Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Edward L. Trembley

Second Advisor

Dr. William A. Carlson

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert F. Wait


The purpose of this study was to determine whether reactions to marital separation and divorce could be differentiated on the basis of level of ego development. A sample of 72 divorcing persons was drawn at random from court records, divided into groups on the basis of sex and level of ego development (using Loevinger's [1970, 1989] Sentence Completion Test [SCT]), and compared on three measures of emotional adjustment (attachment distress, general distress, and social adjustment).

The results indicated that level of ego development did not differentiate short-term reactions to separation (8.7 months) on the three dependent measures, although ego level did produce significant differences in length of marriage and willingness to utilize counseling or support groups for males. Instead, situational factors appeared more likely to influence the divorce adjustment process. Persons who had an alternate relationship, who were involved in social activities, or who initiated the divorce displayed significantly lower attachment distress, and males who had an alternate relationship displayed significantly better social adjustment. Level of general distress remained unaffected by the situational factors utilized in the study.

One major sex difference was found in the study. Women reported significantly less attachment distress following separation than men, perhaps because women tended to be the persons initiating the divorce.

It was concluded that ego development appears more likely to affect the duration and outcome of the adjustment process, whereas circumstantial factors appear more likely to affect the initial intensity of divorce-related reactions. It was also concluded that males and females are likely to have quite different experiences of the adjustment process due to differing situational factors, although multiple measures of distress seem necessary to detect these differences. In general, these results support previous studies indicating that there are at least two types of reactions to divorce, one involving the loss of the marital relationship and the other related to coping with general life change.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Counseling Commons