Consequences of Recent Parental Divorce for Young Adults, 1990-1992 (ICPSR 24400)

Principal Investigator(s): Cooney, Teresa M., University of Missouri


This longitudinal study focused on examining the consequences of recent parental divorce for young adults (initially ages 18-23) whose parents had divorced within 15 months of the study's first wave (1990-91). The sample consisted of 257 White respondents with newly divorced parents and 228 White respondents who comprised an intact-family comparison group. A life course framework guided the study that focused heavily on young adult transition behaviors (entries and exits from home, work, school, cohabitation and marriage relationships, parenthood), family relationships (relationships with mother and father, siblings, grandparents), and well-being and adjustment (depression, coping). For respondents in the divorced-parents group, additional questions were asked about specific aspects of the divorce and their involvement in it. A follow-up telephone interview conducted two years later assessed life changes and subsequent adjustment over time for both groups of respondents. Specific questions addressed the sexual history of respondents and their most recent sexual partner, including the perceived risk of HIV/AIDS, history of sexual transmitted disease, the use of contraception, how much information they had shared with each other regarding their sexual attitudes and behaviors, and respondent's knowledge of the AIDS virus. Information was also collected on marital/cohabitation history, employment history, reproductive history, including the number and outcome of all pregnancies, physical and mental health, and tobacco, alcohol and drug use. Demographic variables include respondent's sex, age, occupation, employment status, marital/cohabitation status, number of children, current enrollment in school, past and present religious preferences, frequency of religious attendance, military service, and the number, sex, and age of siblings. Demographic information also includes the age, education level, employment status, and annual income of the respondent's parents, as well as the age, race, and education level of the respondent's most recent sexual partner. For those respondents whose parents were recently divorced, demographic information was collected on each parent's current marital status and the age of their new spouse or partner.

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Study Description


Cooney, Teresa M. Consequences of Recent Parental Divorce for Young Adults, 1990-1992. ICPSR24400-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2010-03-12.

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Mental Health (5R29MH046946-03, 5R29MH046946-04, 5R29MH046946-05 )

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    academic achievement, birth control, career planning, dating (social), divorce, drug abuse, education, educational objectives, employment, family life, HIV, life events, life plans, marriage, parent child relationship, parental attitudes, reproductive history, sexual behavior, stress, young adults, youths

Geographic Coverage:    Maryland, United States

Time Period:   

  • 1990--1992

Date of Collection:   

  • 1990-09--1991-02
  • 1992

Unit of Observation:    individual

Universe:    Two groups: (1) White young adults, ages 18-23, whose parents divorced from a first marriage in the state of Maryland in the period from November 1989 through May 1990, (2) White young adults, ages 18-23, listed on Maryland's motor vehicle registration list of licensed drivers in February 1990 and whose parents were still in intact first marriages.

Data Type(s):    survey data

Data Collection Notes:

To protect respondent confidentiality, variables containing respondent's exact date of birth and parent's exact date of divorce were recoded to include only the month and year of these events. ZIP code and county information in variables E354 and CNTY have been replaced with blank codes.

Variables Q27, D208, G208, TEMP_STATUS, FINAL_STATUS, and INIT_REF contain unknown codes. Invalid codes were found in variables Q94 and Q230.

Some questions were only asked of certain respondents, for example, those with divorced parents or those whose parents were married. Please refer to the data collection instrument for information on skip patterns.

The data were produced by the Survey Research Center, University of Maryland.


Sample:    The sample with divorced parents was obtained through several steps. First, divorce records in each county of Maryland were reviewed for each case occurring between November 1989 and May 1990 that involved a White couple in a first marriage with children between 18 and 23 years old. Eight hundred records were randomly drawn from these cases, with county representation in the final sampled group proportionate to the county's total share of divorces within the state. One adult child, aged 18 years or older, per family was randomly selected from this sample to be contacted. The intact-family comparison sample was selected from a list of White, licensed drivers in Maryland, between the ages of 18 and 23. Eight hundred names were randomly selected, with quotas by county set to approximate numbers drawn for the divorced parent group. Screening calls were performed to eliminate persons whose parents were not still in an intact first marriage.

Mode of Data Collection:    telephone interview

Response Rates:    For the divorced parents group: Of the young adults for whom information from the parents was obtained (83 percent of parents called), 85 percent were successfully recruited for the study. For the intact-family group: Of the young adults able to be located by telephone from the driver's license registry (only found telephone numbers for 67 percent), 73 percent agreed to participate in the study.

Presence of Common Scales:    Many of the life transition and family background questions were drawn from Child Trend's National Survey of Children (NSC) Youth Follow-up (conducted in 1987). Established scales included in the survey: a 16-item version of the CESD (Radloff, 1977) that assessed depression; a 9-item conflict subscale of Moos and Moos (1981) Family Environment Scale; an adapted 15-item Parent-Adult Child Intimacy Scale (Walker and Thompson [1983]).

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created online analysis version with question text.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:   2010-03-12



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