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Infidelity, Initiation, and the Emotional Climate of Divorce: Are There Implications for Mental Health?

Megan M. Sweeney and Allan V. Horwitz
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 42, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 295-309
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3090216
Page Count: 15
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Infidelity, Initiation, and the Emotional Climate of Divorce: Are There Implications for Mental Health?
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Abstract

A large literature has examined the role of "secondary" stressors, such as problems with finances, social support, residential mobility, and children, in producing the well-documented association between divorce and a variety of psychopathological conditions. Much less attention, however, has been paid to variation in the "primary" disruption experience. We address this omission using data from the National Survey of Families and Households to investigate the interrelationships among depression, initiator status, and spousal infidelity. While we find little evidence of direct effects of initiator status or spousal infidelity on post-divorce depression, the importance of these characteristics emerges when they are considered in an interactive context. Specifically, while divorce initiation is associated with reduced depression among individuals with unfaithful spouses, initiation is associated with increased depression in the absence of spousal infidelity. Taken together, our findings suggest that characteristics of the divorce experience may interact in complex ways to produce variation in mental health outcomes.

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