Consequences of repartnering for post-divorce maternal well-being and risk behaviors
Mothers' dating after divorce has been linked to health benefits for mothers (Amato, 2000). However, this association assumes that all repartnering relationships are beneficial for mothers (Symoens et al., 2014). According to the divorce-stress-adaptation perspective (Wang & Amato, 2000), mothers' dating after divorce may be a supportive factor for her adjustment if her relationship is high quality, which can assist mothers with post-divorce stress (Amato, 2000; Wang & Amato, 2000), or can contribute to post-divorce stress through low quality relationships (Hetherington, 2003; Montgomery et al., 1992). However, not all mothers date, and those that do, use different approaches to dating, such as dating only one partner versus multiple partners. Another deficit in the literature is the influence of selection processes during repartnering. As well as examining the impact of relationship quality on maternal well-being, the current study includes the influence of stable traits, such as age and length of marriage, in order to examine the threat of selection across different repartnering histories. The current study used four repartnering histories that mothers reported after divorce (no dating, dating monogamously, dating multiple partners serially, and dating multiple partners simultaneously) to examine consequences on maternal well-being (depressive symptoms, life satisfaction, drunkenness, and unprotected sex). Relationship quality is reported for each relationship. Using longitudinal monthly diary data collected over a two-year period beginning with filing for divorce and multi-level models, I examined changes in the intercept and slope of maternal well-being for each repartnering history, as well as the effect of breakup with a particular focus on the interaction of relationship quality. To test for the threat of selection, I used mothers' stable traits as level-2 predictors. Results for this study show that mothers who enter in a high quality relationship report slightly higher levels of maternal well-being. Mothers entering low quality relationships report slightly lower levels of maternal well-being compared to times when mothers are not dating. Maternal well-being was not consistently influenced by maternal breakup. Mothers also reported increases in unprotected sex throughout the study, which may be a better marker of trust than maternal well-being. Only support was found for selection effects. Implications for maternal well-being are discussed.