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Girls suffer most when fathers leave

Girls suffer more than boys if their fathers leave the family, researchers have claimed.

Not only are they more prone to depression, but their overall health suffers too, they suggested. In addition, such girls were more likely to take part in risky behaviours like smoking.

University of Illinois researchers analysed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This long-term academic project gathered information from over 90,000 young people over 13 years. The sample sizes used in this research were around 7,600, and focused on those aged 15 to 19 between 1996 and 2009. The team chose children from single mother families but excluded those whose father had died.

Study co-author Andrea Beller said that if a biological father is never present in his daughters’ lives, “smoking, physical, and mental health are all worse”. However, she said there was “a significant association” between a girl’s poor overall health and her father leaving the family before she turned five.

The rates of depression among the girls suggests that “family structure has a more complex role in girls’ mental than physical health” she added.

Researchers identified another significant gender divide. In households where the biological father has left, the impact on girls is not helped by the presence of other adult males, “father-substitutes”, in their lives. By contrast, the absence of such father-substitutes can be detrimental for boys, Beller said.

In 2013, a University of Bristol study suggested that girls with absent fathers were likely to develop mental health problems during their teenage years.

The University of Illinois study was published in the academic journal Review of Economics of the Household.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Nordic says:

    This really is a very misleading and prejudist heading. The study is not about fathers that leave the family. It’s about families in which the father is no longer present. Since the majority of divorces are initiated by women, I might argue that “girls suffer when fathers are kicked out” would be a better heading, albeit of course still very misleading.
    When you report studies on this blog, you owe both the authors and your readers to ensure the heading correctly summarises the content of the study.

  2. Yvie says:

    Nobody is interested in reading about fathers who are kicked out – as long as they pay their child support that is.

  3. cary says:

    I’m sure many fathers could relate to this point. Most divorces are not only instigated by the mothers, but all too often on irretrievable breakdown with little or no truth whatsoever in the petition, but rather the wife has started an affair and planning to leave or having left for the other man, but having avoided mentioning this in the petition.

  4. JamesB says:

    Whoever writes an unreasonable behaviour petition (great majority by women) they are more often than not nonsense or have nothing to do with the real reason the marriage is struggling which is usually the fault of the petitioner. It is a fault in the process that the petitions are not true or appropriate. They should be abolished and the whole system the same as the Scottish system including ancillary relief.

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