Young People's Narratives of their Parents' Separation and/or Divorce
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The psychological impact of parental divorce or separation upon children has long been debated. There is a wealth of quantitative research which offers contradictory findings yet young people who experience their parents’ divorce or separation are over represented in the clinical population. Qualitative research has offered support that children are active in the process of divorce and has developed understanding about the lived experiences of young people. There have been few studies that take account of the experiences of young people in late adolescence from a clinical population. Adolescence is understood as a key transitional phase whereby a sense of self is developed. Nevertheless, little research specifically explores how young people reconcile this disruptive life event with their emerging sense of self. In an attempt to address this gap in the literature, this study sought to hear the narratives of young people, with the aim to further understand and inform clinical practice. METHODOLOGY: A qualitative approach was employed. A purposive sample of five females aged 16 years old and currently receiving support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services were recruited. An interview was conducted with each participant to explore the young person’s narratives. These were audio-recorded and transcribed. Narrative analysis was used paying attention to both what was said, how it was said and for what purpose. ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS: Initially each narrative was considered individually and the researcher’s ‘Global Impressions’ were presented. Following this, the narratives were considered collectively, recognising the shared storylines. Each person’s unique connection with the shared storyline was considered, through attending to the participants’ emotional experiences and identity work that was interwoven in their stories. It was found that each young person presented accounts whereby their mother’s emotional absence was a dominant storyline. In relation to this experience the young people performed the identity of being mature and taking on additional responsibilities. They additionally narrated accounts of coping with their difficulties alone. It emerged that stories of an imagined future were missing from the narratives. These findings are discussed with reference to the clinical implications, strengths, and limitations of the methodology, and directions for future research.
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