By Robert L. Mues   |   September 8th, 2012

Share Your Responses to This Important Divorce Research Survey!

divorceMary Murphy is a licensed clinical social worker and a doctoral candidate in counseling psychology from Oregon. I learned about Mary’s research project and survey from reading an article about it posted by Connecticut psychotherapist Donna Ferber. I have enjoyed collaborating in the past with Donna on a number of diverse topics. In Donna’s words, “Ms. Murphy’s work is of great value as she is looking to gather data from an often overlooked population. The effects of divorce on adult children are often minimized and her research helps shed a light on this issue.”

Here is Mary’s own introduction to her survey and research project:

Assumptions, Adult Children, and Divorce

Articles and books on divorce are replete with studies and discussions about the impact of divorce on children. That is, young and adolescent children. But what about the adult children? There is an emerging focus on considerations relevant to children who are adults when their parents divorce after decades of marriage. Cracks in assumptions, such as “they will be just fine”, or “they are mature now and have their own lives”, are being called into question. Regrettably, these assumptions and many more have become embedded in the language of divorce.

But is it realistic to assume adult children are unscathed with their parents’ late life divorce? Paradoxically, it is precisely because they are adults they are vulnerable to their feelings of anger, confusion, and worries about their parents. When a divorce occurs after decades of marriage, the adult child’s formative family is broken. No matter how amicable or rancorous the divorce, each family member is profoundly impacted in ways that often take time to evolve. The longer a marriage the more complex the ties are to realign.

“Many parents have seen their children leading, in all external respects, a full and autonomous life. They are genuinely surprised to see the depth of their children’s attachment to the family and its past” (Fintushel & Hillard, 1991). Parents do not like to see their children suffer and the assumptions that “you are grown; you have your own life; you’ll be fine” may be an “instinctive response” (Fintushel & Hillard, 280). Perhaps one of the most important things parents can do for their adult children is to acknowledge and validate their full measure of emotional pain. Moving away from the assumptions and moving toward the emotions of anger, confusion, and shock will enable the process of understanding and acceptance to begin.

Why is the impact of late parental divorce on the children uncertain? The answer to this question is complicated. One way to reflect on this is through stages of development. “A secure sense of connection with caring people is the foundation of personality development” (Herman, 1992, p. 52). When a formative family breaks up, can ego strengths developed in childhood, such as trust, fidelity, or competence be threatened? If there is a relationship between ego strength and impact of divorce on adult children, knowing that will snuff out painful assumptions. Painful assumptions will be replaced with knowledge and compassion.

As partial fulfillment of my doctorate in counseling psychology, I am researching the impact of divorce on adult children who were age 23 years or older when their biological parents divorced. If you meet this criteria and are interested in contributing to the open study, please click on the link below to take the confidential and anonymous online survey. Thank you!

Divorce Research Survey

Thanks again to Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC for alerting me to Ms. Murphy’s research project. Donna is a psychotherapist in private practice and is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback. To learn more about Donna and read her excellent blog, please visit

Mary Murphy, LICSW, is a doctoral candidate in counseling psychology at the American School of Professional Psychology, Argosy University/Seattle. She can be contacted at

References to “Divorce: Did Your Parents Marriage End When You Were 23 or Older?”:

Fintushel, N., & Hillard. (1991). A grief out of season. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co.

Herman, J. H. (1992). Trauma and recovery. New York, NY: Basic Books.

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.

Divorce: Did Your Parents Marriage End When You Were 23 or Older?
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