There is a growing body of literature on the effects of marital dissolution on the adjustment of children. A weakness of many empirical studies, however, is the tendency to gather data on families who have requested counseling and to assume that results from such a sample may be generalized to all separating families. This can lead researchers and clinicians to ignore important differences that may exist between separating families who have requested counseling and those who have not.

The present study addresses this problem by examining a sample of approximately one hundred divorcing families, half of whom have requested counseling and half have not. Standardized tests of adjustment were used to assess the children’s adjustment and the results were compared to scores of a standardized “normal” and “clinical” sample. The results indicate that the sample of children undergoing parental separation does not conform to a simple normal-clinical dichotomy. It was also found that significant differences in adjustment exist between the children of those families who had requested counseling and those who had not.