No longer taboo, but divorce still damages children

MailOnline 7 Nov 2012
Family breakdown is as devastating for  today’s children as it was when divorce was a source of social disgrace, a  state-backed report warned yesterday. Even though divorce is no longer considered ‘shameful’ – as it was until the 1970s – the children of broken families  continue to suffer destructive effects throughout their lives, the report  said. The paper, produced by a team of senior  academics, found that the damage caused to a child by divorce continues to  blight his or her life as far as old age. It said parental separation in childhood was ‘consistently associated with psychological distress in adulthood during  people’s early 30s’. The report added: ‘This seems to be true even  across different generations, which suggests that as divorce and separation have  become more common, their impact on mental health has not reduced.’

‘Family life has undergone dramatic changes  over recent decades,’ the report, produced by a team led by Professor Mel  Bartley, said. ‘Families no longer have to have two parents,  they can contain children from different parents, and parents no longer have to  be of different genders.’ But it warned: ‘More freedom also means less  certainty, and this has led to concerns about the impact of family stability on  the health and well-being of both children and adults. ‘Family living arrangements are related to  children’s physical health. ‘Children whose parents remain married  throughout the early childhood years are less likely to suffer from breathing  problems such as asthma, to become overweight, or to be injured in accidents by  the time they are five years old than children who have experienced a more  unstable family situation.’

The research was based on the large-scale  British Cohort Studies, which cover people born in 1946, 1958, 1970, and, most  recently, in the 2000 Millennium Study. ESRC academics also took into account a  series of independent smaller-scale projects.

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