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Hostile behavior, not the divorce itself, linked to illness

As is often the case, the details can make all the difference. A newly released study linking psychological stress during childhood to illness may have some divorcing Massachusetts parents in a panic. The key, however, seems to be whether the divorce was cooperative or non-cooperative.

Carnegie Mellon University psychologists evaluated adults whose parents had separated as children. They divided the study participants into three groups: those whose parents had divorced during their childhood but had remained on speaking terms, those whose parents had separated but had reportedly never spoken again afterwards, and those whose parents had remained married throughout their childhood. Results indicated that the individuals whose parents had gone through a less cooperative divorce were up to three times as likely to experience sickness as an adult.

While the study is non-definitive, it does indicate that stress levels during childhood can have a lasting effect into adulthood. According to the researchers, the crucial point here appears to be that the behaviors of the divorcing parents are what seemed to affect the children’s’ health and well-being, as opposed to the divorce itself. Continued attempts at civil communication between separating parents may help shield children from the more damaging effects of divorce.

It is important to note, of course, that not all divorces are the same. For instance, if one spouse is abusive or extremely hostile, removing that negative influence will likely benefit the children. While the research does suggest that communication during divorce could be beneficial, the fear of a divorce adversely affecting a child’s health should not deter a parent who has good reason to end his or her marriage and cut off communication. A Massachusetts family law attorney would be able to offer guidance about this and other issues, providing knowledgeable counsel throughout the divorce process to help keep stress levels as low as possible for all parties involved.

Source: Popular Science, “Scientists want to know if your parents’ divorce is making you sick“, Sara Kiley Watson, June 9, 2017

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