Children whose parents have divorced consume more sugary drinks than those with married parents, a new study suggests.
Researchers from San Francisco State University asked parents and children in married and divorced families to make diaries about the food and drink they consumed.
They claimed that the reason for the discrepancy between the amount of sugary drinks the two groups consumed may be down to ease of access. Divorce can be a stressful time for children so supplying them with a sugary drink may be an easy way to make them feel better.
Jeff Cookston is a psychology professor at San Francisco State University and was the lead researcher on the study. He said it was “easy during times of stress to turn to the quick, enjoyable experience of drinking a sugary beverage” and that the brain “reacts with a great deal of enjoyment” to them.
Despite the finding, Cookston claimed that the effects of divorce were not as pronounced if such families manage to maintain a routine during the transition. Keeping some degree of consistency, such as eating meals together as a family, during a divorce can have a positive impact on children’s eating and drinking habits, he claimed.
When parents divorce, “one of the things that is most impacted for kids is their day-to-day routines”, he added, and maintaining a family routine provides the “security and continuity” that children require.
Similar studies have often relied on family members’ recollections of past behaviour rather than a day-by-day record. The research also found that while consumption of sugary drinks increased among children of divorced families, other unhealthy behaviour such as skipping breakfast was unaffected.
Last year, researchers in Norway published a study which claimed that divorce could increase the likelihood of childhood obesity.
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