Friday, January 13, 2012: 10:30 AM
Roosevelt (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Background and Purpose: According to the National Center for Health Statistics (2002) nearly half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Studies have suggested that children experiencing divorce/parental separation may face serious adjustment problems (Campana, Henderson, Stolberg, & Schum, 2008; Wallerstein, 2005). These problems, in turn, may place them at greater risk for developing emotional, behavioral, and/or educational difficulties (Amato, 2000). While research indicates that divorce itself transcends race, ethnicity, religion, and socio-economic status (Amato, & Cheadle, 2008), it further suggests that age, capacity to understand, and communication abilities may impact children's reaction to divorce and separation (Dreman & Shemi, 2004). The purpose of this paper is to: 1) describe a psycho-educational intervention program that was delivered to elementary school aged children experiencing family disruption; 2) delineate the research design employed to evaluate the intervention; and 3) discuss the results of the program evaluation in light of its effectiveness for ameliorating the behavioral, emotional, and academic problems that children often face after experiencing divorce/ parental separation. Description of the problem: A wealth of information indicates that parental separation is associated with adjustment problems in children (Amato, 2001; Wallerstein, 2005). Common reactions of elementary school-aged children whose parents are divorcing include: 1) behavioral problems such as anger and conduct disorders; 2) emotional concerns such as depression, grief, and self-blame; and 3) academic concerns such as inability to focus and follow directions (Amato & Cheadle, 2008). Despite the acknowledged risk factors, little is known about evidenced-based social work practice with children experiencing divorce. Study objectives: This study evaluates a psycho-educational intervention program that was delivered to elementary school aged children experiencing family disruption. Results focus on the program's effectiveness for ameliorating the behavioral, emotional, and academic problems that often face children experiencing divorce/parental separation. Research question/ hypotheses: The overarching research question for the investigation was: “Can a psycho-educational, school-based, group intervention help elementary-aged children cope with divorce/parental separation?” Three related hypotheses, focusing on: 1) children's emotional concerns; 2) children's behaviors; and 3) children academic performance were established.
Methods The study employed a quasi-experimental, time-limited pre-test/post-test OXO design utilizing a treatment group and wait-list comparison group. Study sample The convenience sample of elementary-aged children was drawn from the public school system. Prior to data collection, a study protocol was submitted to and approved by an Institutional Review Board. Informed consent was secured from the parents and assent was secured from youth. Both the teachers of these children and one of their parents or caregivers completed the study instruments. A power analysis was conducted prior to the study to assure that the sample size (n=91) was adequate.
Results: Results of data analysis (paired t-tests, independent t-tests, ANOVA and cross tabulations) supported the three study hypotheses (p<.05).
Conclusion and Implications: Findings strongly suggest that this school-based, psycho-educational group intervention is an effective treatment for helping elementary school children experiencing divorce/parental separation. Replication of the project and evaluation would add to confidence in the model.