The association between parental marital status, ego development, and level of depression in adolescents

Jolie Robin Nash Dichter, Pace University

Abstract

The present study examined the association between parental marital status, ego development, and level of depression in adolescents. This investigation sought to understand the specific patterns of ego development that moderate the negative effects of parental divorce on depression in adolescents. The sample consisted of 564 adolescents who attended a public high school in Westchester County, New York. The participants were part of a larger investigation of adolescent development conducted by Pace University. A demographic data sheet was used to provide information regarding the adolescent's gender, age, grade, grade point average, ethnicity, parental marital status and date and age of the adolescent at the time of parental divorce and remarriage (if applicable). Level of ego development was measured by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (WUSCT) (Loevinger & Wessler, 1970). Level of depression was measured by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children (CES-DC) (Weissman, Orvaschel, Padian, 1980).^ The first hypothesis of this study was that adolescent ego development would be significantly related to level of depression. It was predicted that the preconformist and transitional adolescents would manifest a significantly greater amount of depression than conformist and postconformist adolescents. The second hypothesis proposed that ego development would moderate the deleterious effects of divorce on level of depression. It was predicted that the difference between adolescents from divorced and intact families on level of depression would be significantly greater for preconformist and transitional adolescents versus conformist and postconformist adolescents.^ Hypotheses were tested by contrast analyses. For the first hypothesis, results indicated no significant trend pattern, suggesting that there are no differential patterns of adolescent ego development for level of depression. Results of contrast analyses for the second hypothesis also indicated no significant trend pattern, suggesting that there are no meaningful trend component interactions of ego development with parental marital status on level of depression.^ A significant relationship between gender and ego development was found, with a greater proportion of females than males among the higher ego development levels. Also, for each ego development level, females showed significantly higher levels of depression than males. Gender by ego interaction effects were examined. Additionally, when males and females were examined separately, results did not support the proposed hypotheses.^ Results of additional analyses indicated that, for adolescent from divorced families, age at the time of the divorce, length of time since the divorce, and age at the time of mother or father's remarriage were not related to level of depression.^ The findings indicate that ego development does not moderate the influence of parental divorce on level of depression. Although ego development was not found to mediate the negative effects of parental divorce, results of this study support other investigations which have concluded that emotional difficulties amongst children of divorced families are not a direct result of the divorce itself yet may be related to other variables. Future research using different measures of depression and exploring the interaction of other variables such as family functioning, personality style, and parental emotional functioning are suggested. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Jolie Robin Nash Dichter, "The association between parental marital status, ego development, and level of depression in adolescents" (January 1, 1996). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI9625397.
http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI9625397

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