Identifying the Concerns of the Divorced Woman and Impact on Health

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Cynthia Blum, PhD
Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, USA

In the United States, divorce or annulment is a common occurrence with trends indicating 3.2 of 1,000 total population (excludes one non-reporting state) abandoning their vows in 2014 at the same time the United States is experiencing a marriage rate of 6.9 per total 1,000 population (excludes four non-reporting states); as reported in the national census ( While divorce/ annulment rates have decreased since 2000, this statistic is deceiving as marriage rates have similarly decreased. In 2016, the American Psychological Association reports a 40-50% divorce rate in first time marriages in the United States with rates being higher in subsequent marriages ( ).

Divorce is the most traumatic situation in one’s life, having the furthest reaching implications of all life events (Amato, 2010). The nursing literature is sparse with accounts of women seeking divorce and the havoc it may bring to their lives. This problem is better described in social work/sociology, educational, and psychology literature where descriptive research is typically employed. From this literature we find descriptions of physical and mental health concerns, coping mechanisms, financial dilemmas, child care concerns, and grief and stigmatization. Divorcees may continue to experience negative outcomes for years following marital termination (Amato, 2010; Waite, Luo, & Lewin, 2009) complicated by perceptions of how “fairness” within the relationship translates to equity in the divorce (Paechter, 2013).

Women have unique experiences based on familial roles, career choices and options, support, and their role within the “couple”. Although descriptive studies give us broad areas from which to better understand the experience of a woman seeking divorce and how to design support measures, what is not described is the woman whose experience is largely different, who has received a judgment of divorce yet a legal appeal (heretofore referred to as complex divorce) leaves them without answers of economic division of property and alimony, child care specifics, and perhaps even immediate housing; impeding their ability to move past the dissolution process. After a divorce, these may impact their physical and mental health, financial stability, parenting, and lifestyle. These aspects are further complicated when the legal process is ongoing. The nursing literature is sparse with accounts of women seeking divorce and the havoc it may bring to their lives and lacks clarification of how to support women experiencing a “complex” divorce.

The purpose and aim of the research is to study the experience of a woman who is legally divorced and at the same time in legal limbo, unknowing of the higher court’s opinion regarding the ultimate judgment and its enforcement; a period of time that can last for years. This case study research proposal seeks to share one woman’s thought process, everyday concerns and movements, physical and mental changes and challenges, coping mechanisms, and thoughts of her future utilizing an exploratory approach. The following research question will be addressed:

What unique experiences do women encounter in the midst of a complex divorce?

The long-term research goal is to identify potential stressors leading to health issues in this population.

This poster will describe ongoing research as well as the state of the science in this area.