Children of Divorce at Risk

Aug 8, 2012 by

University of Toronto researchers published a study online this week in the journal Psychiatry Research that concludes that when children of divorce become adults they are far more likely to consider taking their own lives than people who grew up in intact families. It’s not good news but it appears there is an undeniable link between suicidal ideas in children from divorced families where additional parental stress like addiction, physical abuse and unemployment were also present.

Researchers from Toronto looked for gender-specific differences in a sample of over 6,000 adults, with about 700 people in the group having experienced parental divorce before the age of 18. Men from divorced families had triple the risk of suicidal thoughts compared to men from stable families while women from divorced households had only an 80% higher risk. The numbers are not subtle and show a drastic increase in the risk of suicidal ideation for men, less so for women. It was found that women who had not experienced any additional adverse childhood experiences beyond the divorce it self, exhibited less suicidal ideation. Men had a doubled risk of suicidal thoughts even if they lacked the additional childhood stress factors.

The study also found the occurrence of suicidal thoughts in men was surprisingly high even when adjusted for socioeconomic status, depression and anxiety. Women of divorced parents did not prove to be as vulnerable to suicidal ideation if they had not been exposed to physical abuse or parental addictions during childhood.

The researcher’s acknowledge their findings could have significant clinical implications for professionals working with children from families experiencing parental divorce, but also pointed out that the data needs to be confirmed by more research before any specific public health recommendations can be issued. The researchers also stated it is important to recognize that their findings do not suggest that all children of divorce are destined to become suicidal.


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