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Marital Disruption and Depression in a Community Sample

Robert H. Aseltine, Jr. and Ronald C. Kessler
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 34, No. 3 (Sep., 1993), pp. 237-251
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2137205
Page Count: 15
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Marital Disruption and Depression in a Community Sample
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Abstract

The extent to which marital disruption causes poor mental health is not well characterized even after 20 years of research. This is due in large part to the fact that previous research has ignored the possibility of selection. The present analysis is based on a representative community sample and was designed to take a step toward correcting these problems and to explore a number of specifications overlooked in previous research. The aggregate results show that marital disruption is associated with an increase of approximately one-third of a standard deviation on a screening scale of depression over a three-year interval between waves of data collection. The effect is more pronounced among women than men and is confined to people other than those who are escaping marriages with serious long-term problems. No evidence is found that the depressogenic effect of marital disruption can be explained by increased financial pressures or other secondary changes in roles. However, increased emotional reactivity to these changes is shown to play a powerful role in promoting depression among the recently divorced. The implications and limitations of these results are discussed.

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