Divorce, Depression, and Biobehavioral Dysregulation

Project: Research project

Grant Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Divorce is consistently rated among life's most distressing psychological experiences. Following marital dissolution, the risk for Major Depressive Disorder onset is increased by three to tenfold, and a subset of these adults will become stuck on pathways toward mental illness. With approximately 2.5 million adults newly impacted by the end of marriage each year, efforts to understand risk and protective mechanisms are of national import and critical for developing treatments and preventions. The proposed research examines two domains of self-regulatory functioning (cognitive organization and autonomic response patterning) in order to shed light on the association between marital dissolution, depression severity, and physical health outcomes. In a laboratory study, self-report, physiological, and cognitive processing reaction time data will be collected from 105 recently separated adults, two-thirds of whom report mild to moderate depression, to examine three specific aims. Aim 1 explores the association between explicit and implicit measures of cognitive organization by comparing self-reported adjustment to loss-related attention and memory tasks; Aim 2 examines whether these information processing measures predict depression severity after controlling for self-reported adjustment and other covariates; and, Aim 3 examines the cognitive processes through which depression severity impacts heart rate variability, contractility, and electrodermal responses during a divorce-specific mental activation task and a standardized acute stress challenge. Correlation and multiple regression analyses, including formal tests of statistical mediation and moderation, will be used to analyze the study aims and hypotheses. It is anticipated that integrative research of this nature can help elucidate the basic self-regulatory mechanisms that heighten risk for or protect against affective disorders and poor physical health outcomes in the aftermath of divorce. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Divorce is among the most stressful life events a person can experience, and a significant proportion of adults develop diagnosable Major Depression following marital dissolution. This research examines the predictors of post-divorce depression and how these mood disturbances can negatively impact physical health outcomes. A better understanding of the associations between divorce, depression, and health is critical for developing improved prevention and treatment programs.
Effective start/end date7/1/066/30/09


  • National Institutes of Health: $73,311.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $75,500.00


  • Medicine(all)


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