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The Personality of Children Prior to Divorce: A Prospective Study

Jeanne H. Block, Jack Block and Per F. Gjerde
Child Development
Vol. 57, No. 4 (Aug., 1986), pp. 827-840
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130360
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130360
Page Count: 14
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The Personality of Children Prior to Divorce: A Prospective Study
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Abstract

In a longitudinal study, the personalities of children from intact families at ages 3, 4, and 7 were reliably assessed by independent sets of raters using Q-items reflecting important psychological characteristics of children. A number of these families subsequently experienced divorce. The behavior of boys was found, as early as 11 years prior to parental separation or formal dissolution of marriage, to be consistently affected by what can be presumed to be predivorce familial stress. The behavior of boys from subsequently divorcing families was characterized by undercontrol of impulse, aggression, and excessive energy prior to parental divorce. The behavior of girls from subsequently divorcing families was found to be notably less affected by the stresses in families prior to parental divorce. The prospective relations afforded by the longitudinal analyses suggest that the behavior of conflicting, inaccessible parents during the preseparation period may have serious consequences for personality development, especially for boys. Hence, some characteristics of children commonly seen to be a consequence of divorce may be present prior to marital dissolution.

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