Power Asymmetry and Early Intervention in Divorce

Marian A.J. van Dijk*, Sven Zebel, Ellen Giebels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Individuals going through divorce often experience an imbalance of power, and this is likely to change throughout the divorce process. In this study, we examine the relationship between perceived differences in relative power among individuals going through divorce and their subsequently reported emotions, appraisals of agreements, and third-party involvement in divorce settlement. Our main expectation was that an initially perceived disadvantage in power would influence subsequent stages of the divorce process, even when the perceived disadvantage reduces over time. Furthermore, we expected an empowering effect of an educational web based intervention that can reach people early in the divorce process. Using a quasi-experimental pretest–posttest design, the sample included 312 Dutch adults who visited (260) or did not visit (52) a web-based intervention and were assessed at three points in time. As expected, and despite a decrease in perceptions of power asymmetry over time, we observed enduring detrimental effects of an early power disadvantage in terms of higher emotional costs, more dissatisfaction with the process and content of the agreements, and more third-party involvement. Interestingly, those who reported power asymmetry (both as disadvantage ánd advantage) also reported more third-party lawyer and less mediator involvement. Also as expected, in this sample, those who reported a power disadvantage and used the web based intervention, reported higher power at a later stage than those who did not use the web intervention. This study points at the importance of signaling, and potentially offering a remedy for, perceived power disadvantages in the initial stages of a divorce process.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 2023


  • Divorce
  • Early intervention
  • Longitudinal data
  • Online intervention
  • Power asymmetry


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