The Dark Side of Divorce

David A. Sbarra and Ashley E. Mason

in The Oxford Handbook of Social Exclusion

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780195398700
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Dark Side of Divorce

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  • Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology



This chapter reviews research linking marital separation and divorce to three important outcomes in adults: mental health problems, physical health outcomes, and relational violence, including risk for homicide at the hands of an ex-partner. Following marital separation and divorce, most adults experience transient distress that abates relatively quickly over time; however, for a small percentage of people, the end of marriage represents a life-altering negative experience. This chapter catalogs a range of adverse outcomes with a focus on the potential mechanisms linking marital status and mental and physical health. The outcomes in question are discussed in terms of an overarching model for why social separations have the potential to be a particularly distressing class of negative life events, as well as methodological research highlighting the need to distinguish between social selection and social causation when considering the putative effects of marital separation and divorce.

Keywords: biology; divorce; health; homicide; loss; marriage; mechanisms; mental health; physical health; separation; suicide; violence

Article.  10626 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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