‘Narrative Expressive Writing’ Might Protect Against Harmful Health Effects of Divorce-Related Stress


Expressive Writing Can Impede Emotional Recovery Following Marital Separation.

Clin Psychol Sci. 2013 Mar 18;1(2):120-134.

Sbarra DA1, Boals A2, Mason AE1, Larson GM1, Mehl MR1.

Marital separation and divorce are common life events that increases risk for poor health outcomes, yet few intervention studies explore how to mitigate this increased risk. This study implemented an expressive writing (EW; see Pennebaker, 1997) intervention for adults who experienced a recent marital separation. Ninety participants (32 men) were randomly assigned to and completed one of three experimental writing tasks: traditional EW, a novel (narrative-based) type of EW or control writing. Up to nine months after this writing, participants judged to be actively engaged in a search for meaning concerning their separation reported significantly worse emotional outcomes when assigned to either EW condition relative to control writing. Within the control condition, those participants actively engaged in a search for meaning reported the lowest levels of separation-related disturbance. We discuss these results in terms of the factors that may limit and promote psychological recovery following marital separation.


‘Narrative expressive writing’ might protect against harmful health effects of divorce-related stress