Father–Child Contact, Interparental Conflict, and Depressive Symptoms among Children of Divorced Parents

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Contact between children and divorced fathers is often believed to strengthen the negative effect of interparental postdivorce conflict on children's well-being. Although this is a well-known hypothesis, there is surprisingly little evidence for it. This article examines the hypothesis using large-scale nationally representative data on secondary school students in the Netherlands. The hypothesis is tested using interactions of conflict with postdivorce contact and interactions of conflict with co-parenting. We find that children of divorced parents have more depressive symptoms than children of married parents. Interparental conflict after divorce increases children’s depressive symptoms, while father–child contact has no effect. There is a significant interaction between interparental conflict and father–child contact: interparental conflict increases depression more when there is more contact between the father and the child. This is only observed for boys and not for girls. For girls, depression is increased when the quality of the tie to the father is poorer. Theoretical explanations are suggested in terms of exposure effects and conflicting loyalties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-80
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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