Teens need support during family breakups

Reuters 20 October 2007
Family breakups take a toll on adolescents, who have high rates of psychological and social problems, including substance abuse, behavioral disorders, anxiety and depression, according to a report in the journal Pediatrics. In addition, the psychological and social distress shown by separated and divorcing parents can play a significant role in their adolescent children’s respond to the family breakup, study findings suggest.”What is the most deleterious for the children is the atmosphere in which the separation occurs and the deterioration of the family relational processes and not the separation in itself,” Dr Christelle Roustit, of the Research Group on the Social Determinants of Health and Healthcare, and Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, told Reuters Health….Overall, substance abuse, including alcohol, was approximately two-times higher in these adolescents compared with adolescents who were not going through a family breakup. Although seen in both groups, the rate of substance abuse was considerably higher among the 16-year olds. Oppositional attitudes and behaviors, such as fighting, damaging property and theft were increased in both age groups. While Roustit noted that paternal support helped mediate the association between family breakup and psychological distress, it did not affect oppositional behavior. Levels of depression and anxiety also were higher than normal in both age groups. In particular, the risk of suicide attempts was three- to four-times higher among 13 year olds, compared with 16 year olds, Roustit said. These behaviors, however, were modified by parental support.