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New study suggests a bad divorce can cause poor health in kids

Most parents will do just about anything within their power to protect their children. Even if the marriage to the other parent ends, the resolve to protect the kids remains. The phrase, "in the best interests of the child" comes up repeatedly during a divorce in Alberta. While much of the focus is on the mental and emotional welfare of the kids, a new study indicates that a child's physical health may also be at risk in ways few would ever imagine.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted an unusual experiment involving 201 healthy adults. The subjects agreed to living in quarantine for five days as the researchers exposed them to a common cold virus. After exposure, they observed the effects of the virus on the subjects.

Intriguingly, the test subjects whose parents split up when they were young and stayed out of contact with one another were three times more likely to contract the virus and get sick than the subjects whose parents remained in touch after the divorce. The subjects whose parents continued communicating got sick at approximately the same rate as adults whose parents did not divorce. The results of the study appear to support previous studies linking parental separation with a higher risk for poorer health in their children. The belief is that exposure to family conflict at a young age can affect the body physically, resulting in a greater likelihood for health issues and chronic illness as long as 40 years after the traumatic events.

This study provides yet another reason for parents to strive for a low-stress divorce, to shield their kids from negativity as much as possible and to agree to coparent respectfully. No divorce is entirely free of disagreements, but there are ways to reduce the conflict and form the basis for ongoing and harmonious coparenting. Any parent facing the prospect of divorce in Alberta can ask a family law practitioner to learn more.

Source:, "Parents' Nasty Split Harms Kids' Health for Decades: Study", John Culbertson, June 6, 2017

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