Parents who have gone through divorce know how hard divorce can be on children emotionally. Children sometimes have difficulty processing all of the feelings they experience during and after the divorce. New research indicates that in addition to the emotional health problems to which divorce may expose children, it also may cause complications with their physical health later on in their lives.
Researchers at University College London published a study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology revealing that children whose parents divorce before the children are 16 years old have levels of C-reactive protein that are an average of 16 percent higher than those whose parents stayed together by the time they reach 44 years old.
C-reactive protein is a biomarker produced by the liver then released into the blood. Elevated levels of C-reactive protein have been linked with coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
The study’s authors noted that it was more likely not the divorce itself that caused the elevated levels of C-reactive protein in those participating in the study. Instead, it was probably attributable to the adverse events that accompany divorce, such as economic disadvantages and lower educational achievement. The stresses that stem from being economically disadvantaged correlate with the elevated levels of C-reactive proteins, according to the study’s authors, but they cannot say for certain that there is a causal relationship.
The study noted that parents can offset the potential health threats that divorce may pose to children by encouraging them to do well in school and obtain post-secondary education. The study showed that children with divorced parents who did well in school did not have higher levels of C-reactive proteins than average.
Parents may think they need to stay in unhappy marriages so that their children will not suffer. However, people can take steps to make sure that their children are well-adjusted after the divorce, while still allowing themselves the opportunity to change their lives by getting out of bad marriages.
Source: Science, “Is parental divorce hazardous to your health?,” James Morgan, July 12, 2013