The effect of postdivorce parental conflict on the adjustment of young adult children of divorce

Date of Completion

January 2001


Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Clinical




The present study examined the interactions between interparental postdivorce conflict, parent-child relationship variables, and gender of offspring, for the prediction of psychological adjustment in 118 female and 86 male college undergraduates from divorced families. Parental conflict was assessed on three dimensions of hostile behavior for each parent—verbal, indirect, or physical hostility. Each of the dimensions served as main effects and in interaction with gender and either coalition or emotional attachment to each parent to predict four dependent variables, responsibility, anxiety/depression, conduct disorders, and serious psychopathology. Physical hostility, perhaps because of its infrequent occurrence, predicted adjustment less consistently than verbal or indirect hostility. Only Attachment to Mother, Coalition with Mother, and gender of participant predicted responsibility. A strong emotional attachment to mother or father appeared to exert a protective effect against the negative effects of parental hostility. Coalition with one parent, at times, predicted favorable outcomes, for example, in predicting students' Responsibility, and at other times, unfavorable outcomes, for instance, when the student was in coalition with their mother and their father was physically hostile. The results of the present study support the importance of examining conjointly the parent-child relationship, gender of offspring, gender of parent, frequency and style of parental hostility when attempting to predict psychological adjustment in young-adult children from divorced families. ^