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Research - Depressed divorced fathers

FLINT is carrying out a study of the effects of divorce and contact issues on UK fathers. This research we hope to publish later this year. Below is an account of a study relating child absence with depression and physiological features in the men concerned:

Involuntary child absence syndrome and depression in males after relationship breakdown.
Sylvia Smith and Wei Wang

The present study was designed to investigate psychological well being in males. Specifically, depression, certain psychological strengths, and involuntary child absence syndrome were investigated. It was hypothesised that married males would have less depressive symptomatology than their separated or repartnered cohorts and non-custodial fathers would experience involuntary child absence syndrome. Fifty six men completed a questionnaire eliciting depression, ego strength, generalised perceived self-efficacy, and locus of control of behaviour. In addition, 38 non-custodial fathers in the sample competed a second questionnaire specifically designed for this study to measure involuntary child absence syndrome, and secondary stressors which were believed to contribute to adjustment after relationship breakdown. The scale developed to measure involuntary child absence syndrome demonstrated high internal reliability (.93). The analysis suggests that (1) married and repartnered males have less depression than their separated cohorts. (2) Generalised perceived self-efficacy and ego strength are reliable predictors of depression. (3) That involuntary child absence syndrome is related to depression and both persist over a considerable length of time after separation. (4) Physiological symptoms of ill health are related to depression in separated but not repartnered males. (5) Perceived control exerted by the ex-spouse and dissatisfaction with legal representation are related to depression. (6) The most salient distressing experience for men after relationship breakdown is the loss of their children.

Authors contact and affiliation
Sylvia Smith is a postgraduate research student at Central Queensland University.
Wei Wang is a Lecturer in Psychology at Central Queensland University.

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