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.