The Telegraph 26 December 2015
Children brought up by single parents and in step families are three times as likely to suffer from mental health problems, a major study has found.
Research on more than 10,000 children found that those brought up by both natural parents are far less likely to suffer severe emotional and behavioural problems.
The major study by University College London shows large differences in the well-being of children, depending on their upbringing.
Experts said the findings added to “a mountain of evidence” about the damage caused by family breakdown, with children left stressed by marital breakdowns, or falling into poverty which could increase their risk of psychiatric distress.
The Millennium Cohort Study examined the mental health of 10,448 11-year-olds living in the UK.
Overall, 6.6 per cent of children living with both natural parents were found to have severe mental health problems, compared with 15 per cent of those living with single parents, and 18.1 per cent of those living in step-families.
Those brought up by single parents and in step-families were particularly likely to suffer from conduct and hyperactivity problems, the mass study found
Almost one in five children brought up in step-families were rated as suffering some form of conduct problem, such as tantrums and fights. The figure of 19.5 per cent compared with a figure of 7.1 per cent among those brought up by both natural parents and 17.4 per cent among those brought up by a lone parent.
Higher levels of mental health problems were found among boys, who were more likely than girls to suffer from conduct problems, hyperactivity and inattention.
Racial differences were also found. White boys were the most likely to suffer from hyperactivity and conduct problems while mixed race girls were the most likely to suffer from any type of severe mental health problem.
Children brought up in low income households were also more likely to suffer mental health problems, with a four-fold difference between the wealthiest and poorest households.