Children of Divorce – Suffering the Health Consequences

Ever since the beginning of the Divorce Revolution, scholars have eagerly studied the children of divorce. Do these children bounce back? Or do they suffer long-term ill consequences of their parents’ break-up? Much research has been done on the impact divorce has on children’s cognitive abilities, educational performance, emotional stability, etc. But according to a team of researchers out of the United Kingdom and Luxembourg, far fewer studies have delved into the effects of divorce on children’s physical well-being. Furthermore, say these scholars, most of those studies have been on American children. The researchers seek to remedy this gap by studying the effects of divorce on children’s body mass index (or BMI, a measure of body fat) in the United Kingdom. The researchers begin by highlighting the need for their research. “To our knowledge,” they begin, “no study has examined the effects of parental separation on children’s physical health using longitudinal and representative data from outside the U.S. context.” This gap is important, as the studies that use cross-sectional (vs. longitudinal, representative) data “may be influenced by unobserved family characteristics that affected both the risk of separation and children’s physical development.” In addition, the authors of this new study point out that most research has treated separation as a distinct event, whereas they believe that it is more akin to a process, one that begins before the actual separation takes place. They seek thus to assess the changes in BMI over the length of this process.  The study uses data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which follows the lives of a group of children born between 2000 and 2002. The first survey was completed when the children were 9 months old, and subsequent follow-ups administered at ages 3, 5, 7, 11, and 14. A range of data was collected, including such things as children’s BMI and whether or not a parental separation occur
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