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Children who have witnessed parental break-up face a heightened risk of psychosomatic problems

Article By: Richard Howard, News Editor

Swedish researchers claim that a new study of psychosomatic problems in teenagers has singled out parent separation and divorce as major contributing factors, particularly where sole custody of a child is a resulting factor.

Taking data from a national classroom survey of 150,000 12 and 15-year-olds, the team at the Centre for Health Equality Studies (Chess) assessed the relationship between psychosomatic problems and domestic living arrangements and found that teens living with one parent because of family break-up showed the most problems.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, also confirmed that girls had more issues than boys, although researchers point out this might not be an important factor as teenage girls generally show more psychosomatic symptoms anyway.

According to the team, “The practice of joint physical custody – that is, children spending equal time in the respective homes of their separated parents – has become more frequent in Western countries over the past decade.

“At the same time, there has been an increase in self-reported paediatric psychosomatic symptoms.”

Dr Malin Bergstrom concludes: “Children living in joint custody arrangements had fewer psychosomatic problems than their peers living mostly or only with one parent, but they still had more than children living with both parents in a nuclear family. These findings held true even after taking account of influential factors, such as age and country of origin.

“And while the quality of the relationship they had with their parents, and their material well-being, were linked to the children’s psychosomatic health, it could not explain the differences found among children in the various different domestic set-ups.”

Although family break-up continues to rise in developed countries over the last 20 years, statistics show that joint legal custody is also becoming a more likely scenario for these families.


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