records of
dissolutions of marriage in Montgomery County, Ohio (1984),
grades 3-6 of a public elementary school, and grades 7-9 of
a junior high school in the same school district
(Montgomery County). Despite the nonclinical nature of the
sample, an appreciable number of the children held
problematic beliefs regarding their parents' divorce. Most
of the item total correlations were moderately high (range
= .15-.65; M = .46) and the alphas were somewhat higher
(range = .54-.78, M = .70). Cronbach's alpha for the total
score (M = 8.20, SD = 4.98) was .80.
A principal components analysis with varimax rotation
was conducted to further examine internal consistency. Six
factors were requested to check for empirical support for
the priori construction of the six subscales. These
factors had eigenvalues ranging from 1.44 to 5.42 and
accounted for 50% of the total variance. The relative
independence of the subscales was further confirmed by
computing Pearson correlations among the six subscales.
These ranged from .06 to .46 with a mean correlation of
.18. Self-blame factors did not emerge as a separate


100
no significant differences between groups in time since
parental separation support this study's findings (Alpert-
Gillis et al., 1989; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985; Stolberg
& Garrison, 1985). Length of time since parental divorce
does not appear to have an impact on children's adjustment
to divorce when measured by standardized instruments.
Research Hypothesis Five
Hypothesis five addressed whether gender of the child
had a significant impact on the effectiveness of the
intervention.
The results indicated that there were no significant
differences for group by gender mean total scores on the
dependent variables of problematic beliefs about parental
divorce, self-concept, or school behaviors.
The results of data analysis did reveal some
interesting trends on the school behaviors checklist.
Males pretest and posttest mean total scores were higher
than females within all sources (group, gender, and
divorce) and their interactions. At posttest, males scored
lower within all but one source. Males in the experimental
group whose parents were divorced two years or less scored
higher on the posttest by 2.70 points. Females scored
higher on all posttest means within all sources and source
interactions. A higher score indicates an increase in
disruptive behaviors in school.


Copyright 1990
by
April Merry Sameck


91
The ANOVAs for group by divorce interactions (Tables
4, 7, and 10) were not significant for any of the dependent
variables.
The statistical data for group by divorce total mean
scores were not significant and null hypothesis four is not
rejected.
Research Hypothesis Five
Hypothesis five addressed whether the gender of the
child would have a significant impact on the effectiveness
of the intervention by group.
Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects for
group by gender interactions were not significant for any
of the dependent variables. Univariate tests of hypotheses
for within subjects effects for the interaction of time by
group by gender were not significant (Tables 3, 6, and 9)
for any of the dependent variables.
The ANOVAs for group by gender interactions (Tables 4,
7, and 10) were not significant for any of the dependent
variables.
The statistical data for group by gender total mean
scores were not significant and null hypothesis five is not
rejected.


44
perspective taking, intent assessment, and knowledge of
factors related to the initiation, maintenance, and
termination of friendships) and internal locus of control.
Thus, there is a support for a cognitive-developmental
perspective on children's divorce adjustment which may more
readily accommodate individual cognitive factors that
modulate children's perceptions of divorce as a life
stress.
A cognitive-developmental focus on children's divorce
adjustment also warns us against perceiving the child's
divorce experience from an adult perspective (Damon, 1979).
It is of note that the few studies assessing nonclinical
children's viewpoints of the divorce have revealed fairly
high levels of divorce adjustment (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981;
Reinhard, 1977) along with feelings that the divorce has
been a painful experience (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981;
Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Berg and Kelly (1979) have
noted that parents' perceptions of children's divorce
adjustment may be colored by their own psychological needs
and defenses making it unlikely that parents' and child's
view of the divorce adjustment will be congruent (Kurdek &
Siesky, 1981).
Kurdek and Siesky (1981) in their study to determine
how children themselves perceive various aspects of their
parents' divorce showed a consistent pattern of factors
contributing to children's adjustment to their parents'


Ill
Kurdek, L. A., & Berg, B. (1983). Correlates of children's
adjustment to their parents' divorces. In L. A.
Kurdek (Ed.), Children and divorce (pp. 47-60). San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kurdek, L. A., & Berg, B. (1987). Children's belief about
parental divorce scale: Psychometric characteristics
and concurrent validity. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology. 55(5), 712-718.
Kurdek, L. A., & Siesky, A. E. (1981). Correlates of
children's long-term adjustment to their parents'
divorce. Developmental Psychology. 17, 565-579.
Lamb, M. E. (1977). The effects of divorce on children's
personality development. Journal of Divorce. 1, 163-
174.
Lazarus, M. (1980). One-parent families and their
children: An NASEP staff report. The National
Elementary Principal. 61. 31-37.
Lefley, H. P. (1974). Social and familial correlates of
self-esteem among American Indian children. Child
Development. 45. 829-833.
Longfellow, C. (1979). Divorce in context. Its impact on
children. In G. Levinger & O. C. Moles (Eds.),
Divorce and separation: Context, causes and
consequences (pp. 57-65). New York: Basic Books.
McDermott, J. F., Jr. (1970). Divorce and its psychiatric
sequelae in children. Archives of General Psychiatry.
23. 420-427.
Mendell, A. E. (1983). Play therapy with children of
divorced parents. In C. E. Schaefer & K. J. O'Connor
(Eds.), Handbook of play therapy (pp. 320-354). New
York: Wiley.
Nichols, W. C. (1984). Therapeutic needs of children in
family system reorganization. Journal of Divorce.
7(4), 23-43.
Pedro-Carroll, J. L., & Cowen, E. L. (1985). The children
of divorce intervention program: An investigation of
the efficacy of school-based prevention program.
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 53.
603-611.


A STRUCTURED SMALL-GROUP COUNSELING INTERVENTION
TO ASSIST CHILDREN WITH ADJUSTMENT TO DIVORCE
By
APRIL MERRY SAMECK
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1990

Copyright 1990
by
April Merry Sameck

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to extend my gratitude to the many
individuals who supported and encouraged me as a graduate
student. A special debt of gratitude is extended to my
family, committee members, and friends.
Foremost I want to thank my children, Karen and Tommy,
for their support, understanding, and love. As children of
divorce themselves, they were a constant inspiration for my
endeavors to learn more about the impact of divorce on
young people.
I wish to extend special gratitude to my committee
chairperson, Dr. Joe Wittmer. His guidance, wisdom, and
encouragement seemed limitless.
I also want to thank Dr. Ellen Amatea for her
technical assistance with this study and her personal
support. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Dr.
Max Parker and Dr. Don Bernard for their interest,
encouragement, and willingness to assist. I extend a warm
message of gratitude to the memory of Dr. Paul Fitzgerald
for his constant messages of optimism.
iii

I wish to commend my dear and loyal friends, Glenda,
Carrie, and Jeanette, for their unconditional support and
their constant caring for me.
I extend a pride-filled thanks to my mom who has
always believed in me.
To my husband, Jack, I extend my heart-filled
gratitude and love for reminding me there was light at the
end of the tunnel and for being there when it was difficult
to believe.
I also want to thank the counselors, teachers, and
students who made this project possible.
iv

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iii
ABSTRACT VÜ
CHAPTERS
IINTRODUCTION 1
Overview 2
Statement of the Problem 4
Need for the Study 5
Purpose of the Study 6
Rationale for the Study 8
Definition of Terms 11
Overview of the Remainder of the Study 12
IIREVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE 14
Theoretical Constructs 15
Effects of Divorce on Children 21
Psychological Issues 31
Age and Sex Issues 37
Length of Time Since Divorce 46
Comprehensive Studies on the Effects of
Divorce 47
Preventive Interventions for Children of
Divorce 51
IIIMETHODOLOGY 57
Research Design 57
Hypothesis 58
Population 58
Participants 59
Implementation of the Study 61
Instrumentation 67
Self-Concept 67
School Behaviors 69
Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce . 71
Analysis of Data 76
v

IV RESULTS 77
Research Hypotheses 80
Research Hypothesis One 80
Research Hypothesis Two 84
Research Hypothesis Three 87
Research Hypothesis Four 90
Research Hypothesis Five 91
V DISCUSSION 92
Limitations 93
Evaluation of Research Hypotheses 95
Research Hypothesis One 95
Research Hypothesis Two 96
Research Hypothesis Three 98
Research Hypothesis Four 99
Research Hypothesis Five 100
Discussion, Implications, and Recommendations. 101
In Conclusion 104
REFERENCES 107
APPENDICES
A REVIEW AND EVALUATION MEMORANDUM AND
EVALUATION FORM 116
B LETTER OF INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN THE
STUDY 120
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 123
vi

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate
School of the University of Florida in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
A STRUCTURED SMALL-GROUP COUNSELING INTERVENTION
TO ASSIST CHILDREN WITH ADJUSTMENT TO DIVORCE
By
April Merry Sameck
December 1990
Chairman: Paul J. Wittmer
Major Department: Counselor Education
The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of
a small group counseling intervention designed to assist
fourth and fifth grade children with their adjustment to
their parents' divorce. Specifically, children's
adjustment was assessed by instruments which measured self-
concept, school behaviors, and beliefs about parental
divorce. The influence of student group, student gender,
and length of time since their parents' divorce were
investigated.
This experimental study utilized a randomized control
group, pretest-posttest design. Data were collected and
analyzed from the pretest and posttest group total mean
scores.
Participants were 88 fourth and fifth grade children
from 6 Florida schools whose parents were divorced.
vii

Participants lived with their mothers only, were not
concurrently receiving additional counseling while
participating in this study, and were not presently
enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a special
education program.
The researcher designed, developed, wrote, and tested
the intervention used in this study. It was structured and
designed for 7 hourly sessions over 7 consecutive weeks.
The sessions were led by the researcher-trained school
counselors at each of the 6 participating schools.
The results of data analysis did not reveal
significant differences on measures of self-concept and
school behaviors between the groups. Significant gains
were indicated for reducing children's problematic beliefs
about divorce for the experimental group. Experiment
participants scored significantly lower on posttests than
did control participants, indicating a decrease in
problematic beliefs concerning divorce.
The results from this study do suggest support for the
view that a focused, time-limited, school-based group
intervention with a specific program component can assist
children with their adjustment to parental divorce.
Results of testing also suggest that divorce does not
necessitate maladjustment of children but that adjustment
can be moderated or contained by providing support and by
teaching these children problem-solving skills.
viii

Additional research is needed to explore the
effectiveness of prevention-oriented programs for assisting
children with their adjustment to parental divorce. There
is a continued need for intervention models designed with
content and methods that address developmental and
sociocultural needs of children whose parents have
divorced.
ix

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
The annual divorce rate in the United States is
currently reaching a plateau at about 22%. Thus, many
children are experiencing the divorce of their parents and,
for a large percentage, this disruption occurs during their
formative years (Bonkowski, Boomhower, & Bequette, 1985).
Current demographic figures indicate that by the end of
1990, 33% of the nation's children, under the age of 18,
will have experienced their parents' divorce (Kurdek,
1986). The U.S. Bureau of the Census (1987) reported that,
in 1987, 9,436,000 American children under the age of 18
were living in single parent homes as the result of
separation or divorce. Behind each of these statistics is
the dissolution of a family with all its attendant emotions
and adjustments.
The dissolution of parents' marriage has been ranked
as one of the major sources of stress for children (Hodges
& Bloom, 1984), and rising divorce rates have prompted a
growing body of research investigating the impact of
divorce on children's mental health (Goetting, 1981;
Isaacs, 1985; Kurdek, 1986; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). In
a recent national survey Peterson and Zill (1986) found
l

2
that children's mental health is directly related to
marital discord and the level of conflict in the family.
The effect of divorce on children is thus a prominent
family issue for practitioners and educators.
What role should the school play in providing
assistance to children with divorced or divorcing parents?
Specifically, what interventions might schools provide for
assisting children with problematic beliefs about parental
divorce? That is the focus of this study.
Overview
Parental separation and divorce can cause marked
changes in children's behaviors, particularly in school
(Peterson & Zill, 1986). These changes are likely to
include increased restlessness, obstinate acts,
disruptiveness, and impulsiveness. Along with these
behaviors, children's emotional reactions to parental
separation have been found to include confusion, anger,
guilt, fear, and depression, along with insecurity,
isolation, shame, and a feeling of being different
(Peterson & Zill, 1986; Stolberg & Garrison, 1985). Hodges
and Bloom (1984) found that children become more dependent,
disobedient, aggressive, demanding, and less affectionate
in the year following divorce.
There is ample evidence that parents' divorce has
adverse effects on child development (Bonkowski et al.,
1985; Hodges & Bloom, 1984; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985;

3
Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). The stress of divorce
interferes with the normal growth process by altering the
child's perceptions of social reality.
Children's perceptions of their parents' marriage may
affect the degree of psychological crisis they experience.
Apparently, the most severe consequences are experienced by
children who incorrectly perceive their parents' unhappy
marriages, prior to divorce, as being happy. The least
crisis is experienced when children accurately perceive
their parents' marriages as being unhappy (Kurdek & Berg,
1987; Wallerstein, 1983).
Children's adjustment to their parents' divorce may
also be affected by their beliefs about or understanding of
the divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987). Children often
construct problematic beliefs about both the nature of
parental divorce and their causal role in the divorce
decision (Mendell, 1983). These problematic beliefs
include thinking that they will be abandoned by the
custodial parent, expecting ridicule and rejection from
peers, seeing oneself as having to hold the family
together, believing that improved behavior will result in
parental reconciliation, and blaming one parent exclusively
for the divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
Wallerstein (1983) described six theoretical,
hierarchical, and interrelated tasks that children go
through when divorce occurs. The first two—acknowledging

4
the reality of the marital rupture and disengaging from
parental conflict and distress and resuming customary
pursuits—must be dealt with beginning with the separation.
Optimally, they will be mastered during the first year.
The next three—resolving loss, resolving anger and self-
blame, and accepting the permanence of the divorce—may
need to be reworked several times and often require many
years for completion. The final task, achieving realistic
understanding of relationships, often takes years to
complete.
The path to normal growth and development requires
that children cope with the many challenges of growing up.
The child experiencing marital disruption and
reorganization must confront additional psychological
tasks. These represent a major addition to the normal and
customary tasks of childhood and adolescence in our society
(Wallerstein, 1983).
Statement of the Problem
Researchers concur that the beliefs children have
about their parents' divorce are clearly associated with
subsequent social and emotional development (Gardener,
1976; Kurdek & Berg, 1983, 1987; Wallerstein & Kelly,
1980). Further, researchers have identified six
problematic beliefs frequently expressed (Emery,
Hetherington, & DiLalla, 1984; Kurdek & Berg, 1983, 1987;
Shantz, 1983): (a) fear of peer ridicule and avoidance,

5
(b) maternal blame, (c) paternal blame, (d) self-blame, (e)
fear of abandonment, and (f) hope of reunification.
Children's problematic beliefs about their parents'
divorce may effect the degree of crisis they experience and
the subsequent influence the divorce has on their normal
growth and development (Kurdek & Berg, 1987; Wallerstein,
1983). Problematic beliefs may also influence the nature
of their adjustment (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981). Professionals
working with children whose parents are divorced may
facilitate their adjustment by providing positive,
structured interventions designed to help them revise their
problematic beliefs (Bernard & Joyce, 1984).
Need for the Study
Despite rapid increases in the divorce rate in the
United States and ample evidence of its adverse effects,
there have been few controlled studies of preventive
interventions for the children it touches (Bloom, Hodges, &
Caldwell, 1982). The development of preventive
interventions, assisting children in their adjustment to
divorce is pressing (Bonkowski, Boomhower, & Bequette,
1985). If professional helpers are to gain an accurate
understanding of children and divorce, it is important to
consider what interventions might be most helpful in
assisting children with their problematic beliefs about
divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987). Additionally, if beliefs
are causally linked to affective and behavioral disorders,

6
the assessment of children's beliefs regarding parental
divorce will provide a foundation for intervention
strategies designed to assist them in revising faulty
beliefs (Bernard & Joyce, 1984; Ellis & Bernard, 1983,
Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
Because divorce has become so widespread, educators
must recognize that a significant number of their students
are children of divorced parents and that interventions and
strategies must be developed to help such children cope.
These children have special needs, distinct from children
of intact, two-parent families (Allers, 1982).
Divorce contributes additional tasks to children's
normal growth and development, and these appear to
interfere with expected learning (Wallerstein, 1983).
Because learning is the central developmental task of
school-age children, educators must consider the school's
role in assisting children with their adjustment to
parental divorce (Stolberg & Anker, 1983).
Purpose of the Study
Wallerstein (1983) reported that divorce carries the
potential for disrupting children's developmental
processes. However, she also stated that appropriate
interventions can reverse or modify this disruption. The
purpose of this study was to assess the impact of a small
group intervention on elementary school children in grades
4 and 5 whose parents have divorced. Using a control group

7
design, this researcher evaluated the effect of the
intervention in three areas: (a) children's problematic
beliefs regarding their parents' divorce, (b) children's
school behaviors, and (c) children's self-concepts.
Differences in the effectiveness of the treatment in
relationship to the sex of the child and the length of time
since the parents' divorce were also examined. The
treatment group was compared to a control group that was
given the opportunity to receive delayed treatment. The
counselor-led intervention included seven small-group
sessions designed to specifically address children's
problematic beliefs about divorce.
This study used the Children's Beliefs About Parental
Divorce Scale (Kurdek & Berg, 1987) as an objective scale
for assessing children's problematic beliefs regarding
parental divorce. The Teacher Report Form of the Achenbach
Child Behavior Checklist was used to assess student
behavior problems and adaptive functioning in a
standardized format. The Piers-Harris Children's Self-
Concept Scale was used to assess self-concept. All three
instruments were administered to all participants in both
treatment and control groups one week prior to beginning
the intervention and at the conclusion.
Elementary school children in grades 4 and 5 (a) whose
parents were divorced, (b) lived with their mother only,
(c) were not concurrently receiving additional counseling

8
while participating in this study, and (d) were not
presently enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a
special education program were identified. Children
meeting these four criteria were invited by a letter from
the researcher to participate in this study. The children
who participated were randomly placed in either a control
group or an experimental group.
Rationale for the Study
Children are involved in school-related activities
approximately one-third of their waking hours each week
(Drake, 1981). The school has the potential to be a
consistent and positive support system for children of
divorced parents. Further, children in schools have access
to such mental health practitioners as counselors, school
psychologists, school social workers, and teachers; when
help is provided in the school setting, the child and
parents do not have to cope with the possible stigma
associated with outside mental health facilities, the
expense of such treatment, or child and parental resistance
to outside help (Drake, 1981). Additionally, children in
schools are grouped by approximate academic level, maturity
level, and age level, providing an optimum setting for
counseling and crisis intervention.
Small group counseling, assisting children with their
problematic beliefs about their parents' divorce, may prove
to be an appropriate and effective way for schools to

9
provide support for a large number of children of divorce.
Specifically, small group work can provide the opportunity
for students to explore and attempt to modify their
negative attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. The group
process may also provide children with the opportunity to
more fully meet certain psychological needs: to be
accepted, to belong, to release negative feelings, and to
participate in a supportive atmosphere where self¬
exploration is encouraged (Hansen & Hill, 1984). Small
group intervention has the additional benefit of serving
more children than individual interventions, no small
consideration in times of rising divorce rates.
This researcher developed an intervention that
addressed children's problematic beliefs regarding their
parents' divorce for three major reasons. First, knowledge
of children's perceptions about parental divorce extends
social-cognitive developmental research into an applied
setting (Shantz, 1983). Second, several studies have
indicated that children's views of divorce differ from
those attributed to them by parents (Kurdek & Berg, 1983,
1987; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Third, children's
appraisals of divorce-related events may affect their
adjustment to the divorce and their social development
(Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
The goals of this intervention included facilitating
children's adjustment to divorce and reducing the

10
problematic beliefs experienced by children whose parents
divorce. Additionally, objectives included helping the
child to accept the new family situation, increasing the
psychological distance between the parents' problems and
the child's problems, and providing the child with
additional coping strategies. Small group interventions
may significantly assist children of divorce in meeting
these goals (Drake, 1981).
The investigator of this study utilized six school
settings to provide elementary school children in grades 4
and 5 from families of divorce with an intervention
designed to assist them with their problematic beliefs
about their parents' divorce. More specifically, this
study was done in an attempt to answer the following
questions:
1. What is the impact of a structured counselor-led
preventive intervention on the problematic beliefs of
children of divorced parents?
2. What is the impact of a structured counselor-led
preventive intervention on the school behavior of children
of divorced parents?
3. What is the impact of a structured counselor-led
preventive intervention on the self-concepts of children of
divorced parents?
4. Does the length of time since the parents' divorce
have an effect on the impact of the intervention?

11
5. Does the sex of the child have an effect on the
impact of the intervention?
Definition of Terms
A binuclear family is a family in which the child
moves back and forth between the mother's residence and the
father's residence so that he or she holds membership in a
family that has two locations.
The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child
has his or her primary residence; the parent legally
responsible for the child.
Disenoagement refers to withdrawing from the previous
involvement or position as a family member.
Family role refers to the part or function one plays
in a family, i.e., mother, father, son, daughter.
Fear of abandonment refers to children's belief that
contact with the custodial parent will also be lost.
Hope for reunification refers to children's belief
that the parents' separation is only temporary and that the
reunification can be hastened by their own activities.
Intact families are families in which the natural
parents and the child live together.
Maternal blame refers to children's belief that the
mother is entirely responsible for the divorce.
A noncustodial parent is the parent that does not have
primary residence with his or her child.

12
A nuclear family is a family in which the natural
mother, father, and child live together.
Paternal blame refers to children's belief that the
father is entirely responsible for the divorce.
Peer ridicule and avoidance refers to children's
belief that their parents' separation reflects negatively
on themselves.
Problematic beliefs refers to the thoughts children of
divorce construct about the nature of parental divorce and
their causal role in the divorce decision.
Self blame refers to children's belief that their
parents' separation is due to something they said or did.
Self-concept refers to a relatively stable set of
self-attitudes reflecting both a description and an
evaluation of one's own behavior and attributes.
Small-group refers to a group composed of 6-10
members.
Overview of the Remainder of the Study
The remainder of the study has been organized into
four additional chapters. Chapter II entails a review of
the current literature and the theoretical constructs
pertinent to this study. Chapter III includes a
description of the methodology, including the population
and design of the study; the hypotheses; the
instrumentation and data collection procedures; and the
analysis of the data. Chapter IV contains the data

13
analysis and research findings. A discussion of the
findings, implications, conclusions, and recommendations
for future research are provided in Chapter V.

CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
The rapidly rising divorce rates in the United States
have produced a relatively recent but necessary concern
about the effects of divorce on children and their parents.
This chapter contains a literature review highlighting
theories important to this study, the effects of divorce on
children, children's problematic beliefs concerning their
parents' divorce, the need for interventions to assist them
in adjusting to these effects and beliefs, and types of
outcomes that seem important to the focus of this study.
The types of interventions found in the literature and the
status of outcomes are also covered and discussed in this
chapter.
Divorce is a phenomenon which effects, in varying
degrees, almost every individual in the United States.
Those who have not personally experienced divorce almost
certainly know a neighbor, friend, relative, or parent who
is divorced.
Nineteen-seventy-five was a sociologically significant
year; the number of American marriages ending in divorce
topped the million mark for the first time in history.
Between 1965 and 1975 the divorce rate more than doubled,
14

15
leading Americans to worry about a divorce epidemic
(Diamond, 1985).
Reports from the United States Bureau of the Census
(1987) indicated that in 1987 there were 130 currently
divorced persons for every 1,000 married persons living
with their spouses as compared with 100 per 1,000 in 1980.
In 1987, 23.9% of all children under 18 lived with one
parent, up from 19.7% in 1980.
Of the 15,071,000 children living in single parent
homes in 1987, 9,436,000 were as the result of divorce or
separation (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1987). Behind each
of these statistics is the dissolution of a family, with
all the emotions and adjustments attendant upon such a
transition. The child of divorce faces a special set of
challenges and carries an added burden. A few adjust
smoothly and quickly, but many undergo great frustration
and stress (Allers, 1982).
Divorce represents a special kind of stressful
experience for the child who has been reared within a two-
parent family. In several ways, a child's experience with
divorce is comparable to that of a child who loses a parent
through death. Each of these experiences strikes at and
disrupts close family relationships. Each weakens the
protection that the nuclear family provides, leaving in its
wake a diminished, more vulnerable family structure. Each
traces a pattern of time that begins with an acute, time-

16
limited crisis, and is followed by an extended period of
disequilibrium that may last several years. Each
introduces a chain of long-lasting changes that are not
predictable at the outset and that reach into multiple
domains of family life (Wallerstein, 1983).
Divorce is different from other life crises in that
anger more often erupts into physical and verbal violence
that can cause lasting and serious psychological harm for
many years. In most life crisis situations, parents
instinctively reach out and extend support to their
children bringing them to safety first. In the crisis of
divorce, however, mothers and fathers usually attend to
adult problems first and are often unable to extend
immediate support to their children. Divorce is also the
only major family crisis in which social supports often
diminish (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
The reorganization and readjustments that are required
of the child of the divorcing family represent a major
addition to the normal and customary tasks of childhood and
adolescence in our society. Children are able to
comprehend their parents' divorce only when they are given
the necessary information, without which it becomes
increasingly difficult for them to cope with their
immediate environment (Wallerstein, 1983).
The adaptation of children to divorce will vary with
their developmental status. Different responses and coping

17
strategies would be expected from young children with
limited cognitive and social competencies and their
dependency on parents than those of the more mature and
self-sufficient older child or adolescent (Wallerstein &
Kelly, 1980).
Theoretical Constructs
Children's ability to comprehend divorce depends upon
their age. Theorists have suggested that there are
specific periods in children's lives when they are able to
understand certain concepts and certain other periods when
they cannot.
Piaget's (1950) theory of cognitive development
identified four stages of development, the latter three of
which involve school-age children: the sensorimotor
period, from birth to 2 years of age; the preoperational
period, from 2 to 7 years of age; the concrete operational
stage, from 7 to 11 years of age; and the formal
operational period, from 11 years through adulthood.
Piaget stressed that these age ranges represent normative
ranges and that they are more clearly definable and
understandable when the content of what occurs during these
stages of development is examined rather than when they
began.
Piaget's notion of stages reflects and emphasizes the
structural transitions that take place during different
developmental periods, rather than a simple description of

18
different child behaviors at different times. Stages of
development are convenient organizers because they assist
in placing behavior at different ages in perspective.
However, Piaget emphasized that these stages are not bound
by anything other than very general time guidelines.
The sensorimotor stage of development begins at birth
with the simple reflexes of the neonate and terminates at
approximately 2 years of age with the onset of symbolic
thought, representing early childlike language.
During Piaget's preoperational period (from 2 to 7
years of age), children are limited in cognitive
development. They tend to focus on a single detail of a
problem rather than shift among many dimensions. They are
also egocentric and have trouble understanding that others'
view of the physical and social environment differs from
their own.
During the concrete operational period (from 7 to 11
years of age), children have internalized actions that
permit them to do "in their heads" what previously would
have been accomplished through overt actions. According to
Piaget, by the end of the concrete operational period,
children are remarkably adept at solving problems.
During the last stage of development (from 11 years
through adulthood), formal operational, children are able
to think about their thoughts, construct ideas, and reason
realistically about the future. They can draw hypotheses

19
from their observations and are able to deduce and induce
principles regarding the world around them.
Children can be expected to comprehend the meaning of
divorce within the context of their cognitive stage.
Children in the preoperational stage might handle some
basic facts about divorce but might not comprehend fully
the impact of divorce on themselves or their family.
During Piaget's concrete operational stage, children might
more fully grasp the concept of divorce and might, to some
extent, understand what the divorce means to their future.
The young adults in the formal operational stage would
understand and guestion more fully the impact of divorce on
themselves and their families.
Piaget stressed that the developing individual is
active rather than reactive. He defined development as a
spontaneous process and emphasized the individual's
inherent capability of being dynamic, not remaining static.
The essence of development is the interaction between the
individual's internal motivational system and the demands
of the environment. Piaget termed this striving for order
or balance equilibration, a self-regulatory process that
keeps the individual on the right track. This right track
is not a genetic predisposition toward a specific behavior
but a characteristic of the entire development of the
individual (Salkind, 1985).

20
Other cognitive developmental theorists have used some
of Piaget's work as a basis for their own theory regarding
how children learn to think. One such theorist was Jerome
Bruner, an Oxford University psychologist.
Bruner (1966) believed that at different stages along
the developmental process, from primarily inactive
processing of the world to primarily symbolic processing,
children are ready for different things at different times.
Bruner identified six characteristics of growth in the
developmental and learning process: (a) intellectual
growth is accompanied by an increased ability to represent
and understand the environment; (b) intellectual growth
depends on the use of a storage system to remember objects,
events, and experiences; (c) the key to increased
intellectual growth is the use of language; (d) the growth
of the child's intellect is a reflection of the interaction
between the child and the teacher; (e) the use of language
greatly enhances the effectiveness of teaching and
subsequent learning; and (f) the growing child learns to
deal with several alternative events at the same time
(Salkind, 1985).
Bruner clearly outlined the necessity for specific
tasks to be considered in instruction for children. To
begin with, he believed that readiness for learning is
crucial to the success of the developmental and learning

21
processes and that the environment must be suited to the
child's level of readiness.
The first task is to clearly identify what the
concepts are that must be taught. Next, the child's level
of readiness must be considered. The third task is the
presentation of information so that for every new step the
child takes toward learning new skills, the previous skills
are reviewed. The final step is for the child to go beyond
the information given by exploring on his or her own the
next logical step in the sequence.
In accordance with Bruner's theory, children can be
expected to process and comprehend the meaning of divorce
most effectively when their level of readiness is first
considered. This level of readiness will determine what
information the child is prepared to comprehend and will
also help determine what exploration the child will do in
determining his or her own next logical steps.
Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) have developed a theory
which identifies age as the best predictor of how children
initially react to their parents' divorces. They found
that preschoolers react differently from early elementary
school-aged children and that older elementary school-aged
children and adolescents react differently from both
younger groups. These theorists interpreted these findings
within a psychodynamic framework, but acknowledged that
children's levels of cognitive development also shape their

22
reactions; most of the preschoolers, for example,
egocentrically assumed that they were responsible for the
divorce (Nichols, 1984).
Children in the latency age group are often
preoccupied with feelings of loss, rejection, guilt, and
loyalty conflicts. They are profoundly worried that they
will forever lose the parent who has left home. They are
especially worried about being replaced (Wallerstein &
Blakeslee, 1989).
In the later latency years (9-12 years), children rely
tremendously on their parents for stability. With a
divorce occurring at this stage, children may become
intensely anxious about their stability. This anxiety is
often reflected in their behavior. Many children this age
become intensely angry with their parents for divorcing and
especially angry with the parent whom they blame for the
divorce. They often worry about their parents and
sometimes take on very adult roles, especially in relation
to a needy parent. This can drain the child emotionally.
If there is a common thread uniting many theoretical
perspectives, it is that the child's development is a
result of conflict and the manner in which it is resolved.
A simple example of this is the way people avoid or
approach a problem until some resolution is established.
If we understand the child's placement in the developmental
sequence, the demands of the environment can be adjusted to

23
assure that the optimal degree of growth can occur
(Salkind, 1985).
Divorce is not a specific entity or event. Instead,
it is a process within the family's history that works
parallel to the developmental phases in a child's life
(Pfeffer, 1981).
Effects of Divorce on Children
Hetherington (1979) has noted that almost all children
experience the transition of divorce as painful.
Children's individual responses to divorce vary due to
several factors such as temperament, developmental status,
sex of the child, number of and relationship to siblings,
emotional stability, general adjustment, length of time
since the divorce, and the manner in which the parents
handle the situation. Wallerstein (1989) found that the
psychological condition of children and adolescents was
related to the overall quality of life in the post-divorce
family.
The experience of divorce is entirely different
for parents and for children because the children
lose something that is fundamental to their
development—the family structure. The family
compromises the scaffolding upon which children
mount successful developmental stages, from
infancy into adolescence. It supports their
psychological, physical, and emotional ascent
into maturity. When that structure collapses,
the children's world is temporarily without
supports. And children, with a vastly compressed
sense of time, do not know that the chaos is
temporary. What they do know is that they are
dependent on the family. Whatever its
shortcomings, children perceive the family as the
entity that provides the support and protection

24
that they need. With divorce, that structure
breaks down, leaving children who feel alone and
very frightened about the present and future.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 11-12)
A review of the research on the effects of divorce on
children indicates that the four most common emotional
responses of children in the immediate post divorce
situation are guilt, fear, anger, and depression (Freeman &
Couchman, 1985).
It is not uncommon for children to assume guilt for
being the cause of the divorce (Allers, 1982; Hetherington,
1979; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985; Walsh, 1980). Children
may also view divorce as a punishment for wrongdoing and
believe that if they correct inappropriate behavior or act
better, then their parents will reconcile. Many children
feel guilty and some feel that it is their duty to mend the
marriage (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989). Some children
may believe that their parents' divorce is due to something
they said or did. Such beliefs can lead to guilt (Berg &
Kurdek, 1987).
The fear that children often experience is the fear of
abandonment by their other parent or the loss of both of
their parents (Allers, 1982; Hetherington, 1979; Pedro-
Carroll & Cowen, 1985; Walsh, 1980). Children of all ages
feel intensely rejected when their parents divorce. When
one parent leaves the other, the children interpret the act
as including them (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989). Some
children may believe that they will eventually lose contact

25
with one or both of their parents. This may lead to
excessive dependency and obsessive thoughts and fears about
such loss (Kurdek & Berg, 1987). More generalized anxiety
may be caused by less parental attention and children's
concern over who will love and take care of them.
Children's feelings of abandonment may also stem from their
belief that they are not worthy of affection and are not
loved by their parents (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).
The feeling of intense anger is another emotional
response for many children experiencing divorce (Allers,
1982; Hetherington, 1979; Hodges & Bloom, 1984; Wallerstein
& Kelly, 1980).
Children get angry at their parents for violating
the unwritten rules of parenthood—parents are
supposed to make sacrifices for children, not the
other way around. Some keep their anger hidden
for years out of fear of upsetting parents or for
fear of retribution and punishment; others show
it. (Wallerstein St Blakeslee, 1989, p. 12)
Researchers have found that children may become aggressive
(Allers, 1982; Hess St Camara, 1979), destroying things and
occasionally becoming self-destructive in their behavior.
Related to the anger is a sense of powerlessness. Children
feel that they have no say, no way to influence this major
event in their lives (Wallerstein St Blakeslee, 1989) .
Depression is an additional emotional response of many
children who face divorce (Hetherington, 1979; Kalter St
Plunkett, 1984; Peterson St Zill, 1986; Wallerstein & Kelly,
1980). When families break up, children's sense of sadness

26
and loss is often profound. Children grieve over the loss
of the family, the loss of the parent who has left home,
and the imagined loss of both parents (Wallerstein &
Blakeslee, 1989). This sadness and depression may exhibit
itself in moodiness, self-criticism, loss of appetite,
hopelessness, frequent daydreaming, and inattentiveness.
Children may display other behaviors in reaction to
their parents' divorce. Some children are unable to accept
the fact of their parents' divorce, and actually deny it
and even lie to friends about it. Other children may cling
to the hope that their parents will reconcile (Allers,
1982; Freeman & Coachman, 1985; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980),
becoming preoccupied with the reconciliation and inventing
plans to engineer it.
Divorce is often preceded by several separations,
each of which may seem decisive but turn out not
to be final. These can confuse children and lead
them to expect reconciliation, if not
immediately, then eventually. Moreover, divorce
is usually a partial loss and most children tend
to see the departed parent for many years
afterward. As a result, children who experience
divorce are more likely to feel a persistent,
gnawing sense that the loss of the intact family
is not final; maybe it can be repaired. People
who divorce can remarry. People who separate can
rejoin. Thus children's capacity to cope with
divorce is very much decreased by the uncertainty
of the event itself, by its elusive causes, and
by what children regard and keep alive as its
potential reversibility. Perhaps the most
important factor in keeping alive children's hope
for reconciliation is their intense need to think
of their parents as mutually affectionate and
together. This feeling can endure for decades.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 14)

27
Many children develop psychosomatic symptoms and
complain of headaches and stomachaches (Allers, 1982,
Fulton, 1979). Some children may show evidence of
hypermaturity (Allers, 1982; Walsh, 1980; Weiss, 1979),
assuming adult mannerisms and additional responsibilities
and becoming super-efficient helpers.
Cognitive, affective behavioral, and
psychophysiological problems have been reported in many
children of divorce (Coddington & Troxell, 1980;
Hetherington, 1979; Kurdek & Siesky, 1981; Peterson & Zill,
1986). Cognitive reactions include self-blame, feeling
different from peers, and heightened sensitivity to
interpersonal incompatibility (Kelly & Berg, 1978; Kurdek &
Siesky, 1981; Wallerstein, 1983). Deficits in prosocial
behavior and high frequencies of acting out and aggressive
behaviors have also been found among children of divorce
(Stolberg, Camplair, Currier, & Wells, 1984). Their
academic performance is often hampered by classroom
behaviors that interfere with performance and require
special handling (Guidubaldi, Cleminshaw, Perry, &
McLoughlin, 1983). They are more often diagnosed as having
serious illnesses than peers from intact families
(Coddington & Troxell, 1980; Jacobs & Charles, 1980).
The environmental changes many times accompanied by
divorce, often place demands on children for new skills,
weaken their support systems, and result in feelings of

28
anger and rejection (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981; Stolberg &
Anker, 1983; Stolberg et al., 1984).
In a study begun in 1979 by the National Association
of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the Kettering
Foundation's Institute for the Development of Educational
Activities (I/D/E/A), researchers addressed the school
needs of children from one-parent families and concluded
that these children are at risk and that some may need
special assistance at school. Prior to this study, this
issue had never been systematically investigated.
To conduct the study, NAESP and I/D/E/A researchers
gathered information on students from 26 elementary and
secondary schools in 14 states. In addition to sampling
the major regions of the country (Arizona, California,
Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio,
Washington, and Wisconsin), the schools represented a
cross-section of inner-city, suburb, small-town, and rural
areas (Lazarus, 1980).
Educators have for generations assumed that children
from one-parent households have more trouble in school than
do children whose families fit what we think of as the
traditional nuclear family mold. The findings of the
NAESP-I/D/E/A study help to confirm that assumption. The
results indicate that one-parent children, as a group, have
lower achievement and present more discipline problems than

29
do their two-parent peers in both elementary and high
school. They were also reported to be absent more often,
late to school more often, and to reveal more health
problems. It was also found that one-parent students are
more than twice as likely to drop out of school than are
students from two-parent households. A definite positive
correlation between school performance and family status
was also determined by the researchers (Lazarus, 1980).
One of the many things which adds to the child's
difficulties is the concept of divorce itself. Divorce
seems relatively simple to adults—two people no longer
wish to live together. Each feel that his or her needs are
no longer met by, nor can he or she meet the needs of his
or her spouse. To the child, however, divorce is confusion
consisting of unanswered guestions, arguments, loneliness,
and anger (Allers, 1982). Many people have wanted to
believe that what is good for adults will be good for their
children. Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) stated, "It is
seductively simple to think a child's psychological
problems are mainly a reflection of family problems—as if
children were not people with reactions of their own,
separate from those of adults" (p. 10).
The research clearly and strongly supports the notion
that divorce results in psychological distress for children
(Blechman, 1982; Black, 1979; Guidubaldi et al., 1983;
Peterson & Zill, 1986; Wallerstein, 1983). Children of

30
divorce face an additional set of tasks specific to divorce
in addition to the normal developmental tasks of growing
up. Growing up is inevitably harder for children of
divorce because they must deal with psychological issues
that children from well-functioning, intact families do not
have to face (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
While literature on separation and divorce abounds,
research on how divorce affects children is sparse. It
seems important to report that, in spite of the potential
that divorce has for disrupting a child's development,
there is little in the literature suggesting how best to
help children to cope with the crisis of divorce. Despite
substantial concern about the conseguences of marital
instability for children, little systematic theory has been
developed that adequately conceptualizes this area of
inquiry (Peterson & Zill, 1984).
There is clearly a lack of literature available that
addresses interventions for children of divorce. Most of
the literature has focused on the effects of divorce on the
family members and the resulting behaviors that occur.
Divorce threatens the psychological and physical well-being
of individuals and families and it is the way in which
people respond to the divorce that is critical in shaping
the outcomes.
In order to develop helpful interventions to assist
children in their adjustment to their parents' divorce, it

31
seems logical that we must first be aware of the special
tasks and effects these children must respond to.
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) have conceptualized
the child's divorce adjustment process as a series of
several psychological tasks that are added to the customary
tasks of childhood and adolescence. Other researchers
(Gardner, 1976; Kurdek & Berg, 1987; Mendell, 1983;
Tessman, 1978) have further observed that children often
construct problematic beliefs about both the nature of
parental divorce and their causal role in the divorce
decision.
Psychological Issues
Our physical growth and development throughout life
has a predictable cycle. There is also a predictable
progression in our psychological and social growth and
development. Each stage in this progression presents us
with a sequence of tasks we must confront. As children
move upward along a common developmental ladder, each at
his or her own pace, a sense of self is consolidated. In
this process they develop coping skills, conscience, and
the capacity to give and receive love.
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) propose that children
who experience divorce face an additional set of tasks
specific to divorce in addition to the normal developmental
tasks of growing up. They further propose that growing up
is inevitably harder for children of divorce because they

32
must deal with psychological issues that children from
well-functioning, intact families do not have to face.
The additional psychological tasks encountered by
children of divorce are (a) understanding the divorce, (b)
strategic withdrawal, (c) dealing with the loss, (d)
dealing with anger, (e) working out guilt, (f) accepting
the permanence of the divorce, and (g) taking a chance on
love.
Perhaps the first and most basic task for children at
the time of separation is to understand realistically what
the divorce means in their family and what its specific/
concrete consequences will be. This understanding occurs
in two stages. First is the stage of accurately perceiving
the immediate changes that divorce brings and being able to
differentiate fantasy fears and hopes from reality. The
second stage usually occurs later when children are able at
a greater distance and with more mature understanding to
evaluate their parents' actions and to draw useful lessons
for their own lives.
After the divorce, as soon as possible, children and
adolescents need to get on with their own lives, to resume
their normal activities at school and play and to get back
physically and emotionally to the normal tasks of growing
up. Their task is not to ignore the divorce but instead to
acknowledge their concern and to provide appropriate help
to their parents and siblings. Additionally, they should

33
strive to remove the divorce from the center of their own
thoughts and get back to their own pleasures, interests,
problems, and peer relationships. They need the
encouragement to remain children.
Children experience two profound losses following a
divorce. One is the loss of the intact family and the
second is the loss of the presence of one parent from their
daily lives. Children often mask their unhappiness
associated with these losses by fantasizing.
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) have suggested that
the absorbing of these losses is perhaps the single most
difficult task imposed by divorce.
At its core, the task requires children to
overcome the profound sense of rejection,
humiliation, unlovability, and powerlessness they
feel with the departure of one parent. When the
parent leaves, children of all ages blame
themselves. They conclude that had they been
more lovable, worthy, or different, the parent
would have stayed. In this way, the loss of the
parent and lowered self-esteem become
intertwined. (p. 290)
In order to cope with the intensely painful feelings
of rejection, children may continue to undo the divorce
scenario. Perhaps if they could bring their parents back
together or win back the affection of the absent parent,
the pain of the loss would go away. Children are not only
pained at the outset of divorce, but remain vulnerable,
sometimes increasingly over the years.
Dealing with these losses appears to be a task
children respond to in a number of ways. Children who have

34
a good relationship with their parents, as well as a good
visitation and/or joint custody arrangement, find this task
easier to achieve.
Some children are able to use a good, close
relationship with the visiting parent to promote
their growth within the divorced family. Others
are able to acknowledge and accept that the
visiting parent could never become the kind of
parent they need, and they are able to turn away
from blaming themselves. Still others are able
to reject on their own, a rejecting parent or to
reject a role model that they see as flawed. In
so doing, these youngsters are able to
effectively master the loss and get on with their
lives. (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 29)
The true cause of divorce lies in the parents' failure
to maintain the marriage, and is always a voluntary
decision for at least one of the partners in a marriage.
Children of divorce therefore face a terrible dilemma.
Their unhappiness has been caused by the very people
charged with their protection and care. Their parents have
voluntarily become the agents of their distress.
The dilemma lies in the children's anger at their
parents for divorcing while also being aware of their
parents' weaknesses, neediness, and anxiety about life's
difficulties. Although children may lack understanding of
the divorce, they do recognize how unhappy and disorganized
their parents become, and this frightens them very much.
The children become caught in a combination of anger and
love—frightened and guilty about their anger because they
love their parents and see their unhappiness and personal

struggles. Acknowledging their anger can be very
difficult.
35
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) identify this
struggle with anger as a major task for children. A task
that requires recognizing their parents as human beings
capable of making mistakes and learning to respect them for
their real efforts and their real courage.
Cooling of anger and the task of forgiveness go
hand in hand with children's growing emotional
maturity and capacity to appreciate the various
needs of the different family members. As anger
diminishes, young people are better able to put
the divorce behind them and experience relief.
As children forgive their parents, they forgive
themselves for feeling anger and guilt and for
failing to restore the marriage. In this way
children can free themselves from identification
with the angry or violent parent or with the
victim. (p. 92)
Often young children feel responsible for divorce and
believe that their misbehavior may have caused the divorce.
Guilt feelings are often numerous at the time of divorce
but naturally dissipate as children mature.
Some guilt feelings persist and are rooted in
children's realization that they were a cause of marital
difficulty. Children often know the stresses they place on
the marriage—financially, emotionally, mentally, and
psychologically. Their awareness that they have caused
this wedge between their parents reinforces their guilt
feelings.
Children of divorce need to separate from guilty ties
that bind them too closely to their troubled parent or

parents and to go on with their lives with compassion and
love (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
36
Initially, children feel a strong need to deny the
divorce. This early denial may be a first step in the
coping process. The denial allows a piece by piece
confrontation with the reality of the divorce.
Wallerstein (1989) found in her longitudinal study
that some children and adolescents refuse to accept the
permanence of the divorce 5 and even 10 years after it has
occurred. They continue to hope, consciously or
unconsciously, that the marriage will be restored.
In accepting permanence, the children of divorce
face a more difficult task than children of
bereavement. Death cannot be undone, but divorce
happens between living people who can change
their minds. A reconciliation fantasy taps deep
into children's psyches. Children need to feel
that their parents will still be happy together.
They may not overcome this fantasy of
reconciliation until they themselves finally
separate from their parents and leave home.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 293)
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) suggested that the
most important psychological task for growing children and
for society is to "take a chance on love" (p. 3). They
must hold on to a realistic vision that they can both love
and be loved. It becomes a task for children of divorce
because they must do this despite what life has dealt them
and despite their lingering fears and anxieties. They must
grow and become open to the possibility of success or
failure and take a chance on love.

Taking a chance on love is a central task for all
children during adolescence and young adulthood. For
37
children who lose their intact family through divorce, they
must also take a chance on love, knowing realistically and
experientially that divorce is always possible. The task
for children also involves being able to turn away from the
model of parents who could not stay committed to each
other.
This last task, taking a chance on love, involves
being able to venture, not just thinking about
it, and not thinking one way and behaving
another. It involves accepting a morality that
truly guides behavior. This is the task that
occupies children of divorce throughout their
adolescence. It is what makes adolescence such a
critical and difficult time for them. The
resolution of life's tasks is a relative process
that never ends, but this last task, which is
built on successfully negotiating all the others,
leads to psychological freedom from the past.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, pp. 293-294)
Age and Sex Issues
Existing research findings of the effect of the age of
the child on the response to the divorce or parents can be
examined in three general age groups: preschool (birth to
5 years of age); latency (5 to 11 years of age); and
adolescence (12 to 18 years of age) (Hodges & Bloom, 1984).
Children in each of these age groups appear to respond
differently to the divorce of their parents.
Preschoolers are often viewed as the most vulnerable
group of children because their level of cognitive
development precludes their constructing an accurate

38
interpretation of events transpiring around them, because
their level of psychosexual development is thought by some
to place them in the midst of resolving Oedipal conflicts,
and because their young parents are likely to have limited
financial resources. These children are prone to form
faulty perceptions of the reasons for the parents'
separation and may experience nightmares, depressed play,
eating disturbances, bed-wetting, lowered self-esteem
problems with sexual identity, and guilt over having caused
the departure of the noncustodial parent (Hetherington,
1979; McDermott, 1970; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). In
general, Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) reported that
preschoolers are the most frightened and show the most
dramatic symptoms when marriages break up.
Preschool children have been found to respond to
marital separation with regression, anxiety, tantrums,
fantasies of reconciliation, anger, aggression, problems in
academic achievement, lowered self-esteem, problems in
basic trust, and, for the 1 to 3 year age group, loss of
recently acquired perceptual motor skills (Santrock, 1975;
Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976). Hetherington (1979) noted that
young preschool children were less able to appraise
accurately their own role in the separation and were likely
to experience the separation as abandonment.
Kalter and Rembar (1981) found that if separation
occurred before the age of 2, at latency, boys and girls

39
exhibited more nonaggressive disturbances in the parent-
child relationship than children who were older at the time
of their parents' separation. Wallerstein and Blakeslee
(1989) suggested that this may be the result of very young
children not being haunted by the memories of the intact
family. They may also feel less nostalgia for what was
lost and have fewer memories of turmoil and conflict
stemming from the divorce.
From a theoretical perspective, separation at the
preschool age should have strong adverse consequences.
Empirically, maladjustment would seem to be a common
outcome although the form differs from study to study. The
long-term effects are less clear (Hodges & Bloom,1984). On
the positive side, younger children may experience more
consistent and regular parenting in the post-divorce period
(Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).
Felner, Stolberg, and Cowen (1975) noted that acting
out and aggression were more common in latency age children
of divorced families than other types of families. Fulton
(1979) reported an increase in nightmares for children when
divorce occurred from ages 6 to 12. Kelly and Wallerstein
(1977) noted that for 7- and 8-year-olds, sadness,
grieving, fear, feelings of deprivation, fantasies of
responsibility and reconciliation, lowered self-esteem,
anger, and conflicts of loyalty were characteristic
responses to the divorce of their parents. Wallerstein and

40
Blakeslee (1989) reported that in their longitudinal study,
half of the children in this age group suffered a year long
precipitous decline in school performance.
Largely because of their affective investment in both
parents, latency-age children often view the noncustodial
parent's leaving as a profound personal loss. Common
reactions include depression, withdrawal, marked
deterioration in school performance, and persistent
requests for an explanation as to why the parental
separation had to occur (Kelly & Wallerstein, 1977;
Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). As a result of their own
psychological needs, many children this age cast the
divorce as a fight in which they feel required to take
sides. They are often tormented by these loyalty
conflicts.
Adolescents have been perceived as having the
cognitive maturity to comprehend the dynamics underlying
the reasons for the separation. Opinion is divided,
however, on the nature of their affective responses. Some
view the adolescent's personality development as being
minimally affected by the divorce because the adolescent
can turn to sources outside of the home for comfort,
advice, and nurturance. Others, however, see the
adolescent's personality as being maximally affected
because of the likelihood of his or her having been exposed
to longer periods of parental conflict. Such exposure has

41
been linked to adolescents' problems with interpersonal
relations, self-identity, self-esteem, and independence
(Sorosky, 1977; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).
Sorosky (1977), in a review of the literature,
identified aggression, sexual identity problems,
depression, and social conflicts in adolescents in response
to the divorce of parents. In contrast, Reinhard (1977)
found that, while adolescents were unhappy and disappointed
about the divorce, they were also sensible and realistic.
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) reported that, in
their studies, adolescents are especially upset and
frightened by divorce. This appears to be the result of
their need for family structure to help them set limits on
their own sexual and aggressive impulses. Adolescents are
often fearful that they will repeat their parents failures
and that their own marriages might fail.
In summary, different researchers have indicated
different types of responses to the divorce of parents of
adolescents. Some studies have obtained differences in
aggression, depression, and social conflicts, while others
have found little impact.
Besides developmental status, children's sex has also
been related to their divorce adjustment. It has been
suggested by several investigators that gender may
influence the vulnerability of children of divorce or
parental separation because boys have been reported to cope

42
less effectively than girls (Biller, 1974; Hetherington,
Cox, & Cox, 1978; Lamb, 1977; McDermott, 1970). Boys
rather than girls in divorcing families are reported to
exhibit lower levels of socially competent behavior (e.g.,
more noncompliant and acting out responses) (Hetherington
et al., 1978; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). It may be that
boys experience greater trauma because their same sex role
models are usually the persons who disengage from family
roles (Hetherington, 1979). Hetherington et al. (1978)
also reported that male children seem to receive more
punitive and inconsistent responses to misbehavior from
custodial parents than do female children.
Sons of divorced parents appear to experience more
problems in the areas of both general cognitive, emotional,
and social development and more specific divorce adjustment
difficulty (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980) than do daughters of
divorced parents. However, it appears that sex differences
may dissipate over the course of the post-divorce period
and that they are less pronounced in older children (Kurdek
& Siesky, 1980; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Clear-cut
explanations for the findings have not been advanced. It
has been suggested that younger boys may be exposed to more
stress, frustration, and aggression as well as less support
and nurturance from mothers, teachers, and peers than
younger girls (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981). Since the mother is
generally the custodial parent, it is also possible that

43
the preponderance of boys' adjustment difficulty is due to
specific stresses arising from boys' living with an
opposite-sex custodial parent (Wallerstein, 1983). The
nature of these stresses is likely to involve a complex
reciprocal relation among children's developmental status,
children's expectancies of the custodial parent, parent's
disciplinary practices, and the quality of available
support systems.
These global and normative descriptions alert us to
the importance of developmental status in divorce
adjustment, but do not delineate specific age-related or
sex-related factors that may mediate divorce reaction and
adjustment. For example, Hetherington (1979), Longfellow
(1979), and Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) have speculated
that these global age changes are likely due to specific
developmental changes in children's ability to appraise the
divorce situation, to make sense out of the complex
sequence of disruptive events, to infer the motives and
feelings of parents, to assess accurately their own causal
role in the divorce decision, and to experience some degree
of control over their outcomes. A study by Kurdek and
Siesky (1981) on correlates of children's long-term
adjustment to their parents' divorce supports some of these
speculations. This study demonstrated moderately positive
relations between children's divorce adjustment and both
interpersonal reasoning (a composite variable including

44
perspective taking, intent assessment, and knowledge of
factors related to the initiation, maintenance, and
termination of friendships) and internal locus of control.
Thus, there is a support for a cognitive-developmental
perspective on children's divorce adjustment which may more
readily accommodate individual cognitive factors that
modulate children's perceptions of divorce as a life
stress.
A cognitive-developmental focus on children's divorce
adjustment also warns us against perceiving the child's
divorce experience from an adult perspective (Damon, 1979).
It is of note that the few studies assessing nonclinical
children's viewpoints of the divorce have revealed fairly
high levels of divorce adjustment (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981;
Reinhard, 1977) along with feelings that the divorce has
been a painful experience (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981;
Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Berg and Kelly (1979) have
noted that parents' perceptions of children's divorce
adjustment may be colored by their own psychological needs
and defenses making it unlikely that parents' and child's
view of the divorce adjustment will be congruent (Kurdek &
Siesky, 1981).
Kurdek and Siesky (1981) in their study to determine
how children themselves perceive various aspects of their
parents' divorce showed a consistent pattern of factors
contributing to children's adjustment to their parents'

45
divorce. Favorable adjustments were seen in children who
defined divorce in terms of psychological separation,
shared news of the divorce with friends, had relatively
positive evaluations of both parents, and saw themselves as
having acguired strengths and responsibilities as a result
of the divorce. This study further identified beneficial
effects (comfort in discussing divorce with friends,
emotional adjustment to the divorce, attitudes toward
interpersonal relationships) of children's sharing divorce-
related concerns with their friends. They have further
suggested that peers function as a support system for
children experiencing their parents' divorce.
At a time when the parents themselves are likely
to be caught up with their own thoughts and
feelings, children may more easily turn to their
friends for advice and comfort. Given the
increase in the number of children affected by
divorce, groups of children who themselves have
also experienced divorce may be the source of
greatest support in both clinical and non-
clinical settings. (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981, p.
98)
In summary, Kurdek and Siesky (1981), in their
findings that children acquired strengths and
responsibilities in the course of adjusting to the divorce,
concluded that divorce need not be a traumatic experience
for all children. Additionally, they view children's
perceptions of the divorce as greatly influencing the
nature of adjustment. A child who sees the divorce as an
opportunity for personal growth will encounter fewer
difficulties than the child who views the divorce in terms

46
of parental desertion or self-blame. Professionals working
with children whose parents are divorced may assist them in
generating both the positive and negative consequences of
their parents' divorce (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981).
Length of Time Since the Divorce
In the period during and immediately following divorce
the child may be responding to changes in his or her life
situation. In this period, therefore, stresses associated
with conflict, loss, change, and uncertainty may be the
critical factors (Hetherington, 1979).
Findings in the divorce literature to date point to
the first post-separation year as one in which a majority
of children are prone to show emotional or behavioral
difficulties of some kind, although there is less agreement
across studies as to the probability of longer term effects
(Hetherington et al., 1978; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980;
Young & Parish, 1979). Hetherington et al. (1978) found
the first two years after the separation to be a period of
maximum disequilibrium for children.
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989), in the first and
only 10 year reports on the psychological effects of
divorce on men, women, and children, have reported that
life may be unstable and home may be unsettled for several
years after the divorce.
The effects of length of time since marital disruption
may also vary according to the child's age at the time of

47
disruption (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976). Age at the time of
divorce is an important determinant of psychopathology with
children between 5 and 9 years experiencing the greatest
behavioral and cognitive/perceptual difficulties (Deredyn,
1977; Kurdek & Siesky, 1981; Stolberg, Mauger, Marks, &
Zinober, 1978; Tooley, 1976). Inasmuch as maximum
cognitive sensitivity to interpersonal stimuli occurs
between ages 7 and 11 (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969), one would
expect maximum cognitive/perceptual changes due to divorce
to occur in this age range.
Comprehensive Studies on the Effects of Divorce
Three large-scale comprehensive studies published on
the effects of divorce on children have produced a number
of significant findings.
Wallerstein and Kelly (1974, 1975, 1976) and Kelly and
Wallerstein (1976) studied the reactions of 131 preschool,
early latency, late latency, and adolescent children to
their parents1 divorce both shortly after the parents1
separation and in a 12- to 18-month follow-up. Three major
findings were obtained: (a) Children's reactions to their
parents' divorce were largely negative and varied as a
function of their developmental level, (b) the functioning
of the custodial parent following the divorce played a
large part in the first year following the divorce, and (c)
adjustment among older children was related to the
custodial parent refraining from perceiving their children

48
as sources from which their own emotional and social needs
were to be met.
In the second major study of the effects of divorce on
children, Hetherington, Cox, and Cox (1978) described
alterations in the relationship between 48 custodial
mothers and noncustodial fathers and their nursery school
aged children in the two year period following the divorce.
The authors found that fathers became increasingly
unavailable to their children while mothers experienced
marked child behavioral problems, especially with their
sons. These behavioral problems were somewhat mitigated
when the mother and father maintained support and positive
attitudes toward one another.
Finally, Jacobson (1978) investigated the impact of
marital separation/divorce on 61 6- to 17-year-old children
during the 12 month period following parental separation.
They found that child maladjustment was related both to
time lost in the presence of the father and to the degree
of interparent hostility in the preseparation period.
Children who were seen as well adjusted had, on the other
hand, received parents' help in dealing with the separation
and were encouraged to discuss separation-related problems.
On the basis of the three studies described above, it
appears that divorce occasions crisis and disequilibrium
for the children as well as the parents. Children's own
perceptions of the events compressed within the divorce

49
were not systematically obtained in these three studies.
From a cognitive-developmental theoretical perspective, the
child experiencing his or her parents' divorce is actively
structuring and interpreting the complex events transpiring
before, during, and after the separation period. More
importantly, the nature of these resulting perceptions may
greatly influence the extent to which the child is either
positively or negatively affected by the divorce (Kurdek &
Siesky, 1981).
The importance of considering children's perceptions
of their parents' divorce is demonstrated by two studies
whose conclusions offset the crisis tone of the studies
reported above. Rosen (1977) interviewed 92 9- to 28-year-
olds who strongly maintained that their parents' separation
was more beneficial than remaining together in conflict.
Additionally, they indicated that (a) they did not feel
adversely affected by the divorce, (b) they would have
preferred free access to the noncustodial parent, and (c)
many perceived themselves as having benefitted from the
divorce by acquiring an understanding of human emotions and
developing a sense of maturity and responsibility (Kurdek &
Siesky, 1980).
Reinhard (1977) reviewed responses to a 99-item
questionnaire of 46 12- to 18-year-olds regarding their
parents' divorce. The results indicated that (a) they did
not possess negative reactions to the divorce, (b) they saw

50
the divorce as a reasonable decision on the part of their
parents, (c) they did not feel the divorce affected their
peer relations, and (d) they saw themselves as having
acquired maturity and responsibility as a result of
experiencing their parents' divorce.
Clearly children's perceptions tend to mollify the
crisis-flavored tone of the literature regarding the
effects of divorce on children (Kurdek & Siesky, 1980). In
response to the lack of such studies, Kurdek and Siesky
(1981) systematically investigated children's perceptions
of various aspects of their parents' divorce. An open-
ended interview and a structured questionnaire were used to
accomplish this. The information gathered consistently
indicated that the children were not adversely affected by
various aspects of the divorce. The children did report
that the divorce decision, adjusting to the changed family
circumstances, and the loss of the noncustodial parent were
distressing experiences, but they also saw their parents'
divorce as a more desirable alternative to their parents'
living in conflict (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981).
These studies did not suggest that divorce is not a
crisis situation for some children. Rather they indicate
that from the child's perspective the crisis need not be a
chronic one.
There is, as we have found from many years of
observation, no necessary progression toward resolution or

51
closure to the dissolution experience. Although many
divorcing families make their way through the acute phase
of the divorce experience and after several years of
disequilibrium reach stability and closure in the post¬
divorce or remarried family, many of the family members may
remain fixated for many years at the acute phase of the
divorce (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
Given both the short-term acute reactions to divorce
and the potential long-term damage that may occur, it seems
appropriate for those involved in working with children and
adolescents to undertake interventions which will support
children through this difficult time in their lives as well
as reduce the potential for long-term effects (Freeman &
Couchman, 1985).
Preventive Interventions for Children of Divorce
Despite rapid increases in the divorce rate and ample
evidence of its adverse effects, Bloom, Asher, and White
(1978) reported that there had been few controlled studies
of preventive interventions for the people it touches. In
an attempt to help fill that void, Bloom, Hodges, and
Caldwell (1982) developed a 6-month preventive program for
newly separated adults. The program was based on support
principles and building adaptive skills in divorce-related
problem areas. The results recorded at the end of the
program and at the 30- and 48-month follow-up points,
indicated that participants significantly exceeded controls

52
in overall adjustment and in life coping skills (Bloom,
Hodges, Kern, & McFadden, 1985).
Several pilot preventive interventions based primarily
on support principles for children have been witnessed.
Cantor (1977) found little evidence of positive behavior
change in program children, based on parent and teacher
judgments. Guerney and Jordon (1979) had very positive
feedback from program children. Each of these studies
involved nine children and were evaluated
impressionistically and lacked rigorous control.
A recent more carefully evaluated program, the Divorce
Adjustment Project (Stolberg & Cullen, 1983, Stolberg,
Cullen, & Garrison, 1982), had two main components: (a)
the Children's Support Group (CSG), a group intervention
for 82 children of divorce 7 to 13 years of age and their
mothers emphasizing support and the building of
communication, anger control, and relaxation skills; and
(b) the Single Parent Support Group, also based on support
and discussions oriented to participants as individuals and
as parents. Subjects in the study consisted of pairs of
divorced mothers and their children assigned either to the
previously mentioned conditions alone, a combined parent
and child intervention, or a no-program control group.
Outcome comparisons at the end of the 12-week intervention
and five months later indicated that children in the
support group alone improved most in self-concept and that

53
parents in the parent group alone condition improved most
in adjustment. The combined condition did not yield
parallel improvements (Stolberg & Garrison, 1985).
Pedro-Carroll and Cowen (1985) evaluated the efficacy
of a modified Children's Support Group for fourth through
sixth grade suburban children of divorce. Although this
more recent Children of Divorce Intervention Program
(CODIP) maintained the Children's Support Group (CSG)
emphasis on support and skill-building, it (a) added an
early affective component focusing on divorce-related
feelings and experiences; (b) supplemented Children's
Support Group cognitive skill building units by using
discussion, filmstrips, and role plays of emotionally laden
divorce-related experiences; and (c) reduced the number of
anger control sessions from five to three.
Program outcome was assessed from the perspectives of
teachers, parents, group leaders, and children to represent
key domains of the child's current adjustment. Program
children made significantly greater adjustment gains than
controls. Teachers judged them to have shown significantly
greater reductions in shyness, anxiety, and learning
problems and to have improved more on total competence and
specific competencies such as frustration tolerance, peer
sociability, compliance with rules, and adaptive
assertiveness. Parent and group leader reports indicated
significant decreases in problem areas such as feelings of

54
self-blame about the divorce and increases in competency in
the ability to solve personal problems. The program
children also reported significantly less anxiety than
controls at post and tended to have less negative self¬
attitudes and perceptions about the divorce (Pedro-Carroll
& Cowen, 1985).
On the basis of these findings, Sterling (1986)
adapted CODIP for second and third grade suburban children
and conducted and evaluated the new program. This study
included 77 children of divorce randomly assigned to an
immediate 8-week, 16 session intervention and a delayed 5-
week, 11 session program that omitted the 5 session
problem-solving unit (Alpert-Gillis, Pedro-Carroll, &
Cowen, 1989). The program was assessed using child,
parent, teacher, and group leader measures of adjustment.
Significant gains in the participants' adjustment by
parents and group leaders were reported more so in the full
than the abbreviated intervention. Participants in the
full intervention also increased significantly in their
understanding of adjustment and divorce. These gains were
not confirmed by classroom teachers. Conceivably, time
constraints necessitating that the 16 session intervention
be conducted twice weekly in 30-35 minute sessions may not
have allowed enough time for children to consolidate key
program concepts and apply them in the classroom (Alpert-
Gillis et al., 1989).

55
Based on these findings, Alpert-Gillis et al. (1989)
developed and evaluated a new version of the CODIP. The
program had the same goals as the prior CODIP interventions
with a modified format and content to reflect developmental
and sociocultural realities of young children. More
emphasis was placed on teaching children (a) the use of
extended family members and other caring adults as sources
of support and (b) to cope with the problem of infrequent
contact with noncustodial parents.
The study included 185 second- and third-grade
children from eight urban schools in Rochester, New York:
52 program subjects, 52 divorce control subjects, and 81
intact comparison subjects. Groups were compared, pre and
post, on child, parent, and teacher adjustment scales
(Alpert-Gillis et al., 1989).
The main findings from this study indicate that the
program children's adjustment gains significantly exceeded
those of control and comparison children from all
perspectives and across most measures.
However important a supportive environment is in
helping children to identify, express, and deal with
salient feelings about their parents' divorce, it may not
by itself be enough to produce positive program outcomes
(Cantor, 1977). Acquiring specific competencies for
dealing with the concrete challenges that parental divorce
often creates is a co-equal need (Pedro-Carroll & Cowen,

56
1985). Clinicians need to regard divorce today as a "life
experience which has exposed children to certain challenges
and demands without predetermining the emotional valance of
the event" (Bernard & Nesbitt, 1981, p. 40).
Primary prevention programs for children of divorce
should focus on the important influences on adjustment and
on modifying constructively the child's response to them
(Stolberg & Garrison, 1985). Individual variables that
predict children's divorce adjustment include age, sex, and
emotional predisposition of the child (Hetherington, 1979;
Kurdek & Siesky, 1981).
Highlighting relationships between environmental and
familial changes and children's divorce adjustment helps to
identify activities that may be integral components of a
preventive intervention. Lost support systems must be
replaced. Altered living circumstances and reduced
parental availability and financial resources may result in
increased feelings of anger and frustration in children.
Helping children to understand these confusing events
should also serve to reduce their anger, frustration, and
self-blame (Stolberg & Garrison, 1985).

CHAPTER III
METHODOLOGY
This study was designed to investigate the
effectiveness of a structured small-group counseling model,
developed by the researcher, to assist children in grades 4
and 5 with adjustment to their parents' divorce.
Specifically, children's adjustment was assessed by
instruments which measured problematic beliefs about
divorce, school behaviors, and self-concept. The remainder
of this chapter includes a description of the population
and participants, randomization procedures,
instrumentation, data collection, and the data analyses.
Research Design
This experimental study utilized a randomized control
group, pretest-posttest design. Data were collected and
analyzed from the pretest and posttest mean total scores.
The dependent variables in this study were the
students' (a) problematic beliefs about parental divorce,
(b) behaviors in school, and (c) self-concepts. The
independent variables included (a) group (small group
counseling or no counseling), (b) gender, and (c) the
length of time since the parents' divorce.
57

58
Hypotheses
The hypotheses of this study were:
Ho 1: There is no significant difference between
experimental and control group students1 mean
total scores on the Children's Beliefs About
Parental Divorce Scale.
Ho 2: There is no significant difference between
experimental and control group students' mean
total scores on the Teacher Report Form of the
Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist.
Ho 3: There is no significant difference between
experimental and control group students' mean
total scores on the Piers-Harris Children's
Self-Concept Scale.
Ho 4: The length of time since the parents' divorce
has no significant impact on the effectiveness
of the intervention by group.
Ho 5: The gender of the child has no significant
impact on the effectiveness of the intervention
by group.
Population
The population from which the participants for this
study were selected was students in grades 4 and 5 whose
parents' were divorced at (a) P. K. Yonge Laboratory
School, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; (b)
Idylwild Elementary School, Gainesville, Florida; (c)

59
Melrose Elementary School, Melrose, Florida; (d)
Interlachen Elementary School, Interlachen, Florida; (e)
Padgett Elementary School, Lakeland, Florida; and (f)
Lincoln Avenue Elementary School, Lakeland, Florida.
Ninety-six students agreed to participate in the study.
An invitation to participate in this study was first
extended to the Directors of Student Services in Alachua,
Putnam, and Polk Counties. The invitation was made by
submitting a brief, written summary of the study and the
specific involvement necessary by school personnel and
students. Once approved by the Directors of Student
Services, all schools in each county were extended
permission by the Directors of Student Services to
participate in the study via a memorandum sent to each
school principal. All schools that indicated an interest
in participating in the study were included.
Participants
Selection of students for participation in this study
was made from fourth and fifth grade students attending the
6 participating elementary schools who met the following
criteria:
1. Parents were divorced.
2. Child lived with the mother only.
Child was not concurrently receiving counseling
while participating in the study.
3.

60
4. Child was not presently enrolled in or eligible
for enrollment in a special education program.
A letter from the researcher was sent to the parents of all
eligible students in grades 4 and 5 of the participating
schools requesting permission to have their child
participate in the study. The letters were distributed to
the students to take home in a sealed envelope. This was
done to prevent any embarrassment or discomfort to
potential participants and their families and to protect
the disclosure of information some families may consider
confidential. The parents were asked to return the
permission forms to their child's classroom teacher. A
total of 96 students met the criteria for participation in
the study and returned permission forms signed by their
parents. All 96 students participated in the initial 2
weeks of the study. Eight students withdrew from school
before the completion of the study leaving a final number
of participants at 88.
The subjects with permission to participate in the
study were randomly placed in one of two groups—
experimental or control, at their respective schools.
Prior to this random placement the subjects were further
identified by gender and length of time since their
parents' divorce. The name of each male whose parents were
divorced for 2 years or less (4/88 through 4/90) were
written on an index card and placed in a box marked

61
accordingly (males—parents divorced 2 years or less).
This process was also used with the following categories of
subjects: males whose parents were divorced for more than
2 years (before 3/88), females whose parents were divorced
for 2 years or less (4/88 through 4/90), and females whose
parents were divorced for more than 2 years (before 3/88).
This provided a more equal distribution of subjects by
gender and length of time since divorce in each of the
control and experimental groups. The final number of
participants in each cell was as follows:
EXPERIMENTAL
-2 years +2 years
MALES
10
-2 years +2 years
FEMALES
12
16
CONTROL
-2 years +2 years
11
-2 years +2 years
16
Total Experimental = 45 Total Control = 43
Total N = 88
Implementation of the Study
All of the participants were notified of their
eligibility for participation in the study by their

62
classroom teacher. They were told that they had been
selected to participate in a special program with the
school counselor and a counselor from Gainesville, Florida.
This type of group introduction to any activity outside of
the classroom is often used by teachers at these schools.
The classroom teachers were specifically instructed by the
guidance counselor to say:
"Our guidance counselor has been invited to
participate in a very important project with a
graduate student from the University of Florida by
the name of April Sameck. Several students from
our school in grades 4 and 5 will participate in
this project. If I call your name, you are one of
these students. You will meet with (Guidance
counselor's name) today (date) at (time).
(Guidance counselor's name) will explain how you
might participate in this project and answer any
questions you might have. Your participation in
the project will be voluntary but you are
requested to attend this meeting before making a
decision about whether you will or will not
participate."
The elementary school counselor at each school led the
structured small-group intervention used in this study.
The researcher developed and wrote the intervention titled
K.I.D.S. (Kids in Divorce Situations). The idea for the
intervention was initially conceived by this researcher as
a response to the need for a guide in assisting children
with their adjustment to their parents' divorce. At that
time, she was an elementary school guidance counselor. The
K.I.D.S. intervention for grades 4 and 5 was written
specifically for use in this study.

63
The purpose of the K.I.D.S. small-group counseling
intervention was to assist elementary school children in
grades 4 and 5 with adjustment to their parents' divorce.
Specifically, this intervention was designed to explore
problematic beliefs often associated with divorce. The
primary goals of the intervention were to provide an
opportunity for the children to explore these problematic
beliefs and to attempt to modify any negative beliefs.
K.I.D.S. was extensively reviewed prior to this study
by 12 professional school counselors and 6 licensed mental
health counselors and school psychologists for their
responses to questions regarding (a) the clarity of the
directions provided for the counselor to lead the
intervention, (b) the appropriateness of the information
and activities for the grade levels for which the
intervention is designed, (c) the appropriateness of the
coordination of the problematic beliefs and the
corresponding role play activities, (d) these
professionals' evaluations regarding the appropriateness of
the specific problematic beliefs addressed in this
intervention as common issues of children of divorce, (e)
whether they would themselves use this intervention in
their work with children whose parents are divorced, and
(f) whether they would like a copy of the intervention.
All 18 evaluators responded yes to all questions. Many
added expletives such as "great," "always," "excellent,
II

64
etc. The only recommendations for changes were related to
typographical errors.
The intervention was structured and designed for seven
one-hour sessions over seven consecutive weeks. The
sessions for this study were scheduled by the school
counselor with the assistance of the appropriate classroom
teachers. The sessions were not held during primary
academic instruction time in the regular classroom nor
during resource class times.
The sequence of the K.I.D.S. small group sessions and
the objectives of each session are as follows:
WEEK I - INTRODUCTION TO THE GROUP
Welcome participants.
Introduction of leader.
Explanation of the purpose of the group.
Definition of the criteria for eligibility
as a group member.
Explanation and guidelines of expectations
of group members and the leader.
Presentation of the topics to be discussed
and the types of activities that will
occur during the intervention.
To become acquainted with one another.
WEEK II - SELF BLAME
To become further acquainted with one
another.
To explain the problematic belief of SELF
BLAME to the group members.
To brainstorm group lists of the advantages
and disadvantages of divorce for the
children of the family.
To role play situations related to SELF
BLAME.

65
WEEK III - PEER RIDICULE AND AVOIDANCE
To become aware of each group member1s
present family structure and the
differences in these structures.
To explain the problematic belief of PEER
RIDICULE AND AVOIDANCE to the group
members.
To role play situations related to PEER
RIDICULE AND AVOIDANCE.
WEEK IV - PATERNAL/MATERNAL BLAME
To explain the problematic beliefs of
PATERNAL and MATERNAL BLAME to the
group members.
To identify possible reasons that children
have for blaming one parent for the
divorce.
To role play situations related to PATERNAL
and MATERNAL BLAME.
WEEK V - FEAR OF ABANDONMENT
To participate in a "Trust Walk" with a
partner.
To explain the problematic belief of FEAR
OF ABANDONMENT to the group members.
To role play situations related to the FEAR
OF ABANDONMENT.
WEEK VI - HOPE FOR REUNIFICATION
To participate in the "IF I Had A Magic
Wand" Activity.
To explain the problematic belief of the
HOPE FOR REUNIFICATION to the group
members.
To role play situations related to the HOPE
FOR REUNIFICATION.
WEEK VII - GROUP EVALUATION AND CLOSURE
To review the problematic beliefs addressed
in the previous six sessions.
To discuss the advantages and disadvantages
of the group intervention in assisting
the members with adjusting to their
parents' divorce.
To participate in a Trust Walk with a
partner.

66
To write a letter of "thank you" to their
parents for permitting them to
participate in this group.
The researcher trained the school counselors
participating in this study in the use of the K.I.D.S.
intervention. This training reguired approximately six
hours of reading instruction and preparation of all
materials necessary for implementation of the K.I.D.S.
intervention. Each counselor was trained at the school
setting on a day and at a time convenient to the counselor.
The specific training process included the following
sequence:
1. Counselors were given the written intervention
several days prior to the training meeting and asked to
read it in its entirety before the meeting.
2. At the training meeting the researcher
a. reviewed the intervention with the counselor
and discussed the specifics to be covered
in each session and answered any questions.
b. discussed and demonstrated how each instrument
was to be administered.
c. assisted, when requested, with the preparation
of any materials necessary to implement the
intervention (i.e., balance beams, charts,
etc.).

67
Instrumentation
Each student in the control and experimental groups
was administered the following instruments: (a) the Piers-
Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale (1984 edition), (b)
the Teacher's Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior
Checklist (1983), and (c) the Children's Beliefs About
Parental Divorce Scale (Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
Self-Concept
The Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale,
subtitled The Way I Feel About Myself, is a brief,
self-report measure designed to aid in the
assessment of self-concept in children and
adolescents. Self-concept, as assessed by this
instrument, is defined as a relatively stable set
of self-attitudes reflecting both a description
and an evaluation of one's own behavior and
attributes. Items on the scale are scored in
either a positive or negative direction to reflect
this evaluative dimension. A high score on the
scale suggests a positive self-evaluation, whereas
a low score suggests a negative self-evaluation.
The Piers-Harris focuses on children's conscious
self-perceptions, rather than attempting to infer
how they feel about themselves from their
behaviors or the attributions of others. It was
developed as a research instrument to provide a
quantitative, self-report measure of children's
self concepts. It is intended for use with
children in grades 4 through 12 (ages 8 through 18
years). To insure that the respondents understand
the nature of the task and do not have any
unanswered questions about individual items, the
scale generally should not be administered to more
than 8 or 10 children at a time. (Piers & Harris,
1984, pp. 1)
The scale consists of 80 test items that measure
children's evaluations of their behavior, intellectual and
school status, physical appearance and attributes, anxiety,
popularity, and satisfaction. The test consists of a

series of declarative or unsuccessful functioning in each
of these areas.
68
Because this is a self-report measure, it is
particularly susceptible to conscious and
unconscious distortions. For this reason, it
should not be used as the sole method of
assessing self-concept where this is being used
to influence important decisions about a child.
To guard against overinterpretation only very low
scores (e.g., 16th percentile or below) should be
considered significant and even these should be
interpreted cautiously. Likewise, extremely high
scores may result because of defensiveness or
social desirability.
The test was normed on a sample of 1,183 Pennsylvania
school children in grades 4-12. Experimental variations of
the test have been suggested, such as rewriting items
tapping the affective domain (Michael, Smith, & Michael,
1975) and replacing the dichotomous response format with a
Likert scale (Lynch & Chaves, 1975). These suggestions
have not been empirically explored.
The Piers-Harris is a paper-and-pencil test designed
to be administered individually or in small groups with
verbal instructions from the examiner. The test is self-
paced. When reading the items aloud, the examiner must
wait for all examinees to respond before proceeding to the
next item. When subjects read the items to themselves they
are allowed as much time as needed to make their responses.
For this study the Piers-Harris was read to the examinees
by the school counselor in small groups of 8 or less.
Studies on the reliability of the Piers Harris Scale
have been conducted on a variety of child populations. The

69
internal consistency of the test as a whole is relatively
high. Alpha coefficients of .90-.91 have been reported for
male and female populations and reliabilities of .88-.93
have been cited for males and females using the Kuder-
Richardson formula 20 (Piers & Harris, 1984). Similarly
high internal consistency measures have been found with
special populations, including the learning disabled (Smith
& Rogers, 1978) and native Americans (Lefley, 1974).
Test-retest reliabilities range from .42 to .96 in the
literature with retest intervals of a few weeks to six
months. These reliabilities have been established in
normal populations (e.g., Shavelson & Bolus, 1982),
learning disabled students (Smith, 1978), and in children
from different ethnic backgrounds, including black and
Mexican American children (Platten & Williams, 1979, 1981),
Mexican-American migrant workers (Henggeler & Tavormina,
1979), and American Indian students (Lefley, 1974).
School Behaviors
The students' school behaviors were assessed using the
Teacher Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior
Checklist. This instrument is designed to obtain teachers'
reports of their pupils' problems and adaptive functioning
in a standardized format. It is modeled on the Child
Behavior Checklist, which was developed to obtain parents'
reports of their children's problems and competencies
(Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983).

70
The Child Behavior Checklist is designed to be used
with children 4 through 16 years of age. To reflect sex
and age differences, separate versions of the teacher
profile have been constructed for each sex at ages 6-11 and
12-16.
The percentiles and normalized T scores of the profile
were derived from data provided by 665 teachers in grades 1
through 10 regular classrooms who completed the Teacher
Report Form (TRF) on one randomly selected boy and girl in
their classes. These data were obtained in 1981-82 from
teachers in public and parochial schools in Omaha,
Nebraska, Nashville, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania.
Teachers are asked to rate responses to 118 items
related to behavior problems, academic performance, and
adaptive functioning which includes how hard the child is
working, how appropriately he or she is working, how
appropriately he or she is behaving, how much he or she is
learning, and how happy he or she is.
The validity and reliability of the instrument are
described in the administration manual (Achenbach &
Edelbrock, 1983). Pearson correlations for test-retest
reliability are generally in the high .80s and .90s, with
minimal changes in mean scores over the test-retest
reliability periods. Sensitivity to longer-term change in
treated children has been evident in significant declines

71
in problem scores over periods of 3, 6, and 18 months.
Pearson correlations for agreement between mothers and
fathers and between teachers are in the .60s and .70s.
Discriminate validity has been demonstrated by significant
differences between item and scale scores for
demographically matched referred and nonreferred children.
Numerous studies of clinical, epidemiological, and research
applications of the assessment procedures are underway in
several countries.
The teachers of each of the students in this study
completed the Teacher Report Forms.
Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce
The Children's Beliefs About Parental Separation Scale
(CBAPS) was used to assess children's problematic beliefs
regarding parental divorce.
The Children's Beliefs About Parental Separation
Scale (CBAPS) began as a 52-item projective test
(Kelly & Berg, 1978). It was then revised into a
70-item yes/no objective scale (Kurdek & Berg,
1983). The current (1987) 36-item version was
developed by item analysis of the 70-item version
and by rewriting several items to control for a
yes/no response set. The CBAPS contains six items
for each of six belief domains (subscales) that
were selected on the basis of the problematic
beliefs cited in clinical literature (Gardner,
1976; Kelly & Berg, 1978; Mendell, 1983;
Wallerstein, 1983). (Kurdek & Berg, 1987, p. 712)
The subscales and their clinical significance are
described as:
1. Self-Blame Subscale. Some children may believe
that their parents' separation is due to

72
something they themselves said or did. Such
beliefs can lead to guilt and depression.
2. Peer Ridicule and Avoidance Subscale. Children
may believe that their parents' separation
reflects negatively on themselves. Thus, they
may avoid peers and get upset when peers ask
questions about their parents. This belief may
preclude the child's using friends as a source of
emotional support.
3. Paternal Blame and Maternal Blame Subscales.
Children may believe that one parent is entirely
responsible for the separation. This belief may
contribute to negative interactions with that
parent in the postseparation period.
4. Fear of Abandonment Subscale. Because separation
involves one parent moving out of the house,
extensive contact with that parent may be lost.
Some children may believe that they will
eventually lose contact with the resident parent
as well, which may lead to excessive dependency
and obsessive thoughts and fears about such loss.
5. Hope of Reunification Subscale. Some children may
believe that the parents' reunification will be
hastened by their own activities, for instance by
wishing for it or by getting sick. Such beliefs
can result in children's repeated disappointment.

73
Items on the scale are keyed for problematic
responding. Scores for the six subscales are derived by
summing the number of problematic beliefs within each
subscale (total possible score per subscale = 6). A total
possible score is derived by summing the number of
problematic beliefs across all items (total possible score
= 36). A high score indicates the child has a number of
problematic beliefs which may need to be addressed by a
professional helper.
A study was conducted in 1987 to evaluate psychometric
properties of the CBAPS regarding internal consistency,
factor structure and test-retest reliability. The study
further presented descriptive data on the relationship
between the CBAPS and the child's age and gender, the
length of parental separation, and the family structure
(single parent with mother or father or reconstituted
family with stepmother or stepfather). To assess
concurrent validity, CBAPS scores were related to
multiscore, multivariable assessments of children's
adjustment that included self-report measures of self-
concept, control beliefs, social support, anxiety, and
interpersonal problem-solving as well as parent and teacher
ratings of internalizing and externalizing behavior
problems.
The subjects of this latter study were 170 children
(84 boys, 86 girls; mean age = 11.06 years, SD = 2.64

74
years) with divorced parents. The age range of the sample
was 6-17. Most of the children (56%) lived with single
mothers; 24% with remarried mothers; 12% with single
fathers; and 3% with other (e.g., grandmother, aunt).
Subjects were recruited from court records of
dissolutions of marriage in Montgomery County, Ohio (1984),
grades 3-6 of a public elementary school, and grades 7-9 of
a junior high school in the same school district
(Montgomery County). Despite the nonclinical nature of the
sample, an appreciable number of the children held
problematic beliefs regarding their parents' divorce. Most
of the item total correlations were moderately high (range
= .15-.65; M = .46) and the alphas were somewhat higher
(range = .54-.78, M = .70). Cronbach's alpha for the total
score (M = 8.20, SD = 4.98) was .80.
A principal components analysis with varimax rotation
was conducted to further examine internal consistency. Six
factors were requested to check for empirical support for
the priori construction of the six subscales. These
factors had eigenvalues ranging from 1.44 to 5.42 and
accounted for 50% of the total variance. The relative
independence of the subscales was further confirmed by
computing Pearson correlations among the six subscales.
These ranged from .06 to .46 with a mean correlation of
.18. Self-blame factors did not emerge as a separate

75
factor but the subscale was retained in further analysis
because the items in this subscale did cluster together.
Test-retest (9 week) data were collected from the 30
junior high school sample (mean age 12.69 years). For the
Peer Ridicule and Avoidance, Hope of Reunification, Fear of
Abandonment, Maternal Blame, Paternal Blame, and Self Blame
subscales, the respective Pearson correlations were (.41,
.51, .52, .51, .72, and .43 (p < .01). The correlation for
the total scale was .65 (p < .01).
Pearson correlations were computed between the seven
scores (total score and six subscales) and age, gender, and
length of parental separation. Given the number of
correlations computed the Type I error rate per test was
set at .002 (alpha of .05 divided by the number of
significance tests). Using this criterion, only one
coefficient was significant. The number of Hope for
Reunification beliefs was negatively related to age r = -
.48.
The CBAPS is a paper-and pencil test designed to be
administered individually or in small groups with verbal
instruction from the examiner. It is self-paced, therefore
the examiner must wait for all examinees to respond before
proceeding to the next item. For this study the CBAPS was
read to the examinees by the school counselor in small
groups of 8 or less.

76
Analysis of Data
Hypotheses one through five of this study were
analyzed by an analysis of variance using the statistical
package GLM procedure to assess significant differences in
the pretest and posttest mean total scores. A three-way
factoral ANOVA (group by gender by length of time since
divorce) with repeated measures was conducted to determine
if significant differences existed between the experimental
and control groups for gender and length of time since
divorce on the dependent variables of problematic beliefs,
school behaviors, and self-concept. The alpha levels were
set at .05.

CHAPTER IV
RESULTS
The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of
a small group intervention on elementary school children in
grades 4 and 5 whose parents were divorced. The
independent variables included student groups (small group
counseling or no counseling), student gender, and length of
time since their parents' divorce.
The dependent variables were measured using the
Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce Scale (1987), the
Teacher's Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior
Checklist (1983), and the Piers-Harris Children's Self-
Concept Scale (1984).
The study included 88 fourth- and fifth-grade children
from six different Florida schools. There were 45
experimental program participants and 43 control
participants. Criteria for inclusion in the program
included student (a) participants' parents were divorced,
(b) participants lived with their mothers only, (c)
participants were not concurrently receiving counseling
while participating in the study, and (d) participants were
not currently enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a
special education program.
77

78
Letters describing the study were sent to the parents
of fourth- and fifth-grade children in all 6 participating
schools whose parents were divorced. Ninety-six of the
returned letters were from students meeting the criteria
for participation in the study. All 96 students
participated in the first two weeks of the study. Eight of
the student participants withdrew from school during the
first two weeks of the study leaving a final number of
participants at 88 who completed the study.
The participants included 52 females and 36 males: 32
females' parents had been divorced more than 2 years, 20
females' parents had been divorced 2 years or less; 15
males' parents had been divorced more than 2 years, and 21
males' parents had been divorced less than 2 years.
Random within-school division of the total participant
pool yielded group intervention (experimental, E; n=45) and
no group intervention (Control, C; n=43) groups matched for
gender and length of time since their parents' divorce
(Table 1).
The experimental and control groups had six mixed
gender and mixed length of time since divorce subgroups.
The group's participants met in their home schools for
seven weekly, 60-minute sessions during the school day.
The group counseling intervention was led by the

79
Table 1
Participant Characteristics by Gender and Length of Time
Since Parents1 Divorce
Experimental
Control
-2 years +2 years
-2 years
+2
years
MALES 10 7
11
8
FEMALES 12 16
8
16
Total Experimental =45
Total Control
= 43
Total N = 88
Participating Elementary Schools
Name of School
City
County
Idylwild Elementary School
Interlachen Elementary School
Lincoln Elementary School
Melrose Elementary School
Padgett Elementary School
P. K. Yonge Elementary School
Gainesville, FL
Interlachen, FL
Lakeland, FL
Melrose, FL
Lakeland, FL
Gainesville, FL
Alachua
Putnam
Polk
Putnam
Polk
Alachua

80
previously, specially trained guidance counselor at each of
the six participating schools.
Pretesting on all measures for all participants was
completed approximately one week before the intervention
was initiated. Testing with children was done in small
groups of 6-8 with experimental and control participants
being tested separately. Posttesting on all measures for
all participants was completed using the same procedures
one week after the intervention ended.
The results of data analyses are presented in this
chapter including the patterns and trends found in the
data.
Research Hypotheses
Research Hypothesis One
Hypothesis one addressed whether there would be
significant differences between the experimental and
control group students' mean total scores on the Children's
Beliefs About Parental Divorce Scale (CBAPDS). Table 2
includes pretest and posttest group means, standard
deviations, and univariate group x time interactions for
the CBAPDS.
Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects
yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 0.92 PR > 0.3397 indicating no
significant differences by group on the CBAPDS mean total
scores. Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects
effects revealed significance in the interaction of time by

81
group (Table 3). The experimental groups posttest total
mean score was lower than the pretest total mean score.
The control group's posttest total mean score was higher
than the pretest total mean score.
A three-way factoral ANOVA (group x sex x length of
time since divorce) with repeated measures was conducted
for Hypothesis One (Table 4).
Comparison of mean CBAPDS scores at pretest for
experimental (M=7.73, SD=4.65) and control (M=7.37,
SD=4.19) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1.80) of 0.56,
PR>0.4575. There were no significant group differences at
pretest on CBAPDS total scores.
Comparison of mean CBAPDS scores at posttest for
experimental (M=5.86, SD=4.02) and control (M=8.51,
SD=4.98) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 6.00,
PR>0.0165. The experimental group scored significantly (at
the .05 level) lower than the control group. A lower score
on the scale indicates a decrease in problematic beliefs
regarding parental divorce.
The statistical data for total mean scores by group on
the CBAPDS yielded a significant difference and null
hypothesis one is thus rejected at the .05 level of
significance (Figure 1).

82
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
(C=8.51)
Pretest
Posttest
Figure 1. Total mean scores on the Children's Beliefs
About Parental Divorce Scale.

83
Table 2
Deviations.
and Univariate Group
X Time Interactions for
the CBAPDS
Scores
E(n=45) C(n
¡=43)
Group
x Time
Pre Post Pre
Post
F
PR>F
CBAPDS
(df=l,80)
Mean
7.73 5.86 7.37
8.
51
12.70
0.0006*
S.D.
(4.65) (4.02) (4.19)
(4.
98)
Note: E=experimental group; C=control
group
â– ;
CBAPDS=Children's Beliefs
About
Parental Divorce
Scale
Table 3
Univariate
Tests of Hvoothesis for Within Subjects
Effects
for the CBAPDS
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
SS
F
PR>F
CBAPDS
Time
1
1.80
0.23
0.6334
Time*Group
1 100.24
12.70
0.0006*
Time*Gender
1
15 61
1.98
0.1635
Time*Group*Gender
1
2.36
0.30
0.5857
Time*Divorce
1
0.36
0.05
0.8294
Time*Group*Divorce
1
13.78
1.75
0.1901
Time*Gender*Divorce
1
0.76
0.10
0.7575
Time*Group*Gender
*Divorce
1
0.62
0.08
0.7796
Note. Time=pretest and posttest;
Group=experimental and control;
Gender=male and female;
Divorce=+2 years and -2 years

84
Table 4
Analysis of Variance With Repeated Measures for CBAPDS by
Group, Gender, and Divorce
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
SS
F
PR>F
CBAPDS
Group
1
10.80
0.56
0.4575
(Pretest)
Gender
1
9.29
0.48
0.4907
Group*Gender
1
0.50
0.03
0.8719
Divorce
1
47.99
2.48
0.1196
Group*Divorce
1
12.02
0.62
0.4333
Gender*Divorce
1
0.96
0.05
0.8240
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
44.77
2.31
0.1325
CBAPDS
Group
1
118.20
6.00
0.0165*
(Posttest)
Gender
1
74.60
3.79
0.0551
Group*Gender
1
2.13
0.11
0.7426
Divorce
1
36.83
1.87
0.1753
Group*Divorce
1
3.18
0.16
0.6889
Gender*Divorce
1
0.06
0.00
0.9550
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
31.08
1.58
0.2126
Research Hypothesis Two
Hypothesis two addressed whether there would be
significant differences between the experimental and
control group students' mean total scores on the Teachers'
Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist
(TRFACBC). Table 5 includes pretest and posttest group
means, standard deviations and univariate group x time
interactions for the TRFACBC.

85
Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects
yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 1.67 PR > 0.1060 indicating no
significant differences by group on the TRFACBC.
Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects effects
did not reveal significance in the interaction of time by
group (Table 6).
A three-way factoral ANOVA (group x gender x length of
time since divorce) with repeated measures was conducted
for Hypothesis 2 (Table 7).
Comparison of mean TRFACBC scores at pretest for
experimental (M=26.93, SD=28.32) and control (M=40.72,
SD=37.60) yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 3.21, PR>0.0769.
There were no significant group differences at pretest on
the TRFACBC total scores.
Comparison of mean TRFACBC scores at posttest for
experimental (M=28.28, SD=28.04) and control (M=37.90,
SD=31.25) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 1.79,
PR>0.1847. There were no significant group differences at
posttest on TRFACBC total scores.
The statistical data for total mean scores by group on
the TRFACBC were not significant and null hypothesis two is
not rejected.

86
Table 5
Group Pretest (Pre) and Posttest (Post) Means. Standard
Deviations, and Univariate Group X Time Interactions for
the TRFACBC
Scores
Groups
E(n=45) C(n=43) Group x Time
Pre Post Pre Post F PR>F
TRFACBC
(df=l,80)
Mean 26.93 28.28 40.72 37.90 1.06 0.3052
S.D. (28.32) (28.04) (37.60) (31.25)
Note: E=experimental group; C=control group;
TRFACBC= Teachers Report Form of the Achenbach Child
Behavior Checklist
Table 6
Univariate Tests of Hypothesis for Within Subjects Effects
for the TRFACBC
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
ss
F
PR>F
TRFACBC
Time
1
144.35
1.07
0.3043
(df 1,80)
Time*Group
1
143.80
1.06
0.3052
Time*Gender
1
1009.83
7.48
0.0077*
Time*Group*Gender
1
40.08
0.30
0.5874
Time*Divorce
1
32.55
0.24
0.6248
Time*Group*Divorce
1
323.75
2.40
0.1255
Time*Gender*Divorce
Time*Group*Gender
1
99.52
0.74
0.3932
*Divorce
1
80.20
0.59
0.4432
Note. Time=pretest and posttest;
Group=experimental and control;
Gender=male and female;
Divorce=+2 years and -2 years

87
Table 7
Group. Gender, and Divorce
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
SS
F
PR>F
TRFACBC
Group
1
3099.63
3.21
0.0769
(Pretest)
Gender
1
16737.68
17.34
0.0001*
Group*Gender
1
118.17
0.12
0.7273
Divorce
1
504.97
0.52
0.4716
Group*Divorce
1
130.88
0.14
0.7137
Gender*Divorce
1
403.37
0.42
0.5198
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
18.29
0.02
0.8908
TRFACBC
Group
1
1498.86
1.79
0.1847
(Posttest)
Gender
1
7129.01
8.51
0.0046*
Group*Gender
1
3.67
0.00
0.9473
Divorce
1
207.44
0.25
0.6200
Group*Divorce
1
1360.63
1.62
0.2061
Gender*Divorce
1
35.71
0.04
0.8369
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
287.06
0.34
0.5599
Research Hypotheses Three
Hypothesis three addressed whether there were
significant differences between the experimental and control
group students' mean total scores on the Piers-Harris
Children's Self-Concept Scale (PHCSCS). Table 8 includes
pretest and posttest group means, standard deviations, and
univariate group x time interactions for the PHCSCS.
Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects
yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 0.51 PR > F 0.4787 indicating

88
no significant differences by group on the PHCSCS.
Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects effects
revealed significance in the interaction of time by group
(Table 9). The experimental groups posttest total mean
score was higher than the pretest total mean score. The
control group posttest total mean score was higher than the
pretest total mean score.
A three-way factora1 ANOVA (group x gender x divorce)
with repeated measures was conducted for Hypothesis Three
(Table 10).
Comparison of mean PHCSCS scores at pretest for
experimental (M=51.48, SD=16.16) and control (M=54.55,
SD=12.58) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 1.87,
PR>0.1753. there were no significant differences at
pretest on the PHCSCS total scores.
Comparison of mean PHCSCS scores at posttest for
experimental (M=58.15, SD=14.89) and control (M=56.74,
SD=13.79) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 0.00,
PR>0.9656. There were no significant differences at
posttest on the PHCSCS total scores.
The statistical data for total mean scores by group on
the PHCSCS were not significant and null hypothesis three
is not rejected.

89
Table 8
Deviations.
and Univariate Grouo
X '
rime Interactions for
the PHCSCS
Scores
E(n=45) C(n=43)
Group
x Time
Pre Post Pre
Post
F
PR>F
PHCSCS
(df=l,80)
Mean
51.48 58.15 54.
55
56.74
4.32
0.0408*
S.D.
(16.16) (14.89) (12.
58)
(13.79)
Note: E=experimental group; C=control group;
PHCSCS=Piers Harris Children
•s Self-Concept
Scale
Table 9
Univariate
Tests of Hvoothesis for Within Subiects
Effects
for the PHCSCS
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
SS
F
PR>F
PHCSCS
Time
1
796.32
16.28
0.0001*
(df 1,80)
Time*Group
1
211.44
4.32
0.0408*
Time*Gender
1
126.36
2.58
0.1120
Time*Group*Gender
1
25.73
0.53
0.4704
Time*Divorce
1
25.94
0.53
0.4686
Time*Group*Divorce
1
0.48
0.01
0.9210
Time*Gender*Divorce
1
116.36
2.38
0.1270
Time*Group*Gender
*Divorce
1
4.92
0.10
0.7519
Note. Time=pretest and posttest;
Group=experimental and control;
Gender=male and female;
Divorce=+2 years and -2 years

90
Table 10
Group. Gender, and Divorce
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
SS
F
PR>F
PHCSCS
Group
1
397.77
1.87
0.1753
(Pretest)
Gender
1
147.14
0.69
0.4081
Group*Gender
1
437.96
2.06
0.1552
Divorce
1
4.92
0.02
0.8795
Group*Divorce
1
50.17
0.24
0.6285
Gender*Divorce
1
235.24
1.11
0.2962
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
92.74
0.44
0.5110
PHCSCS
Group
1
0.38
0.00
0.9656
(Posttest)
Gender
1
785.54
3.84
0.0536
Group*Gender
1
189.13
0.92
0.3394
Divorce
1
99.76
0.43
0.5122
Group*Divorce
1
65.09
0.32
0.5745
Gender*Divorce
1
0.00
0.00
0.9954
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
42.14
0.21
0.6513
Research Hypothesis Four
Hypothesis four addressed whether the length of time
since the parent's divorce would have a significant impact
on the effectiveness of the intervention by group.
Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects for
group by divorce interactions were not significant for any
of the dependent variables. Univariate tests of hypotheses
for within subjects effects for the interaction of time by
group by divorce were not significant (Tables 3, 6, and 9).

91
The ANOVAs for group by divorce interactions (Tables
4, 7, and 10) were not significant for any of the dependent
variables.
The statistical data for group by divorce total mean
scores were not significant and null hypothesis four is not
rejected.
Research Hypothesis Five
Hypothesis five addressed whether the gender of the
child would have a significant impact on the effectiveness
of the intervention by group.
Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects for
group by gender interactions were not significant for any
of the dependent variables. Univariate tests of hypotheses
for within subjects effects for the interaction of time by
group by gender were not significant (Tables 3, 6, and 9)
for any of the dependent variables.
The ANOVAs for group by gender interactions (Tables 4,
7, and 10) were not significant for any of the dependent
variables.
The statistical data for group by gender total mean
scores were not significant and null hypothesis five is not
rejected.

CHAPTER V
DISCUSSION
The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of
a small group intervention on elementary school children in
grades 4 and 5 whose parents were divorced. The dependent
variables measured were children's beliefs about parental
divorce, school behaviors and self-concepts using the
Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce Scale (1987), the
Teachers Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior
Checklist (1983) and the Piers-Harris Children's Self
Concept scale (1984), respectively. The independent
variables included student groups, student gender, and time
since their parents' divorce.
Results of analyses yielded significant differences in
total mean scores by group for one of the three dependent
variables. This difference occurred on the group posttest
total mean scores on the Children's Beliefs About Parental
Divorce Scale. Differences on total mean scores by group
for divorce and gender were not significant for any of the
dependent variables.
The remainder of this chapter includes the limitations
of this study, evaluation of the research hypotheses,
92

93
discussion and implications, and recommendations for
further study.
Limitations
The limitations of this study are primarily in regard
to the generalizability of the results to other elementary
school student populations. The targeted population was
elementary school children in grades 4 and 5 (a) whose
parents were divorced, (b) lived with their mother only,
(c) were not concurrently receiving additional counseling
while participating in this study, and (d) were not
presently enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a
special education program. All students who responded to
the invitation to participate in the study and met the
above criterion were included in the study. The decision
to include all eligible respondents was necessitated by
school authorities who insisted on strong service needs
being met and a practical orientation of these services.
The 96 students in the study were, therefore, the entire
population of respondents meeting the study criteria in
these six schools rather than a sample of a targeted
population.
Ideally, an egual number of males and females within
each divorce source (+2 years, -2 years) for both groups
was desired. There were approximately equal correspondent
cells (i.e., females, +2(E) to females, +2(C); females,
-2(E) to females, -2(C), and males, +2(E) to males +2(C);

94
males -2(E) to males -2(C)). Overall, there were 16 more
female than male participants and 17 more students from the
+2 divorce source than the -2 divorce source, all of which
were females.
The participants in this study constituted a
relatively small group of fourth and fifth grade children
whose parents were divorced. Although a more
geographically even representation was anticipated, four of
the six schools participating in the study were located in
rural communities. Representation by race and income level
were not taken into consideration or used as variables in
the analysis.
The implications of these limitations is the obvious
difficulty in generalizing the results of this study to all
4th and 5th grade children whose parents are divorced and
who meet the criterion set for this study. However, this
study does reflect favorably upon the need for more data
regarding controlled studies of preventive and
developmental interventions and interventions that include
children as sources of information about their own
reactions to parental divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
An additional methodological weakness was that,
although participants were nested in different schools,
school was not taken into account as a variable in this
analysis.

95
A final methodological limitation of the study lies in
the response bias or expectancy effects that may have
occurred from the study's reliance on adjustment data
(i.e., teachers, counselors, and children) who were aware
of children's group status. Such ratings are surely
relative to a comprehensive program evaluation, but they
are susceptible to human bias.
The implication of these limitations is that it is
difficult to generalize the results of this study to all
children who meet the criterion set for participation in
this study without regard for geographic location, race,
and socioeconomic variables. Random placement of the
participants in groups lends support for generalizability
of the findings.
Evaluation of Research Hypotheses
Research Hypothesis One
Hypothesis one addressed whether there were
significant differences between the experimental and
control group students' mean total scores on the Children's
Beliefs About Parental Divorce Scale (CBAPDS). Indicated
in the results was that a significant difference by group
on the CBAPDS mean total scores did exist. The
experimental group scored significantly lower than the
control group on the posttest mean total scores. A lowered
score indicates a reduction in problematic beliefs about
parental divorce.

96
These results are consistent with other studies using
preventive interventions for assisting children with their
adjustment to divorce (Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985; Alpert-
Gillis et al., 1989). These previously conducted studies
also reported that experimental group children had
significantly fewer negative perceptions and fewer
problematic beliefs about divorce than the control group
children at posttest.
Research Hypothesis Two
Hypothesis two addressed whether there were
significant differences between the experimental and
control group students' mean total scores on the Teacher's
Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist
(TRFACBC).
A review of the results revealed no significant
differences by group on the TRFACBC mean total scores.
Teachers did not report significant differences in
children's school behaviors. These results are consistent
with other studies using preventive interventions for
assisting children with their adjustment to divorce
(Alpert-Gillis et al., 1989; Cantor, 1977; Stolberg &
Garrison, 1985). These structured intervention programs,
as well as the present study, emphasized skill building and
did not directly address classroom problem behaviors. This
may highlight a need for intervention changes designed to

97
enhance generalization of positive outcomes to the
classroom.
However, the results of this present study are not
supported by other studies using preventive interventions
for assisting children with their adjustment to divorce
(Felner, Norton, Cowen, & Farber, 1981; Guerney & Jordan,
1979; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985). These previously
conducted studies all reported significant gains in
children's school behaviors, and did not directly address
classroom problem behaviors.
Although total mean scores yielded by gender did not
determine significance by the testing of the hypotheses of
this study, significances by gender were revealed. Testing
of the hypotheses for between subjects effects by gender
revealed an ANOVA F (1,80) 13.71 PR > F 0.0004. There was
a difference in males and females scores but they were not
consistent from pretest to posttest. Males posttest scores
were lowered and females were increased, and the
differences in means by gender did grow closer.
Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects
effects revealed an ANOVA F (1,80) 7.48 PR > 0.0077 for the
time by gender interaction. Females posttest scores
increased and males posttest scores decreased.
Pretest scores by gender revealed an ANOVA F (1,80)
17.34 PR >0.0001. Females pretest scores were
significantly lower than males. Posttest scores by gender

98
revealed an ANOVA F(l,80) 8.51 PR > 0.0046. Females
posttest scores were significantly lower than males.
Caution should be used in interpreting these results.
The rate of change for males and females was different, but
this may be due in part to the initial gender differences.
Research Hypothesis Three
Hypothesis three addressed whether there were
significant differences between the experimental and
control group students1 mean total scores on the Piers-
Harris Children's Self Concept Scale (PHCSCS).
The results of testing indicated no significant
differences by group on the PHCSCS. Children did not
report significant gains in self-concept following the
intervention. Other studies using preventive interventions
for assisting children with their adjustment to divorce
(Alpert-Gillis et al, 1989; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985)
reported similar results in regard to self-concept and
self-confidence. Experimental children in these previously
conducted studies did not indicate significant gains in
self-concept. However, Stolberg and Garrison (1985)
reported significant gains in self-concept for experimental
children.
Additional data gathered in the present study were
analyzed with a two-way factoral ANOVA with repeated
measures. The purpose of conducting the ANOVA was to
determine the extent to which the variance in group total

99
mean scores could be attributed to gender and divorce.
There were no significant differences indicated for the
control group on gender or divorce or their interaction
effects. There was a significant time effect indicated for
the experimental group. Significance was revealed for the
experimental group posttest scores by gender. Females
scored higher than males at posttest. Caution should be
exercised in interpreting these scores because females in
this study began the study with higher scores. Caution
should further be exercised in interpreting these scores
since the experimental group started with a lower total
mean score than did the control group. The pretest and
posttest scores were not significantly different by group.
The rate of change was different, but some of the change
may be due to the initial differences.
Research Hypothesis Four
Hypothesis four addressed whether the length of time
since the parents divorce had a significant impact on the
effectiveness of the intervention by group.
The results of the data analyses did not reveal
significant difference for group by divorce mean total
scores on the dependent variables of problematic beliefs
about parental divorce, self-concept, or school behaviors.
This researcher was unable to locate additional
preventive interventions that controlled for the variable
of divorce but researchers in similar studies have reported

100
no significant differences between groups in time since
parental separation support this study's findings (Alpert-
Gillis et al., 1989; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985; Stolberg
& Garrison, 1985). Length of time since parental divorce
does not appear to have an impact on children's adjustment
to divorce when measured by standardized instruments.
Research Hypothesis Five
Hypothesis five addressed whether gender of the child
had a significant impact on the effectiveness of the
intervention.
The results indicated that there were no significant
differences for group by gender mean total scores on the
dependent variables of problematic beliefs about parental
divorce, self-concept, or school behaviors.
The results of data analysis did reveal some
interesting trends on the school behaviors checklist.
Males pretest and posttest mean total scores were higher
than females within all sources (group, gender, and
divorce) and their interactions. At posttest, males scored
lower within all but one source. Males in the experimental
group whose parents were divorced two years or less scored
higher on the posttest by 2.70 points. Females scored
higher on all posttest means within all sources and source
interactions. A higher score indicates an increase in
disruptive behaviors in school.

101
Previously conducted studies that used standardized
measures for the same dependent variables in this study
reported similar results (Alpert & Gillis et al., 1989;
Hodges & Bloom, 1984; Kurdek & Siesky, 1980; Pedro-Carroll
& Cowen, 1985).
Discussion. Implications, and Recommendations
This study's main goal was to assess the impact of a
school-based, preventive intervention program for children
of divorce. The outcome was assessed from teacher's and
children's perspectives. From these findings, there appear
to be several implications for theory, training, practice,
and research.
The goal of this intervention was to assist children
with their adjustment to parental divorce by reducing
problematic beliefs regarding the divorce. Among others,
the intervention used role playing activities to provide
children with the opportunity to learn additional coping
strategies for assisting them in accepting their new family
situations and for increasing the psychological distance
between their parents' problems and their problems.
Experimental children in this study made significantly
greater adjustment in reducing problematic beliefs about
divorce than did the control children. Perhaps the success
indicated by the intervention's assessment of problematic
beliefs can be attributed to the specific program
components. The active elements of this intervention were

102
group discussion and role plays that addressed the same
problematic beliefs measured by the Children's Beliefs
About Parental Divorce. This researcher's assessment of
children's beliefs regarding parental divorce provides
additional support to the need for providing intervention
strategies designed to assist children in revising
problematic beliefs (Bernard & Joyce, 1984; Ellis &
Bernard, 1983; Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
Although the differences in posttest results for the
self-concept and school behaviors were not significant,
experimental children were able to clarify misconceptions
about divorce and reduce their sense of responsibility
regarding the divorce. Future interventions might also
include additional informal evaluations regarding
problematic beliefs, school behaviors, and self-concept
from parents, teachers, counselors, and students.
This study may also indicate that a 7-week program
that focused specifically on problematic beliefs associated
with divorce is not sufficient for producing changes on
other dimensions such as school behaviors and self-
concepts. It might be beneficial to consider including
other relevant skill components (i.e., prosocial skills) to
bridge the outcome from the counseling office to the
classroom.
Children comprehend the meaning of divorce within the
context of their cognitive stage of development. The

103
children of this study were 9- and 10-year-olds, and in the
concrete operational stage of development, according to
Piaget's theory. Children in this stage of development are
able to internalize actions and to think. They are able to
problem solve and become quite adept at this in the later
part of this stage (approximately 11 years). Children in
this stage are able to grasp the concept of divorce and
better understand its implications for them and their
family members. The intervention used in this study was
designed with careful consideration of the developmental
level of the children with whom it was used.
The counselors who participated in this study and
those that evaluated the intervention all expressed their
frustration with the lack of effective interventions and
information available for assisting children with
adjustment to divorce. A supportive environment that
assists children with identifying, expressing, and dealing
with feelings does not in itself produce problem solving
skills and other skills necessary for adjustment to new
life situations. Training programs to assist counselors in
learning and increasing skills in the identification of the
special needs of children of divorce and in the appropriate
skills to teach children for their successful adjustment to
divorce are needed.
Most preventive type models for children of divorce do
not assume that the children have adjustment problems.

104
Instead these programs assume that life crises require
problem solving and coping skills and often have an impact
on children's overall development. It is the opinion of
this researcher that such models should emphasize the
prevention of problems by teaching and facilitating problem
solving and coping skills. Such strategies would also be
meaningful to the extent that they could be used in other
settings (i.e., classroom, home) and perhaps achieve
similar results. Effective preventive programs should also
be designed to place emphasis on developmental and
sociocultural issues in program content and method.
Long-term changes in the nature of children's
adjustment to divorce should also be assessed by future
researchers. At present, longitudinal information on the
effects of divorce and of children's adjustment to divorce
are limited. If professionals are to develop supportive,
constructive, and long-lasting results from the
interventions implemented and aimed at children adjusting
to divorce, it is imperative that future researchers
investigate the long-term effects of divorce and the
ultimate personal adjustment of the children it touches.
In Conclusion
The purpose of this study was to determine the impact
of a group intervention on elementary school children in
grades 4 and 5 whose parents were divorced. The dependent
variables of self-concept, school behaviors, and

105
problematic beliefs about parental divorce were measured
using the Piers Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, The
Teacher's Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior
Checklist, and the Children's Beliefs About Parental
Divorce Scale. The independent variables included group,
gender, and length of time since the parents' divorce.
The results of the study indicated that children in
the structured intervention program reported more positive
changes in their problematic beliefs regarding parental
divorce. Teachers did not report significant group gains
in the improvement of problem school behaviors for the
experimental group or the control group. Experimental and
control children also failed to indicate gains in self-
concept following the 7-week program.
Divorce is a stressful event resulting in a painful
process of adjustment and imposes burdensome demands on
those who are involved. Additional research is needed to
explore the effectiveness of prevention-oriented programs
for assisting children with their adjustment to parental
divorce. Specifically, this researcher is of the opinion
that such prevention programs should pinpoint the
contribution of specific program components. Models should
be developed and extended to children of all ages.
Additionally, programs need to be developed with content
and methods that also address both developmental and
sociocultural issues.

106
The results of this study suggest support for the view
that a focused, time-limited, school-based group
intervention with a specific program component (children's
problematic beliefs regarding divorce) can effectively
assist children with their adjustment to divorce. The
results also suggest that parental divorce does not
necessitate that maladjustment for children of divorce is
inevitable. The researcher of this study suggests that
children's adjustment to divorce can be moderated or
contained by providing support and problem-solving skills
that are relevant to divorce adjustment.

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divorce (pp. 71-81). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Stolberg, A. L., Cullen, P. M., & Garrison, K. M. (1982).
The divorce adjustment project: Preventive
programming for children of divorce. Journal of
Preventive Psychiatry. 1, 365-368.
Stolberg, A. L., & Garrison, K. M. (1985). Evaluating a
primary prevention program for children of divorce:
The divorce adjustment project. American Journal of
Community Psychology. 13.(2), 111-124.
Tessman, L. H. (1978). Children of parting parents. New
York: Aronson.
Tooley, K. (1976). Antisocial behavior and social
alienation post-divorce: The "man of the house" and
his mother. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 46,
33-42.

114
United States Bureau of the Census. (1987). Current
population reports (Series P-20, no. 417).
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Wallerstein, J. S. (1983). Children of divorce: The
psychological tasks of the child. American Journal of
Orthopsychiatry. 53., 230-243.
Wallerstein, J. S., & Blakeslee, S. (1989). Second
chances. New York: Ticknor and Fields.
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1974). The effects of
parental divorce: The adolescent experience. In E.
J. Anthony & C. Koupernik (Eds.), The child is his
family (Vol. 3) (pp. 53-66). New York: Wiley.
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1975). The effects of
parental divorce: Experiences of the preschool child.
Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry.
14, 600-616.
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1976). The effects of
parental divorce experiences of the child in later
latency. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 46.
256-269.
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1980). Surviving the
breakup: How children and parents cope with divorce.
New York: Basic Books.
Walsh, H. M. (1980). Introducing the young child to the
school world. New York: Macmillan.
Weiss, R. S. (1979). Growing up a little faster: The
experience of growing up in a single-parent household.
Journal of Social Issues. 35, 97-111.
Young, E., & Parish, T. (1979). Impact of father absence
during childhood on the psychological adjustment of
college females. The Journal of Psychology. 102. 143-
155.

APPENDIX A
REVIEW AND EVALUATION MEMORANDUM
AND EVALUATION FORM

To:
From: April M. Sameck, Author of K.I.D.S.
Doctoral Candidate, Counselor Education,
College of Education, University of Florida
Re: Review and Evaluation of the K.I.D.S. Small-Group
Intervention
Thank you for agreeing to review and evaluate the
K.I.D.S. small-group intervention.
I intend to use this program in my doctoral research.
The purpose of my study is to assess the impact of this
small group intervention on elementary school children in
grades 4 and 5. Specifically, it will evaluate the effect
of the intervention in three areas: (a) children's
problematic beliefs regarding their parents' divorce, (b)
children's self-concepts, and (c) children's school
behaviors.
I believe it will be very helpful to me as the
researcher, and to the children that will be involved in
this study, to receive your evaluation and comments
regarding the intervention.
Please complete the attached evaluation form and
return it and the written intervention to me by March 20,
1990. You may write comments, corrections, additions, etc.
on the written intervention also.
I appreciate your assistance very much and will send
you a copy of the intervention when it is in its final
revision, if you indicate an interest on your evaluation
form.
AMS/lrc
Enclosures
116

117
K.I.D.S. (Kids In Divorced Evaluation Form
Personal information regarding evaluator:
1. Highest degree held:
2. Male/Female
3. School Counselor
Mental Health Counselor
Other (specify)
4.Years experience counseling children
Yes No
1.
Do you find the directions for the counselor in this
intervention to be:
Specific
Directive
Comments:
2. Do you find the information presented in the Yes No
intervention to be age-appropriate for 4th and 5th
grade students?
Comments:
3. Do you find the activities presented in the Yes No
intervention to be age appropriate for 4th and 5th
grade students?
Comments:

Yes
No
Do you find the role plays to coordinate with the
problematic belief that they have been matched with
in the intervention? (i.e., Do the role plays under
Self-Blame address Self-Blame issues?)
Comments:
As a whole, are the problematic beliefs addressed in Yes No
this intervention problems children of divorce often
discuss with you as a counselor?
Specifically. Self Blame
Paternal Blame
Maternal Blame
Hope of Reunification
Fear of Abandonment
Peer Ridicule and Avoidance
Do you think you would like to use this intervention Yes No
in your work with children?
Would you like to receive a copy of this intervention Yes No
when it is in its final revision?
Please make any additional comments, constructive criticisms,
suggestions, etc.
April M. Sameck
911 N.W. 42nd Terrace
Gainesville, FL 32605

APPENDIX B
LETTER OF INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE
IN THE STUDY

Date
University of Florida
Department of Counselor Education
1215 Norman Hall
Gainesville, FL 32611
Dear Parent:
We have been given permission to conduct a study in
your child's school. The purpose of this study is to
investigate the effectiveness of a structured, small group
counseling intervention in assisting children in grades 4
and 5 in their adjustment to their parent's divorce.
Results of this study should provide information regarding
the usefulness of such interventions in schools.
If your child meets the following gualifications, we
would appreciate your permission for him/her to participate
in this study: (1) parents are divorced, (2) child lives
with his/her mother only, (3) child is not presently
receiving counseling, and (4) child is not presently
enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a special
education program.
Your child would be assigned to one of two groups. In
the first group, the children will participate in a small
group counseling intervention that will meet once a week
for 60 minutes for seven consecutive weeks. These meetings
will take place at school and will be scheduled so that
they do not interfere with your child's academic
responsibilities. The second group will not participate in
the small group counseling intervention. All of the
children in both groups will be given three instruments to
measure self-concept, school behaviors, and problematic
beliefs related to divorce. These instruments will be
given before and after the 7 week counseling sessions have
been administered.
During the intervention period, students participating
in the small group counseling sessions will participate in
counselor led activities that will include: group
120

121
discussion, role plays, and individual expressions of
thoughts and feelings regarding their parents' divorce.
Children placed in the group without participation in
the counseling group will have the opportunity to
participate in a similar group at a later date. If your
child is placed in this group, you will be notified when
the next counseling group will meet.
We will carry out this study only after you have given
us your written permission. Your child may withdraw from
the study at any time. All information gathered will be
confidential within legal limits. Participation or non¬
participation in a counseling group will not affect your
child's grades.
Your child's participation is completely voluntary and
no monetary compensation for participation in the project
will be available. Afterwards, subjects and their parents
will receive information regarding the results of this
study, if requested.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of
the procedures to be used during the course of this
research project, you may contact me, April M. Sameck, at
(904) 373-7983 or 377-3230.
Sincerely,
April M. Sameck, Ed.S.
Doctoral Candidate
Counselor Education
AMS/lrc

122
I have read and I understand the procedures described on
the attached letter. I agree to allow my child
to participate in the study and I
have received a copy of the description of the study.
Child's Name
Age Birthdate
Teacher's Name
Parent/Guardian Signature
Date
*2nd Parent/Witness Date
(if he/she wishes)
Length of time since parent's
separation or divorce
/
Years
Months
Is your child presently receiving
any counseling?
/
Yes
No
Who does vour child live with?
Please check the parent that has primary
residential custody or with whom the
child lives with most of the time.
/
Mother
Father
Is there a legal joint custody agreement?
/
Yes
No
*When the divorced parents have joint custody, permission
of both parents is required for your child to participate
in this study.
Please return this questionnaire in an envelope to your
child's classroom teacher by , 1990.
April M. Sameck
911 N.W. 42 Terrace
Gainesville, FL 32605

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
April M. Sameck was born on January 3, 1947, in West
Palm Beach, Florida. She is the oldest of three children
born to Charles and Joan Baur.
In 1964, she graduated from Forest Hill High School in
West Palm Beach, Florida. She attended the University of
Florida and graduated in 1969 with a degree in special
education; in 1975, with a Master of Education degree in
special education; and in 1983, with a Specialist in
Education degree in mental health counseling. In 1984, she
re-enrolled at the University of Florida where she
continued study toward the doctoral degree in counselor
education.
Her teaching experience includes five years as a
teacher for mentally and physically handicapped students
and five years as a kindergarten teacher. She was a
guidance counselor for elementary school children for five
additional years. She is presently on leave of absence
from her position as Director of Staff Development and
Inservice at P. K. Yonge Laboratory School in Gainesville,
Florida.
123

124
She is a licensed mental health counselor and a
certified school counselor in the state of Florida. She is
also certified by the National Board for Certified
Counselors, Inc. She is an active member of the American
Association for Counseling and Development, Florida
Association for Counseling and Development, Florida Mental
Health Counselors Association, and the National Association
of Laboratory Schools.
April has made numerous presentations and conducted
many workshops throughout the country. She is presently
the director for the southeast region of the country for
the Educator Training Center in Long Beach, California.
She is the mother of two children. Her oldest child,
Karen Lynn McKnew is 20 years old and a senior at Tulane
University. Her son, Tommy McKnew, is 16 years old and a
junior in high school at Buchholz High School in
Gainesville, Florida.
She is married to "Jack" Sameck, a veterinarian and
the father of three children, Jacob, 15, Amy, 14, and Abby,
10.

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Ellen S. Amatea
Professor of Counselor Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Woodrow M.
Professor of Counselor Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Donald H. Bernard
Associate Professor of Instruction
and Curriculum

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate
Faculty of the College of Education and to the Graduate
School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
December, 1990
Dean,
Dean, Graduate School



CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
The rapidly rising divorce rates in the United States
have produced a relatively recent but necessary concern
about the effects of divorce on children and their parents.
This chapter contains a literature review highlighting
theories important to this study, the effects of divorce on
children, children's problematic beliefs concerning their
parents' divorce, the need for interventions to assist them
in adjusting to these effects and beliefs, and types of
outcomes that seem important to the focus of this study.
The types of interventions found in the literature and the
status of outcomes are also covered and discussed in this
chapter.
Divorce is a phenomenon which effects, in varying
degrees, almost every individual in the United States.
Those who have not personally experienced divorce almost
certainly know a neighbor, friend, relative, or parent who
is divorced.
Nineteen-seventy-five was a sociologically significant
year; the number of American marriages ending in divorce
topped the million mark for the first time in history.
Between 1965 and 1975 the divorce rate more than doubled,
14


66
To write a letter of "thank you" to their
parents for permitting them to
participate in this group.
The researcher trained the school counselors
participating in this study in the use of the K.I.D.S.
intervention. This training reguired approximately six
hours of reading instruction and preparation of all
materials necessary for implementation of the K.I.D.S.
intervention. Each counselor was trained at the school
setting on a day and at a time convenient to the counselor.
The specific training process included the following
sequence:
1. Counselors were given the written intervention
several days prior to the training meeting and asked to
read it in its entirety before the meeting.
2. At the training meeting the researcher
a. reviewed the intervention with the counselor
and discussed the specifics to be covered
in each session and answered any questions.
b. discussed and demonstrated how each instrument
was to be administered.
c. assisted, when requested, with the preparation
of any materials necessary to implement the
intervention (i.e., balance beams, charts,
etc.).


51
closure to the dissolution experience. Although many
divorcing families make their way through the acute phase
of the divorce experience and after several years of
disequilibrium reach stability and closure in the post
divorce or remarried family, many of the family members may
remain fixated for many years at the acute phase of the
divorce (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
Given both the short-term acute reactions to divorce
and the potential long-term damage that may occur, it seems
appropriate for those involved in working with children and
adolescents to undertake interventions which will support
children through this difficult time in their lives as well
as reduce the potential for long-term effects (Freeman &
Couchman, 1985).
Preventive Interventions for Children of Divorce
Despite rapid increases in the divorce rate and ample
evidence of its adverse effects, Bloom, Asher, and White
(1978) reported that there had been few controlled studies
of preventive interventions for the people it touches. In
an attempt to help fill that void, Bloom, Hodges, and
Caldwell (1982) developed a 6-month preventive program for
newly separated adults. The program was based on support
principles and building adaptive skills in divorce-related
problem areas. The results recorded at the end of the
program and at the 30- and 48-month follow-up points,
indicated that participants significantly exceeded controls


16
limited crisis, and is followed by an extended period of
disequilibrium that may last several years. Each
introduces a chain of long-lasting changes that are not
predictable at the outset and that reach into multiple
domains of family life (Wallerstein, 1983).
Divorce is different from other life crises in that
anger more often erupts into physical and verbal violence
that can cause lasting and serious psychological harm for
many years. In most life crisis situations, parents
instinctively reach out and extend support to their
children bringing them to safety first. In the crisis of
divorce, however, mothers and fathers usually attend to
adult problems first and are often unable to extend
immediate support to their children. Divorce is also the
only major family crisis in which social supports often
diminish (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
The reorganization and readjustments that are required
of the child of the divorcing family represent a major
addition to the normal and customary tasks of childhood and
adolescence in our society. Children are able to
comprehend their parents' divorce only when they are given
the necessary information, without which it becomes
increasingly difficult for them to cope with their
immediate environment (Wallerstein, 1983).
The adaptation of children to divorce will vary with
their developmental status. Different responses and coping


113
Smith, M. D., & Rogers, C. M. (1978). Reliability of
standardized assessment instruments when used with
learning disabled children. Learning Disabilities
Quarterly. 1, 23-30.
Sorosky, A. D. (1977). The psychological effects of
divorce on adolescents. Adolescence. 12., 123-136.
Sterling, S. (1986). School-based intervention program for
young children of divorce (Doctoral dissertation,
University of Rochester, 1986). Dissertation
Abstracts International. 48, 288B.
Stolberg, A. L. (1976). Parental divorce, death and foster
home placement as related to personality profiles of
adolescents in psychotherapy. Unpublished master's
thesis, University of South Florida, Tampa.
Stolberg, A. L., & Anker, J. M. (1983). Cognitive and
behavioral changes in children resulting from parental
divorce and consequent environmental changes. Journal
of Divorce. 7(2), 23-41.
Stolberg, A. L., Camplair, C., Currier, K., & Wells, M.
(1984). Individual, familial and environmental
determinants of children's post-divorce adjustment and
maladjustment. Unpublished manuscript.
Stolberg, A. L., & Cullen, P. M. (1983). Preventive
psychopathology in children of divorce: The divorce
adjustment project. In L. Kurdek (Ed.), New
directions for child development: Children and
divorce (pp. 71-81). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Stolberg, A. L., Cullen, P. M., & Garrison, K. M. (1982).
The divorce adjustment project: Preventive
programming for children of divorce. Journal of
Preventive Psychiatry. 1, 365-368.
Stolberg, A. L., & Garrison, K. M. (1985). Evaluating a
primary prevention program for children of divorce:
The divorce adjustment project. American Journal of
Community Psychology. 13.(2), 111-124.
Tessman, L. H. (1978). Children of parting parents. New
York: Aronson.
Tooley, K. (1976). Antisocial behavior and social
alienation post-divorce: The "man of the house" and
his mother. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 46,
33-42.


50
the divorce as a reasonable decision on the part of their
parents, (c) they did not feel the divorce affected their
peer relations, and (d) they saw themselves as having
acquired maturity and responsibility as a result of
experiencing their parents' divorce.
Clearly children's perceptions tend to mollify the
crisis-flavored tone of the literature regarding the
effects of divorce on children (Kurdek & Siesky, 1980). In
response to the lack of such studies, Kurdek and Siesky
(1981) systematically investigated children's perceptions
of various aspects of their parents' divorce. An open-
ended interview and a structured questionnaire were used to
accomplish this. The information gathered consistently
indicated that the children were not adversely affected by
various aspects of the divorce. The children did report
that the divorce decision, adjusting to the changed family
circumstances, and the loss of the noncustodial parent were
distressing experiences, but they also saw their parents'
divorce as a more desirable alternative to their parents'
living in conflict (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981).
These studies did not suggest that divorce is not a
crisis situation for some children. Rather they indicate
that from the child's perspective the crisis need not be a
chronic one.
There is, as we have found from many years of
observation, no necessary progression toward resolution or


71
in problem scores over periods of 3, 6, and 18 months.
Pearson correlations for agreement between mothers and
fathers and between teachers are in the .60s and .70s.
Discriminate validity has been demonstrated by significant
differences between item and scale scores for
demographically matched referred and nonreferred children.
Numerous studies of clinical, epidemiological, and research
applications of the assessment procedures are underway in
several countries.
The teachers of each of the students in this study
completed the Teacher Report Forms.
Children's Beliefs About Parental Divorce
The Children's Beliefs About Parental Separation Scale
(CBAPS) was used to assess children's problematic beliefs
regarding parental divorce.
The Children's Beliefs About Parental Separation
Scale (CBAPS) began as a 52-item projective test
(Kelly & Berg, 1978). It was then revised into a
70-item yes/no objective scale (Kurdek & Berg,
1983). The current (1987) 36-item version was
developed by item analysis of the 70-item version
and by rewriting several items to control for a
yes/no response set. The CBAPS contains six items
for each of six belief domains (subscales) that
were selected on the basis of the problematic
beliefs cited in clinical literature (Gardner,
1976; Kelly & Berg, 1978; Mendell, 1983;
Wallerstein, 1983). (Kurdek & Berg, 1987, p. 712)
The subscales and their clinical significance are
described as:
1. Self-Blame Subscale. Some children may believe
that their parents' separation is due to


75
factor but the subscale was retained in further analysis
because the items in this subscale did cluster together.
Test-retest (9 week) data were collected from the 30
junior high school sample (mean age 12.69 years). For the
Peer Ridicule and Avoidance, Hope of Reunification, Fear of
Abandonment, Maternal Blame, Paternal Blame, and Self Blame
subscales, the respective Pearson correlations were (.41,
.51, .52, .51, .72, and .43 (p < .01). The correlation for
the total scale was .65 (p < .01).
Pearson correlations were computed between the seven
scores (total score and six subscales) and age, gender, and
length of parental separation. Given the number of
correlations computed the Type I error rate per test was
set at .002 (alpha of .05 divided by the number of
significance tests). Using this criterion, only one
coefficient was significant. The number of Hope for
Reunification beliefs was negatively related to age r = -
.48.
The CBAPS is a paper-and pencil test designed to be
administered individually or in small groups with verbal
instruction from the examiner. It is self-paced, therefore
the examiner must wait for all examinees to respond before
proceeding to the next item. For this study the CBAPS was
read to the examinees by the school counselor in small
groups of 8 or less.


27
Many children develop psychosomatic symptoms and
complain of headaches and stomachaches (Allers, 1982,
Fulton, 1979). Some children may show evidence of
hypermaturity (Allers, 1982; Walsh, 1980; Weiss, 1979),
assuming adult mannerisms and additional responsibilities
and becoming super-efficient helpers.
Cognitive, affective behavioral, and
psychophysiological problems have been reported in many
children of divorce (Coddington & Troxell, 1980;
Hetherington, 1979; Kurdek & Siesky, 1981; Peterson & Zill,
1986). Cognitive reactions include self-blame, feeling
different from peers, and heightened sensitivity to
interpersonal incompatibility (Kelly & Berg, 1978; Kurdek &
Siesky, 1981; Wallerstein, 1983). Deficits in prosocial
behavior and high frequencies of acting out and aggressive
behaviors have also been found among children of divorce
(Stolberg, Camplair, Currier, & Wells, 1984). Their
academic performance is often hampered by classroom
behaviors that interfere with performance and require
special handling (Guidubaldi, Cleminshaw, Perry, &
McLoughlin, 1983). They are more often diagnosed as having
serious illnesses than peers from intact families
(Coddington & Troxell, 1980; Jacobs & Charles, 1980).
The environmental changes many times accompanied by
divorce, often place demands on children for new skills,
weaken their support systems, and result in feelings of


To:
From: April M. Sameck, Author of K.I.D.S.
Doctoral Candidate, Counselor Education,
College of Education, University of Florida
Re: Review and Evaluation of the K.I.D.S. Small-Group
Intervention
Thank you for agreeing to review and evaluate the
K.I.D.S. small-group intervention.
I intend to use this program in my doctoral research.
The purpose of my study is to assess the impact of this
small group intervention on elementary school children in
grades 4 and 5. Specifically, it will evaluate the effect
of the intervention in three areas: (a) children's
problematic beliefs regarding their parents' divorce, (b)
children's self-concepts, and (c) children's school
behaviors.
I believe it will be very helpful to me as the
researcher, and to the children that will be involved in
this study, to receive your evaluation and comments
regarding the intervention.
Please complete the attached evaluation form and
return it and the written intervention to me by March 20,
1990. You may write comments, corrections, additions, etc.
on the written intervention also.
I appreciate your assistance very much and will send
you a copy of the intervention when it is in its final
revision, if you indicate an interest on your evaluation
form.
AMS/lrc
Enclosures
116


64
etc. The only recommendations for changes were related to
typographical errors.
The intervention was structured and designed for seven
one-hour sessions over seven consecutive weeks. The
sessions for this study were scheduled by the school
counselor with the assistance of the appropriate classroom
teachers. The sessions were not held during primary
academic instruction time in the regular classroom nor
during resource class times.
The sequence of the K.I.D.S. small group sessions and
the objectives of each session are as follows:
WEEK I INTRODUCTION TO THE GROUP
Welcome participants.
Introduction of leader.
Explanation of the purpose of the group.
Definition of the criteria for eligibility
as a group member.
Explanation and guidelines of expectations
of group members and the leader.
Presentation of the topics to be discussed
and the types of activities that will
occur during the intervention.
To become acquainted with one another.
WEEK II SELF BLAME
To become further acquainted with one
another.
To explain the problematic belief of SELF
BLAME to the group members.
To brainstorm group lists of the advantages
and disadvantages of divorce for the
children of the family.
To role play situations related to SELF
BLAME.


23
assure that the optimal degree of growth can occur
(Salkind, 1985).
Divorce is not a specific entity or event. Instead,
it is a process within the family's history that works
parallel to the developmental phases in a child's life
(Pfeffer, 1981).
Effects of Divorce on Children
Hetherington (1979) has noted that almost all children
experience the transition of divorce as painful.
Children's individual responses to divorce vary due to
several factors such as temperament, developmental status,
sex of the child, number of and relationship to siblings,
emotional stability, general adjustment, length of time
since the divorce, and the manner in which the parents
handle the situation. Wallerstein (1989) found that the
psychological condition of children and adolescents was
related to the overall quality of life in the post-divorce
family.
The experience of divorce is entirely different
for parents and for children because the children
lose something that is fundamental to their
developmentthe family structure. The family
compromises the scaffolding upon which children
mount successful developmental stages, from
infancy into adolescence. It supports their
psychological, physical, and emotional ascent
into maturity. When that structure collapses,
the children's world is temporarily without
supports. And children, with a vastly compressed
sense of time, do not know that the chaos is
temporary. What they do know is that they are
dependent on the family. Whatever its
shortcomings, children perceive the family as the
entity that provides the support and protection


parents and to go on with their lives with compassion and
love (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
36
Initially, children feel a strong need to deny the
divorce. This early denial may be a first step in the
coping process. The denial allows a piece by piece
confrontation with the reality of the divorce.
Wallerstein (1989) found in her longitudinal study
that some children and adolescents refuse to accept the
permanence of the divorce 5 and even 10 years after it has
occurred. They continue to hope, consciously or
unconsciously, that the marriage will be restored.
In accepting permanence, the children of divorce
face a more difficult task than children of
bereavement. Death cannot be undone, but divorce
happens between living people who can change
their minds. A reconciliation fantasy taps deep
into children's psyches. Children need to feel
that their parents will still be happy together.
They may not overcome this fantasy of
reconciliation until they themselves finally
separate from their parents and leave home.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 293)
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) suggested that the
most important psychological task for growing children and
for society is to "take a chance on love" (p. 3). They
must hold on to a realistic vision that they can both love
and be loved. It becomes a task for children of divorce
because they must do this despite what life has dealt them
and despite their lingering fears and anxieties. They must
grow and become open to the possibility of success or
failure and take a chance on love.


62
classroom teacher. They were told that they had been
selected to participate in a special program with the
school counselor and a counselor from Gainesville, Florida.
This type of group introduction to any activity outside of
the classroom is often used by teachers at these schools.
The classroom teachers were specifically instructed by the
guidance counselor to say:
"Our guidance counselor has been invited to
participate in a very important project with a
graduate student from the University of Florida by
the name of April Sameck. Several students from
our school in grades 4 and 5 will participate in
this project. If I call your name, you are one of
these students. You will meet with (Guidance
counselor's name) today (date) at (time).
(Guidance counselor's name) will explain how you
might participate in this project and answer any
questions you might have. Your participation in
the project will be voluntary but you are
requested to attend this meeting before making a
decision about whether you will or will not
participate."
The elementary school counselor at each school led the
structured small-group intervention used in this study.
The researcher developed and wrote the intervention titled
K.I.D.S. (Kids in Divorce Situations). The idea for the
intervention was initially conceived by this researcher as
a response to the need for a guide in assisting children
with their adjustment to their parents' divorce. At that
time, she was an elementary school guidance counselor. The
K.I.D.S. intervention for grades 4 and 5 was written
specifically for use in this study.


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
April M. Sameck was born on January 3, 1947, in West
Palm Beach, Florida. She is the oldest of three children
born to Charles and Joan Baur.
In 1964, she graduated from Forest Hill High School in
West Palm Beach, Florida. She attended the University of
Florida and graduated in 1969 with a degree in special
education; in 1975, with a Master of Education degree in
special education; and in 1983, with a Specialist in
Education degree in mental health counseling. In 1984, she
re-enrolled at the University of Florida where she
continued study toward the doctoral degree in counselor
education.
Her teaching experience includes five years as a
teacher for mentally and physically handicapped students
and five years as a kindergarten teacher. She was a
guidance counselor for elementary school children for five
additional years. She is presently on leave of absence
from her position as Director of Staff Development and
Inservice at P. K. Yonge Laboratory School in Gainesville,
Florida.
123


21
processes and that the environment must be suited to the
child's level of readiness.
The first task is to clearly identify what the
concepts are that must be taught. Next, the child's level
of readiness must be considered. The third task is the
presentation of information so that for every new step the
child takes toward learning new skills, the previous skills
are reviewed. The final step is for the child to go beyond
the information given by exploring on his or her own the
next logical step in the sequence.
In accordance with Bruner's theory, children can be
expected to process and comprehend the meaning of divorce
most effectively when their level of readiness is first
considered. This level of readiness will determine what
information the child is prepared to comprehend and will
also help determine what exploration the child will do in
determining his or her own next logical steps.
Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) have developed a theory
which identifies age as the best predictor of how children
initially react to their parents' divorces. They found
that preschoolers react differently from early elementary
school-aged children and that older elementary school-aged
children and adolescents react differently from both
younger groups. These theorists interpreted these findings
within a psychodynamic framework, but acknowledged that
children's levels of cognitive development also shape their


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to extend my gratitude to the many
individuals who supported and encouraged me as a graduate
student. A special debt of gratitude is extended to my
family, committee members, and friends.
Foremost I want to thank my children, Karen and Tommy,
for their support, understanding, and love. As children of
divorce themselves, they were a constant inspiration for my
endeavors to learn more about the impact of divorce on
young people.
I wish to extend special gratitude to my committee
chairperson, Dr. Joe Wittmer. His guidance, wisdom, and
encouragement seemed limitless.
I also want to thank Dr. Ellen Amatea for her
technical assistance with this study and her personal
support. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Dr.
Max Parker and Dr. Don Bernard for their interest,
encouragement, and willingness to assist. I extend a warm
message of gratitude to the memory of Dr. Paul Fitzgerald
for his constant messages of optimism.
iii


86
Table 5
Group Pretest (Pre) and Posttest (Post) Means. Standard
Deviations, and Univariate Group X Time Interactions for
the TRFACBC
Scores
Groups
E(n=45) C(n=43) Group x Time
Pre Post Pre Post F PR>F
TRFACBC
(df=l,80)
Mean 26.93 28.28 40.72 37.90 1.06 0.3052
S.D. (28.32) (28.04) (37.60) (31.25)
Note: E=experimental group; C=control group;
TRFACBC= Teachers Report Form of the Achenbach Child
Behavior Checklist
Table 6
Univariate Tests of Hypothesis for Within Subjects Effects
for the TRFACBC
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
ss
F
PR>F
TRFACBC
Time
1
144.35
1.07
0.3043
(df 1,80)
Time*Group
1
143.80
1.06
0.3052
Time*Gender
1
1009.83
7.48
0.0077*
Time*Group*Gender
1
40.08
0.30
0.5874
Time*Divorce
1
32.55
0.24
0.6248
Time*Group*Divorce
1
323.75
2.40
0.1255
Time*Gender*Divorce
Time*Group*Gender
1
99.52
0.74
0.3932
*Divorce
1
80.20
0.59
0.4432
Note. Time=pretest and posttest;
Group=experimental and control;
Gender=male and female;
Divorce=+2 years and -2 years


This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate
Faculty of the College of Education and to the Graduate
School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
December, 1990
Dean,
Dean, Graduate School


8
while participating in this study, and (d) were not
presently enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a
special education program were identified. Children
meeting these four criteria were invited by a letter from
the researcher to participate in this study. The children
who participated were randomly placed in either a control
group or an experimental group.
Rationale for the Study
Children are involved in school-related activities
approximately one-third of their waking hours each week
(Drake, 1981). The school has the potential to be a
consistent and positive support system for children of
divorced parents. Further, children in schools have access
to such mental health practitioners as counselors, school
psychologists, school social workers, and teachers; when
help is provided in the school setting, the child and
parents do not have to cope with the possible stigma
associated with outside mental health facilities, the
expense of such treatment, or child and parental resistance
to outside help (Drake, 1981). Additionally, children in
schools are grouped by approximate academic level, maturity
level, and age level, providing an optimum setting for
counseling and crisis intervention.
Small group counseling, assisting children with their
problematic beliefs about their parents' divorce, may prove
to be an appropriate and effective way for schools to


90
Table 10
Group. Gender, and Divorce
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
SS
F
PR>F
PHCSCS
Group
1
397.77
1.87
0.1753
(Pretest)
Gender
1
147.14
0.69
0.4081
Group*Gender
1
437.96
2.06
0.1552
Divorce
1
4.92
0.02
0.8795
Group*Divorce
1
50.17
0.24
0.6285
Gender*Divorce
1
235.24
1.11
0.2962
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
92.74
0.44
0.5110
PHCSCS
Group
1
0.38
0.00
0.9656
(Posttest)
Gender
1
785.54
3.84
0.0536
Group*Gender
1
189.13
0.92
0.3394
Divorce
1
99.76
0.43
0.5122
Group*Divorce
1
65.09
0.32
0.5745
Gender*Divorce
1
0.00
0.00
0.9954
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
42.14
0.21
0.6513
Research Hypothesis Four
Hypothesis four addressed whether the length of time
since the parent's divorce would have a significant impact
on the effectiveness of the intervention by group.
Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects for
group by divorce interactions were not significant for any
of the dependent variables. Univariate tests of hypotheses
for within subjects effects for the interaction of time by
group by divorce were not significant (Tables 3, 6, and 9).


33
strive to remove the divorce from the center of their own
thoughts and get back to their own pleasures, interests,
problems, and peer relationships. They need the
encouragement to remain children.
Children experience two profound losses following a
divorce. One is the loss of the intact family and the
second is the loss of the presence of one parent from their
daily lives. Children often mask their unhappiness
associated with these losses by fantasizing.
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) have suggested that
the absorbing of these losses is perhaps the single most
difficult task imposed by divorce.
At its core, the task requires children to
overcome the profound sense of rejection,
humiliation, unlovability, and powerlessness they
feel with the departure of one parent. When the
parent leaves, children of all ages blame
themselves. They conclude that had they been
more lovable, worthy, or different, the parent
would have stayed. In this way, the loss of the
parent and lowered self-esteem become
intertwined. (p. 290)
In order to cope with the intensely painful feelings
of rejection, children may continue to undo the divorce
scenario. Perhaps if they could bring their parents back
together or win back the affection of the absent parent,
the pain of the loss would go away. Children are not only
pained at the outset of divorce, but remain vulnerable,
sometimes increasingly over the years.
Dealing with these losses appears to be a task
children respond to in a number of ways. Children who have


80
previously, specially trained guidance counselor at each of
the six participating schools.
Pretesting on all measures for all participants was
completed approximately one week before the intervention
was initiated. Testing with children was done in small
groups of 6-8 with experimental and control participants
being tested separately. Posttesting on all measures for
all participants was completed using the same procedures
one week after the intervention ended.
The results of data analyses are presented in this
chapter including the patterns and trends found in the
data.
Research Hypotheses
Research Hypothesis One
Hypothesis one addressed whether there would be
significant differences between the experimental and
control group students' mean total scores on the Children's
Beliefs About Parental Divorce Scale (CBAPDS). Table 2
includes pretest and posttest group means, standard
deviations, and univariate group x time interactions for
the CBAPDS.
Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects
yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 0.92 PR > 0.3397 indicating no
significant differences by group on the CBAPDS mean total
scores. Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects
effects revealed significance in the interaction of time by


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
The annual divorce rate in the United States is
currently reaching a plateau at about 22%. Thus, many
children are experiencing the divorce of their parents and,
for a large percentage, this disruption occurs during their
formative years (Bonkowski, Boomhower, & Bequette, 1985).
Current demographic figures indicate that by the end of
1990, 33% of the nation's children, under the age of 18,
will have experienced their parents' divorce (Kurdek,
1986). The U.S. Bureau of the Census (1987) reported that,
in 1987, 9,436,000 American children under the age of 18
were living in single parent homes as the result of
separation or divorce. Behind each of these statistics is
the dissolution of a family with all its attendant emotions
and adjustments.
The dissolution of parents' marriage has been ranked
as one of the major sources of stress for children (Hodges
& Bloom, 1984), and rising divorce rates have prompted a
growing body of research investigating the impact of
divorce on children's mental health (Goetting, 1981;
Isaacs, 1985; Kurdek, 1986; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). In
a recent national survey Peterson and Zill (1986) found
l


121
discussion, role plays, and individual expressions of
thoughts and feelings regarding their parents' divorce.
Children placed in the group without participation in
the counseling group will have the opportunity to
participate in a similar group at a later date. If your
child is placed in this group, you will be notified when
the next counseling group will meet.
We will carry out this study only after you have given
us your written permission. Your child may withdraw from
the study at any time. All information gathered will be
confidential within legal limits. Participation or non
participation in a counseling group will not affect your
child's grades.
Your child's participation is completely voluntary and
no monetary compensation for participation in the project
will be available. Afterwards, subjects and their parents
will receive information regarding the results of this
study, if requested.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of
the procedures to be used during the course of this
research project, you may contact me, April M. Sameck, at
(904) 373-7983 or 377-3230.
Sincerely,
April M. Sameck, Ed.S.
Doctoral Candidate
Counselor Education
AMS/lrc


81
group (Table 3). The experimental groups posttest total
mean score was lower than the pretest total mean score.
The control group's posttest total mean score was higher
than the pretest total mean score.
A three-way factoral ANOVA (group x sex x length of
time since divorce) with repeated measures was conducted
for Hypothesis One (Table 4).
Comparison of mean CBAPDS scores at pretest for
experimental (M=7.73, SD=4.65) and control (M=7.37,
SD=4.19) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1.80) of 0.56,
PR>0.4575. There were no significant group differences at
pretest on CBAPDS total scores.
Comparison of mean CBAPDS scores at posttest for
experimental (M=5.86, SD=4.02) and control (M=8.51,
SD=4.98) groups yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 6.00,
PR>0.0165. The experimental group scored significantly (at
the .05 level) lower than the control group. A lower score
on the scale indicates a decrease in problematic beliefs
regarding parental divorce.
The statistical data for total mean scores by group on
the CBAPDS yielded a significant difference and null
hypothesis one is thus rejected at the .05 level of
significance (Figure 1).


117
K.I.D.S. (Kids In Divorced Evaluation Form
Personal information regarding evaluator:
1. Highest degree held:
2. Male/Female
3. School Counselor
Mental Health Counselor
Other (specify)
4.Years experience counseling children
Yes No
1.
Do you find the directions for the counselor in this
intervention to be:
Specific
Directive
Comments:
2. Do you find the information presented in the Yes No
intervention to be age-appropriate for 4th and 5th
grade students?
Comments:
3. Do you find the activities presented in the Yes No
intervention to be age appropriate for 4th and 5th
grade students?
Comments:


93
discussion and implications, and recommendations for
further study.
Limitations
The limitations of this study are primarily in regard
to the generalizability of the results to other elementary
school student populations. The targeted population was
elementary school children in grades 4 and 5 (a) whose
parents were divorced, (b) lived with their mother only,
(c) were not concurrently receiving additional counseling
while participating in this study, and (d) were not
presently enrolled in or eligible for enrollment in a
special education program. All students who responded to
the invitation to participate in the study and met the
above criterion were included in the study. The decision
to include all eligible respondents was necessitated by
school authorities who insisted on strong service needs
being met and a practical orientation of these services.
The 96 students in the study were, therefore, the entire
population of respondents meeting the study criteria in
these six schools rather than a sample of a targeted
population.
Ideally, an egual number of males and females within
each divorce source (+2 years, -2 years) for both groups
was desired. There were approximately equal correspondent
cells (i.e., females, +2(E) to females, +2(C); females,
-2(E) to females, -2(C), and males, +2(E) to males +2(C);


REFERENCES
Achenbach, T. M., & Edelbrook, C. S. (1983). Manual for
the Child Behavior Checklist and revised child
behavior profile. Burlington: University of Vermont.
Allers, R. D. (1982). Divorce, children and the school.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton Book.
Alpert-Gillis, L. J., Pedro-Carroll, J. L., & Cowen, E. L.
(1989). The children of divorce intervention program:
Development, implementation, and evaluation of a
program for young urban children. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 57(5), 583-589.
Berg, B., & Kelly, R. (1979). The measured self-esteem of
children from broken, rejected and accepted families.
Journal of Divorce. 4., 363-369.
Bernard, J. M., & Nesbitt, S. (1981). Divorce: An
unreliable predictor of children's emotional
predispositions. Journal of Divorce. 4(4), 31-42.
Bernard, M. E., & Joyce, M. R. (1984). Rational-emotive
therapy with children and adolescents. New York:
Wiley.
Biller, H. B. (1974). Paternal deprivation. New York:
Lexington Books.
Black, K. N. (1979). What about the child from a one-
parent home? Teacher. .96(5) 24-26.
Blechman, E. A. (1982). Are children with one parent at
psychological risk? Journal of Marriage and the
Family. 44(1), 179-195.
Bloom, B. L., Asher, S. C., & White, S. W. (1978). Marital
disruption as a stressor: A review and analysis.
Psychological Bulletin. 85, 867-894.
107


6
the assessment of children's beliefs regarding parental
divorce will provide a foundation for intervention
strategies designed to assist them in revising faulty
beliefs (Bernard & Joyce, 1984; Ellis & Bernard, 1983,
Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
Because divorce has become so widespread, educators
must recognize that a significant number of their students
are children of divorced parents and that interventions and
strategies must be developed to help such children cope.
These children have special needs, distinct from children
of intact, two-parent families (Allers, 1982).
Divorce contributes additional tasks to children's
normal growth and development, and these appear to
interfere with expected learning (Wallerstein, 1983).
Because learning is the central developmental task of
school-age children, educators must consider the school's
role in assisting children with their adjustment to
parental divorce (Stolberg & Anker, 1983).
Purpose of the Study
Wallerstein (1983) reported that divorce carries the
potential for disrupting children's developmental
processes. However, she also stated that appropriate
interventions can reverse or modify this disruption. The
purpose of this study was to assess the impact of a small
group intervention on elementary school children in grades
4 and 5 whose parents have divorced. Using a control group


4
the reality of the marital rupture and disengaging from
parental conflict and distress and resuming customary
pursuitsmust be dealt with beginning with the separation.
Optimally, they will be mastered during the first year.
The next threeresolving loss, resolving anger and self-
blame, and accepting the permanence of the divorcemay
need to be reworked several times and often require many
years for completion. The final task, achieving realistic
understanding of relationships, often takes years to
complete.
The path to normal growth and development requires
that children cope with the many challenges of growing up.
The child experiencing marital disruption and
reorganization must confront additional psychological
tasks. These represent a major addition to the normal and
customary tasks of childhood and adolescence in our society
(Wallerstein, 1983).
Statement of the Problem
Researchers concur that the beliefs children have
about their parents' divorce are clearly associated with
subsequent social and emotional development (Gardener,
1976; Kurdek & Berg, 1983, 1987; Wallerstein & Kelly,
1980). Further, researchers have identified six
problematic beliefs frequently expressed (Emery,
Hetherington, & DiLalla, 1984; Kurdek & Berg, 1983, 1987;
Shantz, 1983): (a) fear of peer ridicule and avoidance,


38
interpretation of events transpiring around them, because
their level of psychosexual development is thought by some
to place them in the midst of resolving Oedipal conflicts,
and because their young parents are likely to have limited
financial resources. These children are prone to form
faulty perceptions of the reasons for the parents'
separation and may experience nightmares, depressed play,
eating disturbances, bed-wetting, lowered self-esteem
problems with sexual identity, and guilt over having caused
the departure of the noncustodial parent (Hetherington,
1979; McDermott, 1970; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). In
general, Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) reported that
preschoolers are the most frightened and show the most
dramatic symptoms when marriages break up.
Preschool children have been found to respond to
marital separation with regression, anxiety, tantrums,
fantasies of reconciliation, anger, aggression, problems in
academic achievement, lowered self-esteem, problems in
basic trust, and, for the 1 to 3 year age group, loss of
recently acquired perceptual motor skills (Santrock, 1975;
Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976). Hetherington (1979) noted that
young preschool children were less able to appraise
accurately their own role in the separation and were likely
to experience the separation as abandonment.
Kalter and Rembar (1981) found that if separation
occurred before the age of 2, at latency, boys and girls


46
of parental desertion or self-blame. Professionals working
with children whose parents are divorced may assist them in
generating both the positive and negative consequences of
their parents' divorce (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981).
Length of Time Since the Divorce
In the period during and immediately following divorce
the child may be responding to changes in his or her life
situation. In this period, therefore, stresses associated
with conflict, loss, change, and uncertainty may be the
critical factors (Hetherington, 1979).
Findings in the divorce literature to date point to
the first post-separation year as one in which a majority
of children are prone to show emotional or behavioral
difficulties of some kind, although there is less agreement
across studies as to the probability of longer term effects
(Hetherington et al., 1978; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980;
Young & Parish, 1979). Hetherington et al. (1978) found
the first two years after the separation to be a period of
maximum disequilibrium for children.
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989), in the first and
only 10 year reports on the psychological effects of
divorce on men, women, and children, have reported that
life may be unstable and home may be unsettled for several
years after the divorce.
The effects of length of time since marital disruption
may also vary according to the child's age at the time of


58
Hypotheses
The hypotheses of this study were:
Ho 1: There is no significant difference between
experimental and control group students1 mean
total scores on the Children's Beliefs About
Parental Divorce Scale.
Ho 2: There is no significant difference between
experimental and control group students' mean
total scores on the Teacher Report Form of the
Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist.
Ho 3: There is no significant difference between
experimental and control group students' mean
total scores on the Piers-Harris Children's
Self-Concept Scale.
Ho 4: The length of time since the parents' divorce
has no significant impact on the effectiveness
of the intervention by group.
Ho 5: The gender of the child has no significant
impact on the effectiveness of the intervention
by group.
Population
The population from which the participants for this
study were selected was students in grades 4 and 5 whose
parents' were divorced at (a) P. K. Yonge Laboratory
School, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; (b)
Idylwild Elementary School, Gainesville, Florida; (c)


I wish to commend my dear and loyal friends, Glenda,
Carrie, and Jeanette, for their unconditional support and
their constant caring for me.
I extend a pride-filled thanks to my mom who has
always believed in me.
To my husband, Jack, I extend my heart-filled
gratitude and love for reminding me there was light at the
end of the tunnel and for being there when it was difficult
to believe.
I also want to thank the counselors, teachers, and
students who made this project possible.
iv


5
(b) maternal blame, (c) paternal blame, (d) self-blame, (e)
fear of abandonment, and (f) hope of reunification.
Children's problematic beliefs about their parents'
divorce may effect the degree of crisis they experience and
the subsequent influence the divorce has on their normal
growth and development (Kurdek & Berg, 1987; Wallerstein,
1983). Problematic beliefs may also influence the nature
of their adjustment (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981). Professionals
working with children whose parents are divorced may
facilitate their adjustment by providing positive,
structured interventions designed to help them revise their
problematic beliefs (Bernard & Joyce, 1984).
Need for the Study
Despite rapid increases in the divorce rate in the
United States and ample evidence of its adverse effects,
there have been few controlled studies of preventive
interventions for the children it touches (Bloom, Hodges, &
Caldwell, 1982). The development of preventive
interventions, assisting children in their adjustment to
divorce is pressing (Bonkowski, Boomhower, & Bequette,
1985). If professional helpers are to gain an accurate
understanding of children and divorce, it is important to
consider what interventions might be most helpful in
assisting children with their problematic beliefs about
divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987). Additionally, if beliefs
are causally linked to affective and behavioral disorders,


108
Bloom, B. L., Hodges, W. F., & Caldwell, R. A. (1982). A
preventative program for the newly separated: Initial
evaluation. American Journal of Community Psychology.
10. 251-264.
Bloom, B. L., Hodges, W. F., Kern, M. B., & McFaddin, S. C.
(1985). A preventive intervention program for the
newly separated: Final report. American Journal of
Orthopsychiatry. 55, 9-26.
Bonkowski, S. E., Boomhower, S. J., & Bequette, S. Q.
(1985). What you don't know can hurt you:
Unexpressed fears and feelings of children from
divorcing families. Journal of Divorce. 9(1), 33-45.
Bruner, J. S., & Kennedy, H. (1966). The development of
the concepts of order and proportion in children. In
J. S. Bruner, R. R. Oliver, & P. M. Greenfield (Eds.),
Studies in cognitive growth (pp. 36-42). New York:
Wiley.
Cantor, D. W. (1977). School-based groups for children of
divorce. Journal of Divorce. 1(2), 183-187.
Coddington, R. D., & Troxell, J. R. (1980). The effect of
emotional factors on football injury rates: A pilot
study. Journal of Human Stress. 14., 3-5.
Damon, P. (1979). When the family comes apart: What
schools can do. National Elementary Principal. 59,
66-75.
Deredyn, A. P. (1977). Children in divorce: Intervention
in the phase of separation. Pediatrics. 60. 20-27.
Diamond, S. A. (1985). Helping children of divorce. New
York: Shocken.
Drake, E. A. (1981). Children of separation and divorce:
School policies, procedures, problems. Phi Delta
Kappan. 63(1), 27-28.
Ellis, A., & Bernard, M. E. (Eds.). (1983). Rational-
emotive approaches to the problems of childhood. New
York: Plenum.
Emery, R. E., Hetherington, E. M., & DiLalla, L. (1984).
Divorce, children and social policy. In H. N.
Stevenson & A. E. Siegel (Eds.), Child development
research and social policy (pp. 189-266). Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.


25
with one or both of their parents. This may lead to
excessive dependency and obsessive thoughts and fears about
such loss (Kurdek & Berg, 1987). More generalized anxiety
may be caused by less parental attention and children's
concern over who will love and take care of them.
Children's feelings of abandonment may also stem from their
belief that they are not worthy of affection and are not
loved by their parents (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).
The feeling of intense anger is another emotional
response for many children experiencing divorce (Allers,
1982; Hetherington, 1979; Hodges & Bloom, 1984; Wallerstein
& Kelly, 1980).
Children get angry at their parents for violating
the unwritten rules of parenthoodparents are
supposed to make sacrifices for children, not the
other way around. Some keep their anger hidden
for years out of fear of upsetting parents or for
fear of retribution and punishment; others show
it. (Wallerstein St Blakeslee, 1989, p. 12)
Researchers have found that children may become aggressive
(Allers, 1982; Hess St Camara, 1979), destroying things and
occasionally becoming self-destructive in their behavior.
Related to the anger is a sense of powerlessness. Children
feel that they have no say, no way to influence this major
event in their lives (Wallerstein St Blakeslee, 1989) .
Depression is an additional emotional response of many
children who face divorce (Hetherington, 1979; Kalter St
Plunkett, 1984; Peterson St Zill, 1986; Wallerstein & Kelly,
1980). When families break up, children's sense of sadness


97
enhance generalization of positive outcomes to the
classroom.
However, the results of this present study are not
supported by other studies using preventive interventions
for assisting children with their adjustment to divorce
(Felner, Norton, Cowen, & Farber, 1981; Guerney & Jordan,
1979; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985). These previously
conducted studies all reported significant gains in
children's school behaviors, and did not directly address
classroom problem behaviors.
Although total mean scores yielded by gender did not
determine significance by the testing of the hypotheses of
this study, significances by gender were revealed. Testing
of the hypotheses for between subjects effects by gender
revealed an ANOVA F (1,80) 13.71 PR > F 0.0004. There was
a difference in males and females scores but they were not
consistent from pretest to posttest. Males posttest scores
were lowered and females were increased, and the
differences in means by gender did grow closer.
Univariate tests of hypotheses for within subjects
effects revealed an ANOVA F (1,80) 7.48 PR > 0.0077 for the
time by gender interaction. Females posttest scores
increased and males posttest scores decreased.
Pretest scores by gender revealed an ANOVA F (1,80)
17.34 PR >0.0001. Females pretest scores were
significantly lower than males. Posttest scores by gender


76
Analysis of Data
Hypotheses one through five of this study were
analyzed by an analysis of variance using the statistical
package GLM procedure to assess significant differences in
the pretest and posttest mean total scores. A three-way
factoral ANOVA (group by gender by length of time since
divorce) with repeated measures was conducted to determine
if significant differences existed between the experimental
and control groups for gender and length of time since
divorce on the dependent variables of problematic beliefs,
school behaviors, and self-concept. The alpha levels were
set at .05.


124
She is a licensed mental health counselor and a
certified school counselor in the state of Florida. She is
also certified by the National Board for Certified
Counselors, Inc. She is an active member of the American
Association for Counseling and Development, Florida
Association for Counseling and Development, Florida Mental
Health Counselors Association, and the National Association
of Laboratory Schools.
April has made numerous presentations and conducted
many workshops throughout the country. She is presently
the director for the southeast region of the country for
the Educator Training Center in Long Beach, California.
She is the mother of two children. Her oldest child,
Karen Lynn McKnew is 20 years old and a senior at Tulane
University. Her son, Tommy McKnew, is 16 years old and a
junior in high school at Buchholz High School in
Gainesville, Florida.
She is married to "Jack" Sameck, a veterinarian and
the father of three children, Jacob, 15, Amy, 14, and Abby,
10.


9
provide support for a large number of children of divorce.
Specifically, small group work can provide the opportunity
for students to explore and attempt to modify their
negative attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. The group
process may also provide children with the opportunity to
more fully meet certain psychological needs: to be
accepted, to belong, to release negative feelings, and to
participate in a supportive atmosphere where self
exploration is encouraged (Hansen & Hill, 1984). Small
group intervention has the additional benefit of serving
more children than individual interventions, no small
consideration in times of rising divorce rates.
This researcher developed an intervention that
addressed children's problematic beliefs regarding their
parents' divorce for three major reasons. First, knowledge
of children's perceptions about parental divorce extends
social-cognitive developmental research into an applied
setting (Shantz, 1983). Second, several studies have
indicated that children's views of divorce differ from
those attributed to them by parents (Kurdek & Berg, 1983,
1987; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Third, children's
appraisals of divorce-related events may affect their
adjustment to the divorce and their social development
(Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
The goals of this intervention included facilitating
children's adjustment to divorce and reducing the


95
A final methodological limitation of the study lies in
the response bias or expectancy effects that may have
occurred from the study's reliance on adjustment data
(i.e., teachers, counselors, and children) who were aware
of children's group status. Such ratings are surely
relative to a comprehensive program evaluation, but they
are susceptible to human bias.
The implication of these limitations is that it is
difficult to generalize the results of this study to all
children who meet the criterion set for participation in
this study without regard for geographic location, race,
and socioeconomic variables. Random placement of the
participants in groups lends support for generalizability
of the findings.
Evaluation of Research Hypotheses
Research Hypothesis One
Hypothesis one addressed whether there were
significant differences between the experimental and
control group students' mean total scores on the Children's
Beliefs About Parental Divorce Scale (CBAPDS). Indicated
in the results was that a significant difference by group
on the CBAPDS mean total scores did exist. The
experimental group scored significantly lower than the
control group on the posttest mean total scores. A lowered
score indicates a reduction in problematic beliefs about
parental divorce.


112
Peterson, J. L., & Zill, N. (1986). Marital disruption,
parent-child relationships, and behavior problems in
children. Journal of Marriage and the Family. 48.
295-307.
Pfeffer, C. R. (1981). Developmental issues among children
of separation and divorce. In I. R. Stuart & L. E.
Abt, Children of separation and divorce (pp. 20-33).
New York: VanNostrand Reinhold.
Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1969). The psychology of the
child. New York: Basic Books.
Piers, E. V. (1984). Revised manual for the Piers-Harris
Children's Self-Concept Scale. Los Angeles, CA: A.B.
Press.
Platten, M. R., & Williams, L. R. (1979). A comparative
analysis of the factorial structures of two
administrations of the Piers-Harris Children's Self-
Concept Scale to one group of elementary school
children. Educational and Psychological Measurement.
39, 471-478.
Platten, M. R., & Williams, L. R. (1981). Replication of a
test-retest factorial validity study with the Piers-
Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale. Educational and
Psychological Measurement. 41. 453-467.
Reinhard, D. W. (1977). The reaction of adolescent boys
and girls to the divorce of their parents. Journal of
Clinical Psychology. 6, 21-23.
Rosen, R. (1977). Children of divorce: What they feel
about access and other aspects of the divorce
experience. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 6, 24-27.
Salkind, N. J. (1985). Theories of human development. New
York: Wiley and Sons.
Santrock, J. W. (1975). Father absence, perceived maternal
behavior and moral development in boys. Child
Development. 46. 753-757.
Shantz, C. V. (1983). Social cognition. In J. H. Flavell
& E. M. Markman (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology
(Vol. 3). Cognitive development (pp. 495-555). New
York: Wiley.
Shavelson, R. J., & Bolus, R. (1982). Self-concept:
interplay of theory and methods. Journal of
Educational Psychology. 74.(1)/ 3-17.
The


struggles. Acknowledging their anger can be very
difficult.
35
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) identify this
struggle with anger as a major task for children. A task
that requires recognizing their parents as human beings
capable of making mistakes and learning to respect them for
their real efforts and their real courage.
Cooling of anger and the task of forgiveness go
hand in hand with children's growing emotional
maturity and capacity to appreciate the various
needs of the different family members. As anger
diminishes, young people are better able to put
the divorce behind them and experience relief.
As children forgive their parents, they forgive
themselves for feeling anger and guilt and for
failing to restore the marriage. In this way
children can free themselves from identification
with the angry or violent parent or with the
victim. (p. 92)
Often young children feel responsible for divorce and
believe that their misbehavior may have caused the divorce.
Guilt feelings are often numerous at the time of divorce
but naturally dissipate as children mature.
Some guilt feelings persist and are rooted in
children's realization that they were a cause of marital
difficulty. Children often know the stresses they place on
the marriagefinancially, emotionally, mentally, and
psychologically. Their awareness that they have caused
this wedge between their parents reinforces their guilt
feelings.
Children of divorce need to separate from guilty ties
that bind them too closely to their troubled parent or


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate
School of the University of Florida in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
A STRUCTURED SMALL-GROUP COUNSELING INTERVENTION
TO ASSIST CHILDREN WITH ADJUSTMENT TO DIVORCE
By
April Merry Sameck
December 1990
Chairman: Paul J. Wittmer
Major Department: Counselor Education
The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of
a small group counseling intervention designed to assist
fourth and fifth grade children with their adjustment to
their parents' divorce. Specifically, children's
adjustment was assessed by instruments which measured self-
concept, school behaviors, and beliefs about parental
divorce. The influence of student group, student gender,
and length of time since their parents' divorce were
investigated.
This experimental study utilized a randomized control
group, pretest-posttest design. Data were collected and
analyzed from the pretest and posttest group total mean
scores.
Participants were 88 fourth and fifth grade children
from 6 Florida schools whose parents were divorced.
vii


Taking a chance on love is a central task for all
children during adolescence and young adulthood. For
37
children who lose their intact family through divorce, they
must also take a chance on love, knowing realistically and
experientially that divorce is always possible. The task
for children also involves being able to turn away from the
model of parents who could not stay committed to each
other.
This last task, taking a chance on love, involves
being able to venture, not just thinking about
it, and not thinking one way and behaving
another. It involves accepting a morality that
truly guides behavior. This is the task that
occupies children of divorce throughout their
adolescence. It is what makes adolescence such a
critical and difficult time for them. The
resolution of life's tasks is a relative process
that never ends, but this last task, which is
built on successfully negotiating all the others,
leads to psychological freedom from the past.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, pp. 293-294)
Age and Sex Issues
Existing research findings of the effect of the age of
the child on the response to the divorce or parents can be
examined in three general age groups: preschool (birth to
5 years of age); latency (5 to 11 years of age); and
adolescence (12 to 18 years of age) (Hodges & Bloom, 1984).
Children in each of these age groups appear to respond
differently to the divorce of their parents.
Preschoolers are often viewed as the most vulnerable
group of children because their level of cognitive
development precludes their constructing an accurate


73
Items on the scale are keyed for problematic
responding. Scores for the six subscales are derived by
summing the number of problematic beliefs within each
subscale (total possible score per subscale = 6). A total
possible score is derived by summing the number of
problematic beliefs across all items (total possible score
= 36). A high score indicates the child has a number of
problematic beliefs which may need to be addressed by a
professional helper.
A study was conducted in 1987 to evaluate psychometric
properties of the CBAPS regarding internal consistency,
factor structure and test-retest reliability. The study
further presented descriptive data on the relationship
between the CBAPS and the child's age and gender, the
length of parental separation, and the family structure
(single parent with mother or father or reconstituted
family with stepmother or stepfather). To assess
concurrent validity, CBAPS scores were related to
multiscore, multivariable assessments of children's
adjustment that included self-report measures of self-
concept, control beliefs, social support, anxiety, and
interpersonal problem-solving as well as parent and teacher
ratings of internalizing and externalizing behavior
problems.
The subjects of this latter study were 170 children
(84 boys, 86 girls; mean age = 11.06 years, SD = 2.64


82
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
(C=8.51)
Pretest
Posttest
Figure 1. Total mean scores on the Children's Beliefs
About Parental Divorce Scale.


28
anger and rejection (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981; Stolberg &
Anker, 1983; Stolberg et al., 1984).
In a study begun in 1979 by the National Association
of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the Kettering
Foundation's Institute for the Development of Educational
Activities (I/D/E/A), researchers addressed the school
needs of children from one-parent families and concluded
that these children are at risk and that some may need
special assistance at school. Prior to this study, this
issue had never been systematically investigated.
To conduct the study, NAESP and I/D/E/A researchers
gathered information on students from 26 elementary and
secondary schools in 14 states. In addition to sampling
the major regions of the country (Arizona, California,
Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio,
Washington, and Wisconsin), the schools represented a
cross-section of inner-city, suburb, small-town, and rural
areas (Lazarus, 1980).
Educators have for generations assumed that children
from one-parent households have more trouble in school than
do children whose families fit what we think of as the
traditional nuclear family mold. The findings of the
NAESP-I/D/E/A study help to confirm that assumption. The
results indicate that one-parent children, as a group, have
lower achievement and present more discipline problems than


47
disruption (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1976). Age at the time of
divorce is an important determinant of psychopathology with
children between 5 and 9 years experiencing the greatest
behavioral and cognitive/perceptual difficulties (Deredyn,
1977; Kurdek & Siesky, 1981; Stolberg, Mauger, Marks, &
Zinober, 1978; Tooley, 1976). Inasmuch as maximum
cognitive sensitivity to interpersonal stimuli occurs
between ages 7 and 11 (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969), one would
expect maximum cognitive/perceptual changes due to divorce
to occur in this age range.
Comprehensive Studies on the Effects of Divorce
Three large-scale comprehensive studies published on
the effects of divorce on children have produced a number
of significant findings.
Wallerstein and Kelly (1974, 1975, 1976) and Kelly and
Wallerstein (1976) studied the reactions of 131 preschool,
early latency, late latency, and adolescent children to
their parents1 divorce both shortly after the parents1
separation and in a 12- to 18-month follow-up. Three major
findings were obtained: (a) Children's reactions to their
parents' divorce were largely negative and varied as a
function of their developmental level, (b) the functioning
of the custodial parent following the divorce played a
large part in the first year following the divorce, and (c)
adjustment among older children was related to the
custodial parent refraining from perceiving their children


12
A nuclear family is a family in which the natural
mother, father, and child live together.
Paternal blame refers to children's belief that the
father is entirely responsible for the divorce.
Peer ridicule and avoidance refers to children's
belief that their parents' separation reflects negatively
on themselves.
Problematic beliefs refers to the thoughts children of
divorce construct about the nature of parental divorce and
their causal role in the divorce decision.
Self blame refers to children's belief that their
parents' separation is due to something they said or did.
Self-concept refers to a relatively stable set of
self-attitudes reflecting both a description and an
evaluation of one's own behavior and attributes.
Small-group refers to a group composed of 6-10
members.
Overview of the Remainder of the Study
The remainder of the study has been organized into
four additional chapters. Chapter II entails a review of
the current literature and the theoretical constructs
pertinent to this study. Chapter III includes a
description of the methodology, including the population
and design of the study; the hypotheses; the
instrumentation and data collection procedures; and the
analysis of the data. Chapter IV contains the data


52
in overall adjustment and in life coping skills (Bloom,
Hodges, Kern, & McFadden, 1985).
Several pilot preventive interventions based primarily
on support principles for children have been witnessed.
Cantor (1977) found little evidence of positive behavior
change in program children, based on parent and teacher
judgments. Guerney and Jordon (1979) had very positive
feedback from program children. Each of these studies
involved nine children and were evaluated
impressionistically and lacked rigorous control.
A recent more carefully evaluated program, the Divorce
Adjustment Project (Stolberg & Cullen, 1983, Stolberg,
Cullen, & Garrison, 1982), had two main components: (a)
the Children's Support Group (CSG), a group intervention
for 82 children of divorce 7 to 13 years of age and their
mothers emphasizing support and the building of
communication, anger control, and relaxation skills; and
(b) the Single Parent Support Group, also based on support
and discussions oriented to participants as individuals and
as parents. Subjects in the study consisted of pairs of
divorced mothers and their children assigned either to the
previously mentioned conditions alone, a combined parent
and child intervention, or a no-program control group.
Outcome comparisons at the end of the 12-week intervention
and five months later indicated that children in the
support group alone improved most in self-concept and that


10
problematic beliefs experienced by children whose parents
divorce. Additionally, objectives included helping the
child to accept the new family situation, increasing the
psychological distance between the parents' problems and
the child's problems, and providing the child with
additional coping strategies. Small group interventions
may significantly assist children of divorce in meeting
these goals (Drake, 1981).
The investigator of this study utilized six school
settings to provide elementary school children in grades 4
and 5 from families of divorce with an intervention
designed to assist them with their problematic beliefs
about their parents' divorce. More specifically, this
study was done in an attempt to answer the following
questions:
1. What is the impact of a structured counselor-led
preventive intervention on the problematic beliefs of
children of divorced parents?
2. What is the impact of a structured counselor-led
preventive intervention on the school behavior of children
of divorced parents?
3. What is the impact of a structured counselor-led
preventive intervention on the self-concepts of children of
divorced parents?
4. Does the length of time since the parents' divorce
have an effect on the impact of the intervention?


122
I have read and I understand the procedures described on
the attached letter. I agree to allow my child
to participate in the study and I
have received a copy of the description of the study.
Child's Name
Age Birthdate
Teacher's Name
Parent/Guardian Signature
Date
*2nd Parent/Witness Date
(if he/she wishes)
Length of time since parent's
separation or divorce
/
Years
Months
Is your child presently receiving
any counseling?
/
Yes
No
Who does vour child live with?
Please check the parent that has primary
residential custody or with whom the
child lives with most of the time.
/
Mother
Father
Is there a legal joint custody agreement?
/
Yes
No
*When the divorced parents have joint custody, permission
of both parents is required for your child to participate
in this study.
Please return this questionnaire in an envelope to your
child's classroom teacher by 1990.
April M. Sameck
911 N.W. 42 Terrace
Gainesville, FL 32605


18
different child behaviors at different times. Stages of
development are convenient organizers because they assist
in placing behavior at different ages in perspective.
However, Piaget emphasized that these stages are not bound
by anything other than very general time guidelines.
The sensorimotor stage of development begins at birth
with the simple reflexes of the neonate and terminates at
approximately 2 years of age with the onset of symbolic
thought, representing early childlike language.
During Piaget's preoperational period (from 2 to 7
years of age), children are limited in cognitive
development. They tend to focus on a single detail of a
problem rather than shift among many dimensions. They are
also egocentric and have trouble understanding that others'
view of the physical and social environment differs from
their own.
During the concrete operational period (from 7 to 11
years of age), children have internalized actions that
permit them to do "in their heads" what previously would
have been accomplished through overt actions. According to
Piaget, by the end of the concrete operational period,
children are remarkably adept at solving problems.
During the last stage of development (from 11 years
through adulthood), formal operational, children are able
to think about their thoughts, construct ideas, and reason
realistically about the future. They can draw hypotheses


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102
group discussion and role plays that addressed the same
problematic beliefs measured by the Children's Beliefs
About Parental Divorce. This researcher's assessment of
children's beliefs regarding parental divorce provides
additional support to the need for providing intervention
strategies designed to assist children in revising
problematic beliefs (Bernard & Joyce, 1984; Ellis &
Bernard, 1983; Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
Although the differences in posttest results for the
self-concept and school behaviors were not significant,
experimental children were able to clarify misconceptions
about divorce and reduce their sense of responsibility
regarding the divorce. Future interventions might also
include additional informal evaluations regarding
problematic beliefs, school behaviors, and self-concept
from parents, teachers, counselors, and students.
This study may also indicate that a 7-week program
that focused specifically on problematic beliefs associated
with divorce is not sufficient for producing changes on
other dimensions such as school behaviors and self-
concepts. It might be beneficial to consider including
other relevant skill components (i.e., prosocial skills) to
bridge the outcome from the counseling office to the
classroom.
Children comprehend the meaning of divorce within the
context of their cognitive stage of development. The


69
internal consistency of the test as a whole is relatively
high. Alpha coefficients of .90-.91 have been reported for
male and female populations and reliabilities of .88-.93
have been cited for males and females using the Kuder-
Richardson formula 20 (Piers & Harris, 1984). Similarly
high internal consistency measures have been found with
special populations, including the learning disabled (Smith
& Rogers, 1978) and native Americans (Lefley, 1974).
Test-retest reliabilities range from .42 to .96 in the
literature with retest intervals of a few weeks to six
months. These reliabilities have been established in
normal populations (e.g., Shavelson & Bolus, 1982),
learning disabled students (Smith, 1978), and in children
from different ethnic backgrounds, including black and
Mexican American children (Platten & Williams, 1979, 1981),
Mexican-American migrant workers (Henggeler & Tavormina,
1979), and American Indian students (Lefley, 1974).
School Behaviors
The students' school behaviors were assessed using the
Teacher Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior
Checklist. This instrument is designed to obtain teachers'
reports of their pupils' problems and adaptive functioning
in a standardized format. It is modeled on the Child
Behavior Checklist, which was developed to obtain parents'
reports of their children's problems and competencies
(Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983).


65
WEEK III PEER RIDICULE AND AVOIDANCE
To become aware of each group member's
present family structure and the
differences in these structures.
To explain the problematic belief of PEER
RIDICULE AND AVOIDANCE to the group
members.
To role play situations related to PEER
RIDICULE AND AVOIDANCE.
WEEK IV PATERNAL/MATERNAL BLAME
To explain the problematic beliefs of
PATERNAL and MATERNAL BLAME to the
group members.
To identify possible reasons that children
have for blaming one parent for the
divorce.
To role play situations related to PATERNAL
and MATERNAL BLAME.
WEEK V FEAR OF ABANDONMENT
To participate in a "Trust Walk" with a
partner.
To explain the problematic belief of FEAR
OF ABANDONMENT to the group members.
To role play situations related to the FEAR
OF ABANDONMENT.
WEEK VI HOPE FOR REUNIFICATION
To participate in the "IF I Had A Magic
Wand" Activity.
To explain the problematic belief of the
HOPE FOR REUNIFICATION to the group
members.
To role play situations related to the HOPE
FOR REUNIFICATION.
WEEK VII GROUP EVALUATION AND CLOSURE
To review the problematic beliefs addressed
in the previous six sessions.
To discuss the advantages and disadvantages
of the group intervention in assisting
the members with adjusting to their
parents' divorce.
To participate in a Trust Walk with a
partner.


56
1985). Clinicians need to regard divorce today as a "life
experience which has exposed children to certain challenges
and demands without predetermining the emotional valance of
the event" (Bernard & Nesbitt, 1981, p. 40).
Primary prevention programs for children of divorce
should focus on the important influences on adjustment and
on modifying constructively the child's response to them
(Stolberg & Garrison, 1985). Individual variables that
predict children's divorce adjustment include age, sex, and
emotional predisposition of the child (Hetherington, 1979;
Kurdek & Siesky, 1981).
Highlighting relationships between environmental and
familial changes and children's divorce adjustment helps to
identify activities that may be integral components of a
preventive intervention. Lost support systems must be
replaced. Altered living circumstances and reduced
parental availability and financial resources may result in
increased feelings of anger and frustration in children.
Helping children to understand these confusing events
should also serve to reduce their anger, frustration, and
self-blame (Stolberg & Garrison, 1985).


I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Ellen S. Amatea
Professor of Counselor Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Woodrow M.
Professor of Counselor Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Donald H. Bernard
Associate Professor of Instruction
and Curriculum


17
strategies would be expected from young children with
limited cognitive and social competencies and their
dependency on parents than those of the more mature and
self-sufficient older child or adolescent (Wallerstein &
Kelly, 1980).
Theoretical Constructs
Children's ability to comprehend divorce depends upon
their age. Theorists have suggested that there are
specific periods in children's lives when they are able to
understand certain concepts and certain other periods when
they cannot.
Piaget's (1950) theory of cognitive development
identified four stages of development, the latter three of
which involve school-age children: the sensorimotor
period, from birth to 2 years of age; the preoperational
period, from 2 to 7 years of age; the concrete operational
stage, from 7 to 11 years of age; and the formal
operational period, from 11 years through adulthood.
Piaget stressed that these age ranges represent normative
ranges and that they are more clearly definable and
understandable when the content of what occurs during these
stages of development is examined rather than when they
began.
Piaget's notion of stages reflects and emphasizes the
structural transitions that take place during different
developmental periods, rather than a simple description of


94
males -2(E) to males -2(C)). Overall, there were 16 more
female than male participants and 17 more students from the
+2 divorce source than the -2 divorce source, all of which
were females.
The participants in this study constituted a
relatively small group of fourth and fifth grade children
whose parents were divorced. Although a more
geographically even representation was anticipated, four of
the six schools participating in the study were located in
rural communities. Representation by race and income level
were not taken into consideration or used as variables in
the analysis.
The implications of these limitations is the obvious
difficulty in generalizing the results of this study to all
4th and 5th grade children whose parents are divorced and
who meet the criterion set for this study. However, this
study does reflect favorably upon the need for more data
regarding controlled studies of preventive and
developmental interventions and interventions that include
children as sources of information about their own
reactions to parental divorce (Kurdek & Berg, 1987).
An additional methodological weakness was that,
although participants were nested in different schools,
school was not taken into account as a variable in this
analysis.


49
were not systematically obtained in these three studies.
From a cognitive-developmental theoretical perspective, the
child experiencing his or her parents' divorce is actively
structuring and interpreting the complex events transpiring
before, during, and after the separation period. More
importantly, the nature of these resulting perceptions may
greatly influence the extent to which the child is either
positively or negatively affected by the divorce (Kurdek &
Siesky, 1981).
The importance of considering children's perceptions
of their parents' divorce is demonstrated by two studies
whose conclusions offset the crisis tone of the studies
reported above. Rosen (1977) interviewed 92 9- to 28-year-
olds who strongly maintained that their parents' separation
was more beneficial than remaining together in conflict.
Additionally, they indicated that (a) they did not feel
adversely affected by the divorce, (b) they would have
preferred free access to the noncustodial parent, and (c)
many perceived themselves as having benefitted from the
divorce by acquiring an understanding of human emotions and
developing a sense of maturity and responsibility (Kurdek &
Siesky, 1980).
Reinhard (1977) reviewed responses to a 99-item
questionnaire of 46 12- to 18-year-olds regarding their
parents' divorce. The results indicated that (a) they did
not possess negative reactions to the divorce, (b) they saw


110
Hetherington, E. M., Cox, M., & Cox, R. (1978). Divorced
fathers. The Family Coordinator. 25. 417-428.
Hodges, W. F., & Bloom, B. L. (1984). Parents report of
children's adjustment to marital separation: A
longitudinal study. Journal of Divorce. 8(1), 33-49.
Isaacs, M. B. (1985). Traversing the experience well: A
three year study. Paper presented at the 62nd annual
meeting of the American Orthopsychiatry Association,
New York City.
Jacobs, T. J., & Charles, E. (1980). Life events and the
occurrence of cancer in children. Psychosomatic
Medicine. 1, 11-24.
Jacobson, D. S. (1978). The impact of marital
separation/divorce on children: III. Parent-child
communication and child adjustment, and regression
analysis of findings from overall study. Journal of
Divorce. 2, 175-194.
Kalter, N., & Plunkett, J. W. (1984). Children's
perceptions of the causes and consequences of divorce.
Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry.
23, 326-334.
Kalter, N., & Rembar, J. (1981). The significance of a
child's age at the time of divorce. American Journal
of Orthopsychiatry. 51. 85-100.
Kelly, J. B., & Wallerstein, J. S. (1976). The effects of
paternal divorce: Experiences of the child in early
latency. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 46, 20-
32.
Kelly, J. B., & Wallerstein, J. S. (1977). Brief
interventions with children in divorcing families.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 47.(1), 23-36.
Kelly, R., & Berg, S. (1978). Measuring children's
relations to divorce. Journal of Clinical Psychology.
34, 215-221.
Kurdek, L. A. (1986). Children's reasoning about parental
divorce. In R. D. Ashmore & D. M. Brodzinsky (Eds.),
Thinking about the family views of parents and
children (pp. 233-276). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.


48
as sources from which their own emotional and social needs
were to be met.
In the second major study of the effects of divorce on
children, Hetherington, Cox, and Cox (1978) described
alterations in the relationship between 48 custodial
mothers and noncustodial fathers and their nursery school
aged children in the two year period following the divorce.
The authors found that fathers became increasingly
unavailable to their children while mothers experienced
marked child behavioral problems, especially with their
sons. These behavioral problems were somewhat mitigated
when the mother and father maintained support and positive
attitudes toward one another.
Finally, Jacobson (1978) investigated the impact of
marital separation/divorce on 61 6- to 17-year-old children
during the 12 month period following parental separation.
They found that child maladjustment was related both to
time lost in the presence of the father and to the degree
of interparent hostility in the preseparation period.
Children who were seen as well adjusted had, on the other
hand, received parents' help in dealing with the separation
and were encouraged to discuss separation-related problems.
On the basis of the three studies described above, it
appears that divorce occasions crisis and disequilibrium
for the children as well as the parents. Children's own
perceptions of the events compressed within the divorce


42
less effectively than girls (Biller, 1974; Hetherington,
Cox, & Cox, 1978; Lamb, 1977; McDermott, 1970). Boys
rather than girls in divorcing families are reported to
exhibit lower levels of socially competent behavior (e.g.,
more noncompliant and acting out responses) (Hetherington
et al., 1978; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). It may be that
boys experience greater trauma because their same sex role
models are usually the persons who disengage from family
roles (Hetherington, 1979). Hetherington et al. (1978)
also reported that male children seem to receive more
punitive and inconsistent responses to misbehavior from
custodial parents than do female children.
Sons of divorced parents appear to experience more
problems in the areas of both general cognitive, emotional,
and social development and more specific divorce adjustment
difficulty (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980) than do daughters of
divorced parents. However, it appears that sex differences
may dissipate over the course of the post-divorce period
and that they are less pronounced in older children (Kurdek
& Siesky, 1980; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Clear-cut
explanations for the findings have not been advanced. It
has been suggested that younger boys may be exposed to more
stress, frustration, and aggression as well as less support
and nurturance from mothers, teachers, and peers than
younger girls (Kurdek & Siesky, 1981). Since the mother is
generally the custodial parent, it is also possible that


19
from their observations and are able to deduce and induce
principles regarding the world around them.
Children can be expected to comprehend the meaning of
divorce within the context of their cognitive stage.
Children in the preoperational stage might handle some
basic facts about divorce but might not comprehend fully
the impact of divorce on themselves or their family.
During Piaget's concrete operational stage, children might
more fully grasp the concept of divorce and might, to some
extent, understand what the divorce means to their future.
The young adults in the formal operational stage would
understand and guestion more fully the impact of divorce on
themselves and their families.
Piaget stressed that the developing individual is
active rather than reactive. He defined development as a
spontaneous process and emphasized the individual's
inherent capability of being dynamic, not remaining static.
The essence of development is the interaction between the
individual's internal motivational system and the demands
of the environment. Piaget termed this striving for order
or balance equilibration, a self-regulatory process that
keeps the individual on the right track. This right track
is not a genetic predisposition toward a specific behavior
but a characteristic of the entire development of the
individual (Salkind, 1985).


APPENDIX B
LETTER OF INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE
IN THE STUDY


IV RESULTS 77
Research Hypotheses 80
Research Hypothesis One 80
Research Hypothesis Two 84
Research Hypothesis Three 87
Research Hypothesis Four 90
Research Hypothesis Five 91
V DISCUSSION 92
Limitations 93
Evaluation of Research Hypotheses 95
Research Hypothesis One 95
Research Hypothesis Two 96
Research Hypothesis Three 98
Research Hypothesis Four 99
Research Hypothesis Five 100
Discussion, Implications, and Recommendations. 101
In Conclusion 104
REFERENCES 107
APPENDICES
A REVIEW AND EVALUATION MEMORANDUM AND
EVALUATION FORM 116
B LETTER OF INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN THE
STUDY 120
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 123
vi


103
children of this study were 9- and 10-year-olds, and in the
concrete operational stage of development, according to
Piaget's theory. Children in this stage of development are
able to internalize actions and to think. They are able to
problem solve and become quite adept at this in the later
part of this stage (approximately 11 years). Children in
this stage are able to grasp the concept of divorce and
better understand its implications for them and their
family members. The intervention used in this study was
designed with careful consideration of the developmental
level of the children with whom it was used.
The counselors who participated in this study and
those that evaluated the intervention all expressed their
frustration with the lack of effective interventions and
information available for assisting children with
adjustment to divorce. A supportive environment that
assists children with identifying, expressing, and dealing
with feelings does not in itself produce problem solving
skills and other skills necessary for adjustment to new
life situations. Training programs to assist counselors in
learning and increasing skills in the identification of the
special needs of children of divorce and in the appropriate
skills to teach children for their successful adjustment to
divorce are needed.
Most preventive type models for children of divorce do
not assume that the children have adjustment problems.


24
that they need. With divorce, that structure
breaks down, leaving children who feel alone and
very frightened about the present and future.
(Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 11-12)
A review of the research on the effects of divorce on
children indicates that the four most common emotional
responses of children in the immediate post divorce
situation are guilt, fear, anger, and depression (Freeman &
Couchman, 1985).
It is not uncommon for children to assume guilt for
being the cause of the divorce (Allers, 1982; Hetherington,
1979; Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985; Walsh, 1980). Children
may also view divorce as a punishment for wrongdoing and
believe that if they correct inappropriate behavior or act
better, then their parents will reconcile. Many children
feel guilty and some feel that it is their duty to mend the
marriage (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989). Some children
may believe that their parents' divorce is due to something
they said or did. Such beliefs can lead to guilt (Berg &
Kurdek, 1987).
The fear that children often experience is the fear of
abandonment by their other parent or the loss of both of
their parents (Allers, 1982; Hetherington, 1979; Pedro-
Carroll & Cowen, 1985; Walsh, 1980). Children of all ages
feel intensely rejected when their parents divorce. When
one parent leaves the other, the children interpret the act
as including them (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989). Some
children may believe that they will eventually lose contact


106
The results of this study suggest support for the view
that a focused, time-limited, school-based group
intervention with a specific program component (children's
problematic beliefs regarding divorce) can effectively
assist children with their adjustment to divorce. The
results also suggest that parental divorce does not
necessitate that maladjustment for children of divorce is
inevitable. The researcher of this study suggests that
children's adjustment to divorce can be moderated or
contained by providing support and problem-solving skills
that are relevant to divorce adjustment.


96
These results are consistent with other studies using
preventive interventions for assisting children with their
adjustment to divorce (Pedro-Carroll & Cowen, 1985; Alpert-
Gillis et al., 1989). These previously conducted studies
also reported that experimental group children had
significantly fewer negative perceptions and fewer
problematic beliefs about divorce than the control group
children at posttest.
Research Hypothesis Two
Hypothesis two addressed whether there were
significant differences between the experimental and
control group students' mean total scores on the Teacher's
Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist
(TRFACBC).
A review of the results revealed no significant
differences by group on the TRFACBC mean total scores.
Teachers did not report significant differences in
children's school behaviors. These results are consistent
with other studies using preventive interventions for
assisting children with their adjustment to divorce
(Alpert-Gillis et al., 1989; Cantor, 1977; Stolberg &
Garrison, 1985). These structured intervention programs,
as well as the present study, emphasized skill building and
did not directly address classroom problem behaviors. This
may highlight a need for intervention changes designed to


87
Table 7
Group. Gender, and Divorce
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
SS
F
PR>F
TRFACBC
Group
1
3099.63
3.21
0.0769
(Pretest)
Gender
1
16737.68
17.34
0.0001*
Group*Gender
1
118.17
0.12
0.7273
Divorce
1
504.97
0.52
0.4716
Group*Divorce
1
130.88
0.14
0.7137
Gender*Divorce
1
403.37
0.42
0.5198
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
18.29
0.02
0.8908
TRFACBC
Group
1
1498.86
1.79
0.1847
(Posttest)
Gender
1
7129.01
8.51
0.0046*
Group*Gender
1
3.67
0.00
0.9473
Divorce
1
207.44
0.25
0.6200
Group*Divorce
1
1360.63
1.62
0.2061
Gender*Divorce
1
35.71
0.04
0.8369
Group*Gender*Divorce
1
287.06
0.34
0.5599
Research Hypotheses Three
Hypothesis three addressed whether there were
significant differences between the experimental and control
group students' mean total scores on the Piers-Harris
Children's Self-Concept Scale (PHCSCS). Table 8 includes
pretest and posttest group means, standard deviations, and
univariate group x time interactions for the PHCSCS.
Tests of hypotheses for between subjects effects
yielded an ANOVA F (1,80) of 0.51 PR > F 0.4787 indicating


53
parents in the parent group alone condition improved most
in adjustment. The combined condition did not yield
parallel improvements (Stolberg & Garrison, 1985).
Pedro-Carroll and Cowen (1985) evaluated the efficacy
of a modified Children's Support Group for fourth through
sixth grade suburban children of divorce. Although this
more recent Children of Divorce Intervention Program
(CODIP) maintained the Children's Support Group (CSG)
emphasis on support and skill-building, it (a) added an
early affective component focusing on divorce-related
feelings and experiences; (b) supplemented Children's
Support Group cognitive skill building units by using
discussion, filmstrips, and role plays of emotionally laden
divorce-related experiences; and (c) reduced the number of
anger control sessions from five to three.
Program outcome was assessed from the perspectives of
teachers, parents, group leaders, and children to represent
key domains of the child's current adjustment. Program
children made significantly greater adjustment gains than
controls. Teachers judged them to have shown significantly
greater reductions in shyness, anxiety, and learning
problems and to have improved more on total competence and
specific competencies such as frustration tolerance, peer
sociability, compliance with rules, and adaptive
assertiveness. Parent and group leader reports indicated
significant decreases in problem areas such as feelings of


78
Letters describing the study were sent to the parents
of fourth- and fifth-grade children in all 6 participating
schools whose parents were divorced. Ninety-six of the
returned letters were from students meeting the criteria
for participation in the study. All 96 students
participated in the first two weeks of the study. Eight of
the student participants withdrew from school during the
first two weeks of the study leaving a final number of
participants at 88 who completed the study.
The participants included 52 females and 36 males: 32
females' parents had been divorced more than 2 years, 20
females' parents had been divorced 2 years or less; 15
males' parents had been divorced more than 2 years, and 21
males' parents had been divorced less than 2 years.
Random within-school division of the total participant
pool yielded group intervention (experimental, E; n=45) and
no group intervention (Control, C; n=43) groups matched for
gender and length of time since their parents' divorce
(Table 1).
The experimental and control groups had six mixed
gender and mixed length of time since divorce subgroups.
The group's participants met in their home schools for
seven weekly, 60-minute sessions during the school day.
The group counseling intervention was led by the


60
4. Child was not presently enrolled in or eligible
for enrollment in a special education program.
A letter from the researcher was sent to the parents of all
eligible students in grades 4 and 5 of the participating
schools requesting permission to have their child
participate in the study. The letters were distributed to
the students to take home in a sealed envelope. This was
done to prevent any embarrassment or discomfort to
potential participants and their families and to protect
the disclosure of information some families may consider
confidential. The parents were asked to return the
permission forms to their child's classroom teacher. A
total of 96 students met the criteria for participation in
the study and returned permission forms signed by their
parents. All 96 students participated in the initial 2
weeks of the study. Eight students withdrew from school
before the completion of the study leaving a final number
of participants at 88.
The subjects with permission to participate in the
study were randomly placed in one of two groups
experimental or control, at their respective schools.
Prior to this random placement the subjects were further
identified by gender and length of time since their
parents' divorce. The name of each male whose parents were
divorced for 2 years or less (4/88 through 4/90) were
written on an index card and placed in a box marked


105
problematic beliefs about parental divorce were measured
using the Piers Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, The
Teacher's Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior
Checklist, and the Children's Beliefs About Parental
Divorce Scale. The independent variables included group,
gender, and length of time since the parents' divorce.
The results of the study indicated that children in
the structured intervention program reported more positive
changes in their problematic beliefs regarding parental
divorce. Teachers did not report significant group gains
in the improvement of problem school behaviors for the
experimental group or the control group. Experimental and
control children also failed to indicate gains in self-
concept following the 7-week program.
Divorce is a stressful event resulting in a painful
process of adjustment and imposes burdensome demands on
those who are involved. Additional research is needed to
explore the effectiveness of prevention-oriented programs
for assisting children with their adjustment to parental
divorce. Specifically, this researcher is of the opinion
that such prevention programs should pinpoint the
contribution of specific program components. Models should
be developed and extended to children of all ages.
Additionally, programs need to be developed with content
and methods that also address both developmental and
sociocultural issues.


34
a good relationship with their parents, as well as a good
visitation and/or joint custody arrangement, find this task
easier to achieve.
Some children are able to use a good, close
relationship with the visiting parent to promote
their growth within the divorced family. Others
are able to acknowledge and accept that the
visiting parent could never become the kind of
parent they need, and they are able to turn away
from blaming themselves. Still others are able
to reject on their own, a rejecting parent or to
reject a role model that they see as flawed. In
so doing, these youngsters are able to
effectively master the loss and get on with their
lives. (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 29)
The true cause of divorce lies in the parents' failure
to maintain the marriage, and is always a voluntary
decision for at least one of the partners in a marriage.
Children of divorce therefore face a terrible dilemma.
Their unhappiness has been caused by the very people
charged with their protection and care. Their parents have
voluntarily become the agents of their distress.
The dilemma lies in the children's anger at their
parents for divorcing while also being aware of their
parents' weaknesses, neediness, and anxiety about life's
difficulties. Although children may lack understanding of
the divorce, they do recognize how unhappy and disorganized
their parents become, and this frightens them very much.
The children become caught in a combination of anger and
lovefrightened and guilty about their anger because they
love their parents and see their unhappiness and personal


41
been linked to adolescents' problems with interpersonal
relations, self-identity, self-esteem, and independence
(Sorosky, 1977; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).
Sorosky (1977), in a review of the literature,
identified aggression, sexual identity problems,
depression, and social conflicts in adolescents in response
to the divorce of parents. In contrast, Reinhard (1977)
found that, while adolescents were unhappy and disappointed
about the divorce, they were also sensible and realistic.
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) reported that, in
their studies, adolescents are especially upset and
frightened by divorce. This appears to be the result of
their need for family structure to help them set limits on
their own sexual and aggressive impulses. Adolescents are
often fearful that they will repeat their parents failures
and that their own marriages might fail.
In summary, different researchers have indicated
different types of responses to the divorce of parents of
adolescents. Some studies have obtained differences in
aggression, depression, and social conflicts, while others
have found little impact.
Besides developmental status, children's sex has also
been related to their divorce adjustment. It has been
suggested by several investigators that gender may
influence the vulnerability of children of divorce or
parental separation because boys have been reported to cope


31
seems logical that we must first be aware of the special
tasks and effects these children must respond to.
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) have conceptualized
the child's divorce adjustment process as a series of
several psychological tasks that are added to the customary
tasks of childhood and adolescence. Other researchers
(Gardner, 1976; Kurdek & Berg, 1987; Mendell, 1983;
Tessman, 1978) have further observed that children often
construct problematic beliefs about both the nature of
parental divorce and their causal role in the divorce
decision.
Psychological Issues
Our physical growth and development throughout life
has a predictable cycle. There is also a predictable
progression in our psychological and social growth and
development. Each stage in this progression presents us
with a sequence of tasks we must confront. As children
move upward along a common developmental ladder, each at
his or her own pace, a sense of self is consolidated. In
this process they develop coping skills, conscience, and
the capacity to give and receive love.
Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) propose that children
who experience divorce face an additional set of tasks
specific to divorce in addition to the normal developmental
tasks of growing up. They further propose that growing up
is inevitably harder for children of divorce because they


30
divorce face an additional set of tasks specific to divorce
in addition to the normal developmental tasks of growing
up. Growing up is inevitably harder for children of
divorce because they must deal with psychological issues
that children from well-functioning, intact families do not
have to face (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).
While literature on separation and divorce abounds,
research on how divorce affects children is sparse. It
seems important to report that, in spite of the potential
that divorce has for disrupting a child's development,
there is little in the literature suggesting how best to
help children to cope with the crisis of divorce. Despite
substantial concern about the conseguences of marital
instability for children, little systematic theory has been
developed that adequately conceptualizes this area of
inquiry (Peterson & Zill, 1984).
There is clearly a lack of literature available that
addresses interventions for children of divorce. Most of
the literature has focused on the effects of divorce on the
family members and the resulting behaviors that occur.
Divorce threatens the psychological and physical well-being
of individuals and families and it is the way in which
people respond to the divorce that is critical in shaping
the outcomes.
In order to develop helpful interventions to assist
children in their adjustment to their parents' divorce, it


Additional research is needed to explore the
effectiveness of prevention-oriented programs for assisting
children with their adjustment to parental divorce. There
is a continued need for intervention models designed with
content and methods that address developmental and
sociocultural needs of children whose parents have
divorced.
ix


83
Table 2
Deviations.
and Univariate Group
X Time Interactions for
the CBAPDS
Scores
E(n=45) C(n
¡=43)
Group
x Time
Pre Post Pre
Post
F
PR>F
CBAPDS
(df=l,80)
Mean
7.73 5.86 7.37
8.
51
12.70
0.0006*
S.D.
(4.65) (4.02) (4.19)
(4.
98)
Note: E=experimental group; C=control
group
;
CBAPDS=Children's Beliefs
About
Parental Divorce
Scale
Table 3
Univariate
Tests of Hvoothesis for Within Subjects
Effects
for the CBAPDS
Dependent
Variable
Source
DF
SS
F
PR>F
CBAPDS
Time
1
1.80
0.23
0.6334
Time*Group
1 100.24
12.70
0.0006*
Time*Gender
1
15 61
1.98
0.1635
Time*Group*Gender
1
2.36
0.30
0.5857
Time*Divorce
1
0.36
0.05
0.8294
Time*Group*Divorce
1
13.78
1.75
0.1901
Time*Gender*Divorce
1
0.76
0.10
0.7575
Time*Group*Gender
*Divorce
1
0.62
0.08
0.7796
Note. Time=pretest and posttest;
Group=experimental and control;
Gender=male and female;
Divorce=+2 years and -2 years


63
The purpose of the K.I.D.S. small-group counseling
intervention was to assist elementary school children in
grades 4 and 5 with adjustment to their parents' divorce.
Specifically, this intervention was designed to explore
problematic beliefs often associated with divorce. The
primary goals of the intervention were to provide an
opportunity for the children to explore these problematic
beliefs and to attempt to modify any negative beliefs.
K.I.D.S. was extensively reviewed prior to this study
by 12 professional school counselors and 6 licensed mental
health counselors and school psychologists for their
responses to questions regarding (a) the clarity of the
directions provided for the counselor to lead the
intervention, (b) the appropriateness of the information
and activities for the grade levels for which the
intervention is designed, (c) the appropriateness of the
coordination of the problematic beliefs and the
corresponding role play activities, (d) these
professionals' evaluations regarding the appropriateness of
the specific problematic beliefs addressed in this
intervention as common issues of children of divorce, (e)
whether they would themselves use this intervention in
their work with children whose parents are divorced, and
(f) whether they would like a copy of the intervention.
All 18 evaluators responded yes to all questions. Many
added expletives such as "great," "always," "excellent,
II