Parental divorce and children’s health
A new study has drawn attention to the risks to children’s health posed by parental divorce.
The study, published in the journal Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, looked at the importance of the timing of parental divorce and how this can affect children’s outcomes in the long term.
Working with nearly 15,000 adults, all born in the UK in 1958, two US sociologists explored the link between children’s ages and their parents’ divorces, and found that children who were younger than seven when their parents divorced were more likely to experience long-term health effects than those who went through the same thing later in childhood.
In general, people whose parents had divorced were more likely to report worse health at age 50, but, statistically, it was only really significant for those who had experienced the separation before the age of seven.
The researchers looked into why divorce can have such an effect, looking at factors such as how much money the family had, how involved the parents were, and whether or not the children had had emotional or psychological problems.
The most important factor coming up in the study was socio-economic status. In other words, parental divorce is a risk for children largely because it can lead to parents struggling more with money.
The study also drew a link between divorce and health behaviours such as smoking, suggesting that children’s early experiences of divorce may be linked to an increased risk of smoking or adopting other unhealthy behaviours later in childhood.
Links between parental divorce and smoking haven’t yet been fully substantiated, but there do seem to be long term effects on children’s health long after their parents’ separation.
The study did not look at factors like parental conflict, the use of mediation, or the transitions that children had to make following the breakup, all of which may be relevant to a child’s outcomes.
If you’re dealing with a separation and worried about how your child will cope, try to maintain a positive relationship with your child’s other partner. If this doesn’t feel possible, try to keep any conflict away from your child. You might find our free parenting plan makes things a bit easier.