Public health professionals are always looking to find correlations between health behaviors and social influences. From the foods we eat to the cars we drive, our environment affects our health choices and outcomes. Now, new information from the University of Toronto shows that teens with divorced parents are more likely to start smoking than kids whose parents are still married. It is not clear whether this new research will have child custody implications.
Researchers found that men with divorced parents were about 48 percent more likely to start smoking than their counterparts, whose parents stayed together. Women whose families split were 39 percent more likely to start smoking.
Scientists associated with the study acknowledge that divorce is not the only determinant that could cause people to start smoking. Still, divorce can lead to a variety of societal conditions that encourage poor health behaviors; children of divorce may have lower levels of education, mental disorders, or traumatic emotional events in their past. Even after accounting for all of these confounding factors, though, smoking rates still appear to correlate with family break-ups.
The researchers in the study postulate that the children of divorce were more likely to smoke because of elevated stress levels. Smoking may be used as a coping mechanism to ease some of the emotional strain that is placed on these youngsters.
The study creates several questions that could have implications for child custody in America. First, it is important during a divorce to choose a custody situation that will be healthiest for the family’s children. The researchers did not take into account children who had been raised under the modern divorce model, which pushes for joint custody and increased parental involvement. These changes in custody may have a significant impact on kids’ likelihood to light up.
Ultimately, child custody arrangements need to accommodate the children’s physical and social needs while maintaining their health status. This new information could provide additional support for social programs aimed at assisting children of divorce.
Source: Huffington Post, “Divorce research: Study finds that children of divorce are more likely to smoke,” March 14, 2013