Family breakdown - a major influence on teen mental health
From a report by The Marriage Foundation
Family breakdown is the biggest factor behind the UK’s child mental health crisis, a new Marriage Foundation report has found.
More than a third of (36 per cent) children whose parents had split up reported poor mental health, compared to only a fifth (22 per cent) with parents who were still together.
The Marriage Foundation report, the first UK analysis to compare children’s mental health to their parents’ marital status, happiness and stability, has found the mere fact of having married parents acts as a buffer against poor mental health.
The report, which analysed Millennium Cohort Study data on 10,929 mothers with 14 year old children, found that children whose parents were married had reduced odds of suffering mental health problems, regardless of whether the parents split or not.
In a comparison of children from both two parent and one parent households, 32 per cent of children of unmarried parents exhibited problems compared to only 23 per cent of married parents. Among parents who had no formal relationship – neither married nor cohabiting – 40 per cent of children had problems.
Harry Benson, research director of Marriage Foundation, the think tank dedicated to promoting stable families, commented: “Mental health problems during childhood cast a long shadow over future life chances, affecting work, relationships and well-being on into adulthood. Despite the heroic efforts of lone parents, children need and benefit most from two parents who commit to one another and plan for the future. Family breakdown has the biggest negative impact of all. Much of what passes for early intervention is really about managing the fallout from family breakdown. Genuine early intervention means encouraging couples to make a clear commitment to their future before having children, to give their children the best possible chance of a happy and healthy upbringing.”
Sir Paul Coleridge, founder and chairman of Marriage Foundation commented: “Children’s mental ill health is quite rightly near the top of the list of national social concerns. Children often carry its effects around with them well into adulthood and it can blight their lives. Many causes are cited (excessive use of social media, the sexualisation of children and school pressures) but while these exacerbate the problem, we seem to insist on turning a blind eye to the greatest underlying reason; family instability and breakdown. Unless and until we, as a mature society grasp this nettle we will not address the main cause and will never get on top of the epidemic."
He continues, "In 44 years I spent working in the family courts, the sheer scale of the misery caused by family breakdown to the fragile emotional state of children was plain for all involved to see. Invariably, it’s the children who suffer most when marriage fails.”
Download report from here.
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