To examine differences between single and married mothers in the 12-month prevalence of psychiatric disorders.
The analysis uses data from the National Comorbidity Survey, collected in 1992–1993, and focuses on women aged 15 to 55 years with children ( n = 1346). Psychiatric disorders are assessed with the University of Michigan Composite International Diagnostic Interview, a survey instrument based on DSM-III-R criteria.
Compared with married mothers, previously married mothers have elevated rates of disorders. Prevalences among single mothers who were never married are similar to those among married mothers, but they are generally lower than prevalences among mothers who experience a marital disruption.
These results indicate that marital separation and divorce may be markers for elevated risk for psychiatric disorder among women with children. It is important to consider the impact of marital history on the relation between family structure and psychiatric outcomes.