The Influence of Divorce and Parents’ Communication Skills on Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Stress Reactivity and Recovery

Tamara D. Afifi, Douglas A. Granger, Andrea Joseph, Amanda Denes, Desiree Aldeis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study examined whether the impact of parents’ marital status (divorced/married) on children’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis (measured through salivary cortisol) and sympathic nervous system (SNS; measured through salivary alpha-amylase or sAA) response and recovery patterns was moderated by parents’ communication skills and the age of the child. One hundred eighteen parent–child (ages 15-22) dyads talked about something stressful related to the parents’ relationship. Children who thought their parents were more communicatively incompetent had higher pre-interaction sAA levels. In addition, children whose parents were communicatively skilled (i.e., socially supportive, communicatively competent, children felt less caught between them) were able to down regulate quickly after the discussion, regardless of the marital status of the parent and the age of the child. The results for sAA, and somewhat for cortisol, revealed that parents’ marital status and the age of the child were important in determining differences in children’s physiological response and recovery patterns only when parents were less communicatively skilled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1009-1042
Number of pages34
JournalCommunication Research
Volume42
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 7 2015

Keywords

  • HPA
  • SNS
  • adolescents
  • communication competence
  • interparental conflict
  • parent-child relationships
  • salivary alpha-amylase (sAA)
  • salivary cortisol
  • social support
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

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