Broken Dreams: A Study of the Effects of Divorce and Depression on Dream Content

Academic Article


  • To investigate the dream characteristics associated with a major life change, 29 women (ages 30-55) undergoing divorce were studied six nights in a sleep laboratory. The group was stratified on a self-report depression scale (the Beck Depression inventory) into a depressed (N = 19, X = 23.2) and nonde-pressed (JV = 10, X = 8.2) group and compared to a nondepressed married group who had never considered divorce. The dreams of those divorcing without major mood upset were longer and dealt with a wider time frame than those of the other two groups. They also dealt with marital status issues which were absent in the dreams of the depressed group. On follow-up those who had been depressed showed positive dream changes in mood, dreamlike quality, and identification of dream self with the marital role. The study suggests that some dream characteristics respond adaptively during life changes but that this is delayed when subjects are depressed. This raises the possibility of a corrective intervention for such persons. © 1984 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Cartwright RD; Lloyd S; Knight S; Trenholme I
  • Start Page

  • 251
  • End Page

  • 259
  • Volume

  • 47
  • Issue

  • 3