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Higher Risk of Suicidal Thoughts for Children of Divorce

Risk of Suicide if Parents Were DivorcedNew research suggests adult children of divorce are more likely to have seriously considered suicide than their peers from intact families.

Investigators examined gender-specific differences among a sample of 6,647 adults, of whom 695 had experienced parental divorce before the age of 18.

The study found that men from divorced families had more than three times the odds of suicidal ideation in comparison to men whose parents had not divorced.

Adult daughters of divorce had 83 percent higher odds of suicidal ideation than their female peers who had not experienced parental divorce.

The paper is published online this week in the journal Psychiatry Research.

The link between divorce and suicidal ideation was particularly strong in families where childhood stressors like parental addiction, physical abuse, and parental unemployment also occurred.

For women who had not experienced these adverse childhood experiences, the association between parental divorce and suicidal ideation was no longer significant.

However, even in the absence of these childhood stressors, men who had experienced parental divorce had twice the odds of having seriously considered suicide at some point in their life compared to men from intact families.

“This study suggests that the pathways linking parental divorce to suicidal ideation are different for men and women. The association between parental divorce and suicidal thoughts in men was unexpectedly strong, even when we adjusted for other childhood and adult stressors, socioeconomic status, depression and anxiety,” said lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, M.D.

“Females whose parents had divorced were not particularly vulnerable to suicidal ideation if they were not also exposed to childhood physical abuse and/or parental addictions.”

Explanations for why men might be more negatively impacted by parental divorce are varied. However, researchers believe it could be due to the absence, post-divorce, of close contact with a father.

Previous studies have linked the loss of father-figures with adverse developmental outcomes in boys.

“It may be that the link between parental divorce and suicidal ideation in men is mediated through factors we cannot control for in our analyses such as childhood poverty or parental depression, both of which are more prevalent in divorced families,” said study co-author Angela Dalton.

Fuller-Thomson cautions that “these findings are not meant to panic divorced parents. Our data in no way suggest that children of divorce are destined to become suicidal.”

The researchers noted that their findings need to be confirmed by others using prospective data before any public health recommendations can be made. However, if confirmed, they would have significant clinical implications for professionals working with families experiencing parental divorce.

Source: University of Toronto

Higher Risk of Suicidal Thoughts for Children of Divorce

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Higher Risk of Suicidal Thoughts for Children of Divorce. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/01/20/higher-risk-of-suicidal-thoughts-for-children-of-divorce/22807.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.