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Conference Paper American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting

Psychiatric Disorders and Comorbidity among Married and Single Mothers


Publication date

06 May 2001


Objectives: This analysis provides 12-month national prevalence rates of a broad range of affective, anxiety, and substance use psychiatric disorders as well as psychiatric comorbidities among single and married mothers. Given the rise in single parent families in the USA over the previous decades and the significantly higher levels of stress and strain associated with being a sole care-giver and provider, interest in the mental health consequences among mothers in this prevalent family structure is increasing.
Methods: The analysis uses the National Comorbidity Survey collected in 1992/93 and focuses on women between 15 and 55 years of age with children (N = 1,346). Psychiatric diagnoses are based on DSM-III-R criteria and measured by the UM-CIDI.
Results: Compared to married mothers, separated/divorced /widowed mothers have elevated rates of disorders. These differences vary across racial groups and age categories. Single mothers who were never married manifest rates of disorders similar to that of married mothers but generally lower than mothers who experience a marital disruption.
Discussion: These results indicate that marital separation is a marker in predicting higher rates of psychiatric disorder and comorbidity among women. These findings are discussed with respect to issues surrounding mental health service utilization.


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