Children’s health can suffer if their parents do not handle divorce well, new research suggests.
While previous studies have found a link between parental divorce and ill-health in children, Spanish academics claim it is not the divorce itself which is the real problem. When a couple bring their marriage to an end, “improper handling of the situation by the parents” is to blame for any side effects felt by their children according to co-author María Dolores Seijo Martínez, a researcher at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) in north-western Spain.
Data was taken from 467 young people between the ages of two and 18 years old. Those whose parents had divorced were found to be twice as likely to develop maladies such as stomach problems, neurological (nervous system) issues and skin conditions as their peers from married households.
When parents do not deal with their divorce amicably, there are “very high levels of … conflict, which makes it very difficult to maintain a good relationship”, Seijo Martínez explained. If children are exposed to this environment for long periods of time they “often experience toxic stress” she said. The USC researcher claimed this was the main cause of the health issues her team identified.
It was vital “to support families in order to reduce these consequences” Seijo Martínez said. She added that people who work closely with children, such as care workers and school staff, “have a very important role in reducing toxic stress, as they are in a position to design and implement new interventions oriented towards protection and prevention”.
The study was published in the academic European Journal of Education and Psychology.
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