Divorced parents, sicker children

Family|January 5th 2016

People whose parents divorced before their seventh birthdays are more likely to suffer ill health in mid-life, new research suggests.

Jason Thomas of Pennsylvania State University teamed up with fellow sociologist Robin Högnäs of the University of Louisville to analyse data on close to 15,000 adults born in the UK in 1958, looking for evidence of how divorce in childhood affected people in later life.

They found a clear link between the number of health problems reported at the age of 50 and a parental divorce before the age of seven.

This link was not seen however when the divorce occurred later in life.

Thomas and Högnäs examined possible causes for the link, looking in particular at the economic and educational status of the family, how much time the parents devoted to their children, any history of divorce in the family and any emotional and mental health issues.

A low family income emerged as the biggest influence. The researchers concluded that early divorce was associated with poorer health in later life because it increased the chances of the child growing up in a poorer household and of them indulging in such unhealthy behaviour as smoking.

They wrote:

“…smoking may be a behavior adopted by children to deal with psychological and emotional stresses associated with a parental divorce.”

The study, entitled The Effect of Parental Divorce on the Health of Adult Children, was published in the journal Longitudinal and Life Course Studies.

Photo by SuperFantastic via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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