The purpose of the study is to investigate the association between mother/daughter empathy in divorce cases, in addition to it’s affect on the child. This study explains how the positive effects of empathy relates to the adjustment of divorce for both mother and daughter. The degree of empathy in the mother/daughter relationship is associated with the emotional functioning and pro-social behavior of the adolescent daughter of divorce living in a single-parent household. From the standpoint of the daughter, both the enriched relationship with her mother and the belief that she is being heard and understood empathetically might lead to greater feelings of being respected, cared for an having a supportive resource in the person of her mother. Open interpersonal communication and problem solving should be facilitated, resulting in greater need fulfillment.
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The sample studied consisted of 57 mother/daughter pairs from a population of divorced, custodial, single-parent mothers of age 30-34.
The four inventories which were utilized in the study include:
- Direct perspectives and meta-perspectives by the Interpersonal Adjective Check List
- Relationship adjustment by the Barrett-Lennard Relationship Inventory.
- Personal adjustment and social adjustment by the California Test of Personality.
- Anxiety, depression, and hostility by the Multiple Affect Adjective Check List.
Results indicate that the mother’s empathy discrepancy score had a significant positive correlation with discrepancy in the daughter’s understanding of the mother. A lack of empathy with the daughter was positively associated with undesirable emotional traits in her daughter and negatively associated with both a high degree of relationship adjustment and the adaptive personal and social adjustment of the daughter. In contrast to the findings for mother empathy, there no significant relationships between discrepancy in the daughter’s empathetic understanding of her mother and the six criterion variables.
In conclusion, the study supported the hypothesized association between empathy and both the quality of the mother/daughter relationship and the emotions and behavioral functioning of the child, but only when empathy was examined from the viewpoint of the mother. The mother’s empathetic understanding of her daughter was a significant factor in the quality of their relationship. It was clearly associated with her daughter’s personal adjustment, social adjustment, and emotional functioning in terms of anxiety, depression, and hostility. The ability of the mother to understand her daughter’s internal world, the cognitive and emotional phenomena that constitute a critical part of her daughter’s reality, suggests that such mother empathy may well be one of the key relationship strengths in the successful coping, adjustment, and continued healthy development of the child.
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