The Effects of Divorce on Adult Children
Erik Kersting

Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are holding a psychological study to investigate the effect parental divorce has on adult children.

Christopher Brundidge, a graduate student working on the study, knows divorce is an important and well-discussed topic.

“There have been many studies completed dealing with divorce between two individuals and how it can potentially affect the family structure and any children involved,” Brundidge said. “It is especially important to study this because a difficult experience such as divorce can really change a young child’s life and his or her perceptions of family structure.”

Brundidge believes that studying the effects of divorce on adult children is unique.

“Our study, however, deals with a much less represented population in similar divorce literature. It is not only important to study this population because of the lack of representation in the literature, but it is also important because being an adult adds completely new dimensions to relationships between children and parents,” Brundidge said. “Having less dependence on a parent can create a variety of different perceptions, expectations and raise many different questions then a dependent youth might have.”

According to Dr. Sylvia Mikucki- Enyart, an assistant professor in the Division of Communication and leader of the study, gray divorce— divorce in people over the age of 50—is an increasing trend.

Mikucki-Enyart said it seems that more adult children are going to be coping with parental divorce.

As the trend grows it becomes more important to study the effects divorce has on adult children.

“Understanding their relationships and communication with their parents during and after the divorce can provide researchers and practitioners with guidance for how to help these individuals and families cope with the massive change,” Mikucki-Enyart said.

College students fall into the demographic of adult children when facing their parents’ divorce. While students may no longer live with their parents, Brundidge explained how divorce can still have a profound psychological effect on the student.

“College students are individuals who are beginning adulthood and learning how to become independent. Scenarios such as divorce can greatly impact an individual and even more so in a college environment,” Brundidge said. “Our hope is that our research will provide individuals in this population more insight and information on various elements of divorce such as uncertainties, conflict, emotional support and loneliness.”

Brundidge has been surprised by some of the initial results of the study.

“Though my peers and I are in the initial phases of data collection, we have been surprised by the amount of emotion that individuals still possess despite already being an adult in addition to the separation from their parents,” Brundidge said. “The level of complexity that exists when one is an adult dealing with their parents getting divorced is extremely insightful, and I myself personally did not imagine some of the scenarios.”

Students at UWSP are welcome to participate in the study if they meet certain criteria according to the release in the Campus Announcements email. To be eligible for participation, students must meet three criteria: They are currently 18 or older; they were 18 or older when their parents divorced; and they must have been living on their own, independently of their parents at the time of divorce. In other words, students could not have lived with their parents during school breaks.

Any interested students who fit these criteria can email Mikucki- Enyart at or visit www.mikucki-enyart. com.