Post-divorce wellbeing in Flanders
© eContent Management Pty Ltd
Volume 18, Issue 1, June 2012
JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES
Pre-divorce conﬂict levels are also known toinﬂuence post-divorce wellbeing. For example, whereas higher global happiness scores are foundin couples with elevated pre-divorce conﬂictlevels, members of low-conﬂict couples reportedsharp decreases in post-divorce happiness(Amato & Hohmann-Marriott, 2007). Childrenare also negatively impacted by high levels of mar-ital conﬂict (Gummings, Schermerhorn, Davies,Goeke-Morey, & Gummings, 2006), irrespectiveof whether their parents are married or divorced(Amato & Aﬁﬁ, 2006).
A shift towards process-oriented disputeresolution research
Research has increasingly focused on how divorceconﬂicts are best resolved (Beck & Sales, 2001). Infact, reviews of the research literature (e.g., Emery,Sbarra, & Grover, 2005; Kelly, 1996, 2004) as wellas a recent quantitative meta-analysis (Shaw, 2010)report greater outcome-efﬁcacy for mediation whencompared with litigation. Indeed, mediation pro-duces relatively high settlement-rates of 50–85%(Benjamin & Irving, 1995; Kelly, 1996) and ele-vated satisfaction scores are expressed by 60–85%of all mediation users (Kelly, 1996). However, themajority of mediation studies include small unrep-resentative samples, and are based on untested pre-sumptions with respect to the underlying process,and its impact on the quality of dispute resolutionoutcomes (Beck & Sales, 2001).The common conjecture is that superior medi-ation outcomes are an expression of the facilita-tive nature of mediation, whereas the adversarialnature of litigation negatively impacts the quality of dispute resolution (Sarrazin, Cyr, Lévesque, &Boudreau, 2005; Shestowsky, 2004). In brief,facilitative mediators typically display interest-based and process-oriented problem solving behaviors, and are more impartial, empathic andinformal than adversarial lawyers (Mayer, 2004;Riskin, 1996). Yet, recent ﬁndings specify thatsome mediators are directive rather than facilitative(Charkoudian, De Ritis, Buck, & Wilson, 2009;Sarrazin et al., 2005). Moreover, some lawyers arereported to actively incorporate facilitative princi-ples within their professional practice (Macfarlane,2008; Wright, 2007). Hence, controlling for theBut there are limits to the extent to which con-temporary mediation and divorce laws alone canimprove the quality of life by themselves.
A shift towards process-oriented divorceresearch
In order to assess divorce effects, research typically compares continuously married individuals withdivorced individuals. Such studies have frequently observed that wellbeing decreases by the often sharpdecline in ﬁnancial living standards following divorce(Smock, Manning, & Sanjiv, 1999). Physical andmental health often decline too (Wood, Goesling,& Avellar, 2007), as does the quality of life due to a diminishing network of social supports and the levelof intimacy (Albeck & Kaydar, 2002).But focusing only on the negative conse-quences of divorce does not tell the full story.Indeed, such a deﬁcit approach is increasingly being challenged and replaced by a perspective where both negative and positive consequencescan prevail (Demo & Fine, 2010). For instance,divorced persons are reported to exhibit morepersonal growth and higher autonomy (Tashiro& Frazier, 2003) and are more likely to investin their physical appearances and psychological wellbeing (Hetherington & Kelly, 2002).The observation that divorce is not a uni-tary experience stimulated research aimed atthe identiﬁcation of factors that help to explainpost-divorce quality of life. One such factor is thegender of the person divorcing. For example, thepattern of ﬁnancial diminishment is more oftenthan not larger for women than for men and thisis in spite of family size (Bianchi, Subaiya, &Kahn, 1999; Smyth & Weston, 2000). In addi-tion, men exhibit a higher likelihood of alco-hol problems than women, whereas women aremore likely than men to experience depression(Horwitz, White, & Howell-White, 1996).However, gender-related differences may alsostem from the consistent ﬁnding that women aremore likely to initiate divorce (Amato & Irving,2006; Wolcott & Hughes, 1999). Such ﬁndings arerelevant given that individuals that initiate separa-tion generally report higher post-divorce wellbeing than non-initiators (the so-called ‘lever/left’ effect;e.g., Emery, 1994; Wang & Amato, 2000).