The Perceived Effects of Parental Divorce and Unresolved Trauma on Romantic Attachment: A Mixed Methods Study

Dawn Nicole Stephens, Tennessee State University


The experience of forming and sustaining romantic relationships offers unique insight into a person's past, including their attachments to caregivers and the possible emergence of unresolved trauma. Though the effects of parental divorce have been extensively studied in light of social, behavioral, and psychological outcomes, little research has used mixed methods to examine how adult children of parental divorce feel that this event has impacted their romantic relationships, and even less to describe the effects on romantic attachments. Though attachment style has been described as consistent through the lifespan, it has been suggested that traumatic events have the ability to disrupt these established attachments. The presence of a corrective emotional experience, the availability of an attachment figure to help the child process the event or a later emotional relationship that serves to modify these negative internalizations) may serve to modify or amend the child's internal working model of relationships, creating more secure attachment patterns. The present study is conducted in two parts. The first uses quantitative surveys to assess attachment style, the degree to which emotional needs are met by parents and romantic partners, and degree of loneliness; the second portion uses a semi-structured interview to explore the relationship between divorce, unresolved trauma and attachment to romantic figures. The study utilizes a mixed methods explanatory design and participant selection model, and a Constructivist paradigm with a Phenomenological approach. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, General

Recommended Citation

Dawn Nicole Stephens, "The Perceived Effects of Parental Divorce and Unresolved Trauma on Romantic Attachment: A Mixed Methods Study" (2011). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3454415.