A family breakup in childhood can have long-term negative consequences on children, particularly on the girl child, new research says.
The researchers found that the mental and overall physical health of girls is more affected by family breakups than boys’ health.
“Girls’ health is more sensitive to family structure,” said one of the researchers Andrea Beller from the University of Illinois in the US.
“We find that, if you grow up in a non-traditional family structure–single parent or step-parent or a cohabiting relationship, girls are more likely than boys to be depressed and report worse overall health,” Beller added.
The researchers used the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (ADD Health), which consists of data collected from 90,000 adolescents in four waves over 13 years.
The study pointed out that a girl’s age at the time of the family breakup matters.
“Between ages six and 10 is an important life period when girls are particularly vulnerable,” Beller noted.
“Early father absence is adversely associated with smoking behaviour, overall health, and depression well into adulthood. And the pattern of findings for depression over the time periods suggests that family structure has a more complex role in girls’ mental than physical health,” Beller explained.
The study was published in the journal Review of Economics of the Household.