Single parent homes are a factor in children’s mental health

Children growing up in single-parent homes are at twice the risk of developing serious psychiatric illnesses and addictions later on, according to a comprehensive new Swedish study in the British medical journal Lancet.

Tracking about a million Swedish children for a decade, into their mid-20s, the study found:

  • Children with single parents were twice as likely as the others to develop a psychiatric illness such as severe depression or schizophrenia, to kill themselves or attempt suicide, and to develop an alcohol-related disease.

  • Girls were three times more likely to become drug addicts if they lived with a sole parent, and boys were four times more likely.

  • Financial hardship, which the researchers defined as renting rather than owning a home and as being on welfare, made a big difference.

    Other researchers question whether poverty is the cause – noting that mothers in Sweden are not typically poor compared with those in other countries. In fact, outcomes in Sweden are similar to outcomes for single-parent households in other countries.

    Source: Associated Press, Children in Single-Parent Homes Found at Risk of Mental Illness, New York Times, January 24, 2003.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin\28 January 2003
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