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Date of Award

6-2016

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Reader/Committee Chair

Badiee, Manijeh

Abstract

Divorce is an event that can have profound psychological consequences for children of all ages. Vast research has shown that children from divorced families suffer from short and long-term negative effects such as mental health problems (i.e. anxiety and depression) and interpersonal relationship issues. Exposure to parental conflict and triangulation are two of the strongest influences in a child's adjustment to divorce and their psychological well-being. Previous literature has focused on predominately white populations. Much less is known about minority cultures; specifically Iranian populations and the impact of divorce on child adjustment and mental health. Only a few studies have focused on Iranian children and divorce, however these studies were conducted in Iran and information was limited. Iranian culture greatly values family stability. Ethnic group memberships and culture are central elements in an Iranian-Americans sense of self. With divorce, these individuals typically lose all three. The purpose of this study was to explore and understand the impact of culture on Iranian children experience of parental divorce in the United States. 41 Iranian-American and 2 Iranian-Canadian adult children of divorce, ranging in age from 18 to 46 years, participated in an online self-report survey measuring adjustment to divorce, beliefs about separation, anxiety, stress, resilience, and perceptions of divorce. Open-ended questions were used to capture unique aspects of culture that influenced their experience. Specifically questions were designed to explore how Iranian children perceive their experience of divorce compared to divorced children in other cultures. Overall quantitative results indicated that adult Iranian children of divorce who had lower levels of adjustment to the divorce and higher reports of irrational beliefs about parental separation as children/adolescents also had higher levels of stress and anxiety as adults. Additionally, individuals who perceived that Iranian culture had an impact on their divorce experience also reported lower levels of adjustment to divorce and higher prevalence of irrational beliefs about parental separation/divorce. Qualitative results included important cultural aspects and perceptions of divorce that are unique to the Iranian community. Aspects of divorce that were related to being Iranian included cultural stigma and judgment, loss of culture and familial support, and psychological distress and shame. Furthermore, results from this study provide new insight into how cultural aspects impact the child's psychological well-being, overall adjustment, beliefs about separation, stress, and anxiety. Therapeutic implications are discussed as well as limitations, strengths, and suggestions for future research.

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