Parental Break-Ups and Stress: Roles of Age & Family Structure in 44,509 Pre-Adolescent Children

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Background: Parental break-up is wide spread, and the effects of parental break-up on children’s well-being are known. The evidence regarding child age at break-up and subsequent family arrangements is inconclusive. Aim: to estimate the effects of parental break-up on stress in pre-adolescent children with a specific focus on age at break-up and post-breakup family arrangements. Methods: We used data from the Danish National Birth Cohort. Participants included 44 509 children followed from birth to age 11. Stress was self-reported by children at age 11, when the children also reported on parental break-up and post break-up family arrangements. Results: Twenty-one percent of the children had experienced a parental break-up at age 11, and those who had experienced parental break-up showed a higher risk of stress (OR:1.72, 95%CI:1.55;1.91) regardless of the child’s age at break-up. Children living in a new family with stepparents (OR = 1.63, 95%CI:1.38;1.92), or shared between the parents (OR = 1.48, 95%CI:1.26;1.75) reported higher stress than children of intact families. Single parent families reported markedly higher stress levels than children in intact families (OR = 2.18, 95%CI:1.90;2.50) and all other family types. Children who were satisfied with their living arrangements post-break-up reported the same stress level as children living in intact families (OR = 1.01, 95%CI:0.86;1.18). Conclusion: Children who experience parental break-up have higher stress levels, also many years after the break-up, and those living in a single parent household post break-up seem to be most vulnerable. Living arrangements post-breakup should be further investigated as a potential protective factor.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)829–834
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017

ID: 178702303