Protective Factors in the Family Environment of Children of Divorce
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Background: Children of divorced families report more internalizing and externalizing problem behavior compared to children of continuously married parents. Research shows that a possible cause for this increased problem behavior, which can be reduced by protective factors, may be the stress that accompanies and a parental divorce. This study focuses on potential protective factors in the family environment of children from divorced families. Specifically having siblings, the quality of the sibling relationship and owning a pet are expected to reduce possible problem behavior. Method: A subsample of a cross-sequential dataset was taken consisting of 1432 children from divorced families. The protective effects of siblings, sibling relationships, and pets were examined using dummy variables via mostly regression analyses. The independent variables were both internalizing and externalizing problem behavior. Results: The quality of the sibling relationship significantly predicted less externalizing problem behavior in children from divorced families, compared to children from intact families. No protective effect of the quality of sibling relationships for internalizing problem behavior was found in this study. Solely having a sibling did not significantly predict the reduction of either type of problem behavior. Also a non-significant relationship between owning a pet and problem behavior was found. However, the relationship between having pets and problem behavior showed an almost significant effect, hinting at a protective effect of pets on externalizing problem behavior in children of divorce. Conclusion: In this study we found some protective factors for children of divorced families are present in the family environment. These protective factors can be found in a sibling relationship and presumably in pets. Implications of the non-significant, but promising, relationships, and indications for future research are discussed.