Critical Review of Social Science Research on Parental Relocation Post-Separation/Divorce

3.0 Results of the Information Retrieval and Inclusion of Empirical Studies

The information retrieval of electronic databases resulted in 3221 titles and abstracts that were located. To be included, the criteria by which each study was measured against and needed to meet all three were: 1) the article was a study (e.g. cross sectional, longitudinal, experimental, or qualitative); 2) the study included relocation as a variable in the analysis or included samples where relocation had occurred, and 3) the study included samples of individuals who were separated or divorced. Two independent raters coded the studies as either accepted or rejected based on the inclusion criteria.

After the initial screen by both coders, 3089 were rejected, 68 were duplicates, 18 were disagreed upon and 16 were accepted (an inter-rater reliability of 99.9%). The 18 abstracts that were disagreed upon were then discussed between the coders and a decision to include or exclude them was made. Twenty-four studies from the electronic databases were included in the second screen. The information retrieval also included a reference check of recent summary reviews by leading authors in the field of relocation (e.g. Austin, 2008, 2012; Taylor, et al., 2010). Each summary article was reviewed for additional references not captured by the information retrieval of the electronic databases. This resulted in the retrieval of 19 additional studies that met the initial inclusion criteria. In total, 33 studies were passed to the final screening. Upon closer examination of all included studies, 22 studies were excluded because they did not specifically address relocation within the context of separation and divorce. The majority of these excluded studies either did not control for family structure or they did not specifically include separated or divorced samples. The final sample of empirical studies based on this systematic information retrieval of potential studies resulted in 11 studies that met the inclusion criteria (see Table 1).

Table 3.1: Included studies for critical appraisal
Source of Research and Purpose of Study Study Design Principal Findings Study Strengths, Limitations and Explanation of Ratings RFootnote 4

1. Asher, S. J., & Bloom, B.L., (1983). Geographic mobility as a factor in adjustment to divorce. Journal of Divorce 6(4) 69-84.

Purpose of study:

Determine if men and women of separation and divorce have different outcomes from relocation.

N=83

Divorced persons identified based on divorce decrees from Weld County, Colorado and recruited by letter. Also recruited from the separation and divorce program at the University of Colorado who were recently separated.

Age: 22-58 years old

Gender: 41 males and 42 females

Ethnicity: Unknown

SES: Poverty line - Lower class

Research Method: Telephone interview with participants in a structural interviews format. Symptom checklist, affect balance scale, delighted-terrible scale

While male and female movers did not differ in their reasons for moving, female non-movers based their decision significantly more often than male non-movers on the availability of social supports.

The person who chose to move following the disruption of their marriage tended to have a history of more frequent mobility during childhood.

Male movers were more poorly adjusted. Female non-movers were more poorly adjusted.

No information about the impact of the move on the children.

  1. Random sampling method not used
  2. Did not use a comparison or control group
  3. Standardized measures with reported psychometric properties were used
  4. Data was gathered from multiple informants, both parties of separation or divorce
  5. The study controlled from extraneous variables
  6. There was a significant sample size
  7. A selection and exclusion criterion was defined.
  8. Temporal Order not followed
5

2. Behrens, J., & Smyth, B. (2010). Australian family law court decisions about relocation: Parents’ experiences and some implications for law and policy. Federal Law Review, 38(1), 1-20.

Purpose of the study:

Explore the experiences of parents in relocation cases in AUS court

N=38

Recruited through parties who had a contested court order in relation to relocation in 2002 – 2005.

Age: unknown

Gender: 11 female, 27 male

Ethnicity: Unknown

SES: Unknown

Research Method:

Qualitative data through in-depth semi-structured interviews. Quantitative aspect with detailed analysis and coding of the population of judgments in relocation cases for the same period.

Almost half (48%) of the relocation cases involved parent-child contact that occurred on weekends and in school holidays before the court proceeding related to relocation and an additional one third (30%) of cases involved little or no contact, or no overnight stays. Shared care was reported to be occurring in 11% of cases, and in a similar percentage of cases contact was occurring more frequently than every other weekend (11%).

Relocation was rarely the end of a parent-child relationship, but rather could be seen as a significant point of transition which parents managed differently depending on their own parenting styles, their relationships, their personal resources and the support available to them.

  1. Random sampling method not used
  2. Did not use a comparison or control group
  3. Standardized measures not used
  4. Data was gathered from multiple informants
  5. The study did not control for extraneous circumstances
  6. There was not a significant sample size
  7. Selection and exclusion was not defined
  8. Temporal Order not followed
2

3. Booth, A & Amato, P. (1993): Divorce, Residential Change, and Stress, Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 18:1-2, 205-214

Purpose of study:

To explore the relationships between divorce, mobility and relocating (respondents were asked if they moved to a different community), and factors regarding it.

N= 1439

Recruited through a random – digit –dialling procedure from telephone interviews conducted with 2033 married individuals less than 55 years of age.

Age: up to 55 year olds

Gender: unknown

Ethnicity: unknown

SES: unknown

Research Method: Telephone interviews at three points with same participant. Multivariate Analysis of findings.

657 of the 2033 participants changed residence.

Those who divorced were much more likely to change residence than those who did not. No gender difference.

Changing communities was not a factor that distinguished parental stress of those whose marriage remained intact from those who divorced.

  1. Random sampling method used
  2. Use a comparison or control group
  3. Standardized measures not used
  4. Data was gathered from multiple informants
  5. The study controlled for extraneous circumstances
  6. There was a significant sample size
  7. Selection and exclusion was defined
  8. Temporal Order followed
6

4. Braver, S. L., Ellman, I. M., & Fabricius, W. V., (2003). Relocation of children after divorce and children’s best interests: New evidence and legal considerations. Journal of Family Psychology, 17(2), 206-219.

Purpose of study:

To examine whether relocation or child or parent caused disadvantages for college students.

Relocation defined as: “whether either of your parents ever moved more than an hour’s drive away from what used to be the family home?”

N= 602 students (170 of whom had moved with one parent more than an hour’s drive away from what used to be the family home).

 

Recruited through large south-western university fall semester intro to psychology class in 2001.

Age: Unknown

Gender: Unknown

Ethnicity: Unknown

SES: unknown

Research Method: Comprehensive Research Questionnaires of 14 variables were administered. Youth whose parents were separated/divorced answering more questions than those of families who are not divorced.

Students from families in which either a mother or father relocated, with or without the child, were worse off.

The children of divorced parents who moved away from parent showed less favorable scores on several variables (hostility, parents getting along, inner turmoil and distress, parental support, and current global health)

Those students whose parents both remained in the same geographic location had more positive outcomes than those who had a parent relocate with or without the children.

While this is the most widely cited empirical study undertaken in this field, the study does not address the actual distance of the move away (only that it was at least one hour drive away) and so caution is needed in interpreting the results because the ongoing contact with the non-moving parent due to the move away is unclear.

Retrospective accounts need to be considered with caution given that temporal order cannot be established.

  1. Random sampling method not used.
  2. Use of a comparison of students of divorced families whose parents did not move.
  3. Standardized measures not used
  4. Data was gathered from only one source
  5. The study did not controlled for extraneous circumstances
  6. There was a significant sample size
  7. Selection and exclusion was not defined
  8. Temporal Order not followed
3

5. Fabricius, W. V., & Braver, S.L. (2006). Relocation, parent conflict, and domestic violence: Independent risk factors for children of divorce. Journal of Child Custody. 3(3-4): 7-27.

Purpose of study: Impact of relocation on children of divorce.

Relocation defined as: “whether either of your parents ever moved more than an hour’s drive away from what used to be the family home?”

*Used same sample as Braver et al., 2003

N= 602 (same sample as Braver et al., 2003)

Recruitment through an undergraduate research class in a large southwestern state university. Only students with divorced parents participated.

Age: Not reported

Gender: Not reported

Ethnicity: Not reported

SES: Not reported

Research Method: Participants filled out questionnaires. Data was analysed using repeated measures ANOVA

In this retrospective study, relocation was associated with negative outcomes for young adults over and above the associations of conflict and violence with negative outcomes.

Moveaway status accounted for twice as much variability (9%) in parents getting along than did the only other significant factor, severity of conflict (4.4%).

Retrospective accounts need to be considered with caution given that temporal order cannot be established.

  1. Random sampling method not used.
  2. Use of a comparison of students of divorced families whose parents did not move.
  3. Standardized measures not used
  4. Data was not gathered from multiple informants
  5. The study did controlled for extraneous circumstances
  6. There was a significant sample size
  7. Selection and exclusion was defined
  8. Temporal Order not followed
3

6. Freeman, M. (2009). Relocation: The reunite research. London: Reunite (available online at www.reunite.org)

Purpose of study:

To explore parent-child patterns through the relocation decisions made by the United Kingdom courts.

Relocation defined as “where leave to remove from the United Kingdom had been sought”

N=36

Recruitment occurred through 89 letters sent to lawyers in 2008 in Scotland and Northern Ireland for parents.

Posted an invite notice on their website, participants directly contacts the researcher

Age: Not reported

Gender: 25 male, 11 female

Ethnicity: UK

SES: Not reported

Research Method:

Semi-structured telephone interview format based on a questionnaire. Data was analysed in terms of categories and themes.

Many parents complained that there were constant problems in exercising the contact that had been ordered by the court granting permission to relocate.

No direct evidence, but both mothers who moved away and fathers who were left behind (mostly the latter) noted concerns about how the relocation impacted the children.

  1. Random sampling method not used (selection bias due to recruitment strategy)
  2. No use of a comparison or control group
  3. Standardized measures used
  4. Data was not gathered from multiple informants
  5. The study did controlled for extraneous circumstances
  6. There was not a significant sample size
  7. Selection and exclusion was define
  8. Temporal Order not followed
2

7. Grundy, E. (1985). Divorce, widowhood, remarriage and geographic mobility among women. Journal of Biosocial Science. 17(04) 415-435

Purpose of study:

Explore links between divorce and relocation

N= 1971 Census records

Census data from the 1971 census in England and Wales and National Health Service Central Register and OPCS.

Age: 16 – 59

Gender: female

Ethnicity: UK

SES: unknown

Research methods: completed data extraction and interval analysis of marriage and divorce

Remarried women after divorce had high rates of geographical moves and there seemed to be an increase of moves made around the time of remarriage, shortly after the first marriage.

No information about the potential impact of these moves or the impetus (i.e., downward mobility, moving for employment, etc).

No information about the outcomes for children.

  1. Random sampling method used.
  2. No use of a comparison or control group
  3. Standardized measures used
  4. Data was not gathered from multiple informants
  5. The study did not controlled for extraneous circumstances
  6. There was a significant sample size
  7. Selection and exclusion was defined
  8. Temporal order followed
4

8. Parkinson, P., Cashmore, J., & Single, J. P. (2011). Reasons for relocation. Canadian Journal of Family Law. Retrieved from Social Science Research Network: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1965299.

Purpose of study:

To consider the reasons for relocating

N=80

19 children also interviewed

Recruitment through contacting solicitors who work in family law and asking them to refer their clients who had sought advice regarding relocation in last 6 months. Clients contacted researcher directly.

Age: Not reported

Gender: 40 male, 40 female

Ethnicity: Australian

SES: Not reported

Research method: Mixed method of quantitative and qualitative Participants were interviewed, qualitative analysis completed.

Mothers wanting to move closer to family and friends most significant reason to want to move.

Applicant parent has more than one reason to move. Women’s reasons relational, men’s perception tends to focus on logistics.

 

  1. Random sampling method not used.
  2. No use of a comparison or control group
  3. No standardized measures used
  4. Data was gathered from multiple informants
  5. The study did not control for extraneous circumstances
  6. There was not a significant sample size
  7. Selection and exclusion was defined
  8. Temporal order not followed

2

9. Smyth, B., Temple, Behrens, Kaspiew, & Richardson (2008). Post separation mobility in Australia: Some preliminary data on behavior, disputes, and attitudes. Relocation Disputes in Australia, ed. Behrens, J., Smyth, B., & Kaspiew, R., Australian National University, Canberra, pp. 17-43.

Used third wave of the Caring for Children after Parental Separation Project

Fifty-four separated or divorced parents (27 mothers, 27 fathers) took part in the focus group discussions about different aspects of parent–child contact.

Respondents were asked: ‘If a resident parent wants to move interstate with the children, should they be allowed to do this – (a) regardless of other circumstances? (b) only in certain circumstances? or (c) not in any circumstances?

Disagreements over one of the parents moving were the least common dispute (20% of resident mothers had this type of dispute in comparison to 33% of non-resident fathers). Yet, respondents rated these relocation disagreements as the most difficult to manage.

  1. Random sampling method used.
  2. No use of a comparison or control group
  3. Standardized measures not used
  4. Data was gathered from multiple informants
  5. The study did not control for extraneous circumstances
  6. There was not a significant sample size
  7. Selection and exclusion was defined
  8. Temporal order not followed
3

10. Taylor, N.J., Gollop, M., & Henaghan, R.M. (2010). Relocation following parental separation: The welfare and best interests of children (Research Report to the New Zealand Law Foundation). University of Otago, Dunedin: Centre for Research on Children and Families and Faculty of Law.

N = 114 parents

Recruitment: through family lawyers and media publicity to take part in the study.

Method: Three-year study on relocation following parental separation from 2007 to 2009

Mothers most often wished to move with 61 (84%) of the mothers desiring to relocate, compared to only two of the fathers. Thirty-one fathers (76%) had opposed their ex-partner’s proposed relocation – 11 successfully, 19 unsuccessfully, with one case still to be determined by the Family Court. More mothers successfully relocated (39) than those who were prevented from moving or who, after parental discussion, had agreed not to move (19).

  1. Random sampling method not used.
  2. No use of a comparison or control group
  3. Standardized measures used
  4. Data was gathered from multiple informants
  5. The study did not control for extraneous circumstances
  6. There was a significant sample size
  7. Selection and exclusion was defined
  8. Temporal order not followed

4

11. Verropoulou, Joshi, Wiggins (2002). Migration, family structure, and children’s wellbeing: A multilevel analysis of the second generation of the 1958 Birth Cohort Study. Children and Society, 16, 219-231.

N= 1,472

UK Cohort National Child Development Study

Relocation in response to family change, including parental separation and stepfamily formation, was not found to have a negative impact on children’s wellbeing.

  1. Random sampling method used.
  2. No use of a comparison or control group
  3. Standardized measures not used
  4. Data was gathered from multiple informants
  5. The study did not control for extraneous circumstances
  6. There was a significant sample size
  7. Selection and exclusion was defined
  8. Temporal order not followed
4

Note: The following offers explanation to the ratings made in the above table.

1= Very low Quality — (scores 2 or less). Any estimate of effect is very uncertain.

2= Low Quality—(scores 3-4). Further research is very likely to have an important impact on confidence in the estimate of effect and is likely to change the estimate.

3= Moderate Quality—(scores 5-6). Further research is likely to have an important impact on confidence in the estimate of effect and may change the estimate.

4= High Quality—(scores 7-8). Further research is very unlikely to change confidence in the estimate of effect.

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