Date of Completion
Divorce, parental alienation, contact refusal, coalitions
Field of Study
Human Development and Family Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
Contact refusal by children following parental divorce or separation is a difficult experience for families. Although theorists have written much about contributions and effects of contact refusal, empirical exploration of the topic is under developed. The three papers included in this dissertation seek to expand the empirical literature on contact refusal and the long-term effects of the behaviors that relate to it. The first paper presents two studies designed to develop a measure of contact refusal. Study 1 used responses from 96 participants to narrow an initial pool of 25 question to 12 questions using an exploratory factor analysis. Study 2 used responses from 332 participants to confirm the fit of the Contact Refusal Scale developed in Study 1. The fit was found to be adequate. The Contact Refusal Scale also correlated appropriately with related measures. The second paper presents an expansion of a model proposed by Friedlander and Walters (2010) that suggested that multiple causes predict any given case of contact refusal. Models predicting contact refusal were tested based on retrospective data from 292 young adults. Forming a coalition with one parent was a strong predictor of refusing contact with the other parent. Alienating behaviors were mediated by the coalition that was formed. Parental warmth was also a protective factor against a child refusing contact. Parental violence was also a significant predictor. Adolescents were marginally more likely to refuse contact. The third paper explores the long-term consequences of contact refusal and the behaviors that were related to it in the second paper. Using self-report data from 292 participants, circumstances following divorce were used to predict current relationships with parents and personal mental health. Coalitions with mother and father's warmth and violence were predictive of relationships with fathers in young adulthood. No significant predictors of relationships with mothers were found. Coalitions with mothers and parental warmth were predictors of current mental health. The research demonstrates the importance of exploring children's responses to divorce from a complex framework, rather than attributing outcomes to single causes.
Huff, Scott C., "Expanding the Relationship between Parental Alienating Behaviors and Children's Contact Refusal Following Divorce: Testing Additional Factors and Long-Term Outcomes" (2015). Doctoral Dissertations. 817.