A messy di­vorce can dam­age your child’s health

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

LON­DON: Par­ents who go through a bit­ter di­vorce could per­ma­nently dam­age their child’s health, a study shows.

Chil­dren whose par­ents stay on speak­ing terms af­ter a split are far less prone to fall­ing ill in later life, re­searchers say.

But those whose par­ents cut off con­tact are far more likely to suf­fer from a weak im­mune sys­tem, even decades later.

Ex­perts also be­lieve young­sters’ health is dam­aged by the stress of grow­ing up in a bro­ken home and that it might ex­plain ris­ing rates of asthma and heart disease among those who ex­pe­ri­enced it.

Pre­vi­ous re­search has found that adults whose par­ents split up were more likely to suf­fer men­tal health prob­lems and trou­bled re­la­tion­ships of their own.

More than 100 000 peo­ple a year di­vorce in Eng­land and Wales, around half of whom have at least one child. How­ever, the na­ture of the di­vorce ap­pears to be sig­nif­i­cant. Chil­dren of am­i­ca­ble sep­a­ra­tions had no greater risk of get­ting ill than those whose par­ents had stayed to­gether, the lat­est re­search found.

Dr Michael Mur­phy, lead au­thor of the study, from Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity in Penn­syl­va­nia says early life stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ences do some­thing to our phys­i­ol­ogy and in­flam­ma­tory pro­cesses that in­creases risk of poorer health and chronic ill­ness.

“This work is a step for­ward in our un­der­stand­ing of how fam­ily stress dur­ing child­hood may in­flu­ence a child’s sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to disease 20 to 40 years later.”

For the study, 201 healthy adults – 118 men and 83 women – were quar­an­tined in a ho­tel and given nasal drops con­tain­ing rhino-virus, which causes the com­mon cold. Over five days of mon­i­tor­ing, 149 par­tic­i­pants showed signs of in­fec­tion, of whom 60 de­vel­oped a full-blown cold.

Those whose par­ents lived apart and never spoke were three times more likely to get the cold, while adults whose mother and fa­ther re­mained on good terms af­ter split­ting showed no dif­fer­ence to peo­ple with in­tact fam­i­lies. This sug­gests extreme child­hood stress changes the body’s re­sponse to the threat of ill­ness.

It may also cause a surge in in­flam­ma­tion in the body, linked to asthma, cancer and heart disease – all pre­vi­ously re­ported at higher rates in chil­dren of sep­a­ra­tion. Prod­ucts of bro­ken homes are also more likely to suf­fer pre­ma­ture death.

The lat­est, pub­lished in jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences, sug­gests ac­ri­mony be­tween par­ents may be to blame.

Co-au­thor Shel­don Co­hen, pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity, said: “Our re­sults tar­get the im­mune sys­tem as an im­por­tant car­rier of the long-term neg­a­tive im­pact of early fam­ily con­flict.

“They also sug­gest that all di­vorces are not equal, with con­tin­ued com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween par­ents buffer­ing dele­te­ri­ous ef­fects of sep­a­ra­tion on the health tra­jec­to­ries of the chil­dren.” – Daily Mail

DI­VORCE: Chil­dren whose par­ents are in­volved in a messy di­vorce are likely to have health prob­lems later in life.

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