Interview

She is now leading a life of her own.

Family is essential to a child’s growth. When a family goes through a divorce, there is a lot of stress involved. Children suffer because they depend on their parents and because divorce is out of their control. Here, we talk about what we’ve learned about children whose parents have split up or divorced in order to make doctors more aware of the bad effects of divorce. People whose parents divorce are more likely to experience a variety of mental health issues, including emotional and behavioral disorders, poor academic performance, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, distress, smoking, and substance abuse. Later parental divorce is both a sign of and a predictor of girls’ problems with how they act in the outside world. The post-divorce issues affecting children vary between raters and may depend on how long it has been since the divorce. Early parental divorce/separation is more negatively related to trajectories of internalizing and externalizing problems, whereas later divorce/separation is more negatively related to grades. Another study found a direct link between parental divorce and more teens who smoke, use water pipes, or have problems with alcohol. The levels of both internalizing and externalizing problems were significantly higher after parental divorce, but not before. This effect lasted and got worse over time, compared to adolescents who did not experience divorce. Studies have shown that when parents split up, young teens are more likely to have problems with their mental health. This doesn’t mean that late adolescence is any less troubled by parental divorce than it was in the past; rather, it just means that these kids may have developed healthier coping mechanisms as divorce has become more common. In our clinical work, we have also seen a wide range of emotional, behavioral, psychosomatic, and conversion disorders in kids, especially in preteens and teens, before and/or after their parents broke up or divorced.

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