Parental divorce in childhood biggest predictor of early death in adulthood


#1

I came across this interesting information:

happycatholic.blogspot.com/2011/03/in-eight-decade-study-parental-divorce.html

*"In an eight-decade study, parental divorce in childhood was the strongest predictor of early death in adulthood." *

The early death of a parent had no measurable effect on children's life spans or mortality risk, but the long-term health effects of broken families were often devastating. Parental divorce during childhood emerged as the single strongest predictor of early death in adulthood. The grown children of divorced parents died almost five years earlier, on average, than children from intact families. The causes of death ranged from accidents and violence to cancer, heart attack and stroke. Parental break-ups remain, the authors say, among the most traumatic and harmful events for children.

Wall Street Journal review of The Longevity Project

What makes that fascinating is that the study, begun in 1921 and which studied 1,500 people, was actually to try to identify early glimmers of high potential. They certainly don't seem to have had an agenda. It was not as rigorously scientific as we might like these days but I think that the discoveries based on 80 years' worth of observation of trends are worth considering. It's a book worth looking for, based on the review.
Posted by Julie D. at 11:59 AM ****


#2

I would agree with that. I have very rarely seen divorced that were easy on the kids. Most of the time it is extremely stressful and even well-meaning parents can come across as making the child choose one parent over another. The strain that puts on relationships can last well into adulthood.

Personally, my parents divorce was not an easy or a friendly one. I couldn’t even invite my parents to my wedding because one of them would never talk to me again if I invited the other. It’s all so childish. I feel like I’m a pretty well-grounded adult now but I am not close to either of my parents, and sometimes I think it would be nice if I could be. No matter how many stressful times I go through in my marriage I don’t give up because I have that in my memory of how difficult it is to be a child of divorce. If it has to happen, it should at least be as civil as possible. Divorcing when you are hot-headed and bitter is the worst possible choice.


#3

I'm totally in trouble since I was adopted AND my parents divorced.


#4

LOL!

me too


#5

The only caveat that I have is this data came from a study called "genetic study of genius" where children had to have teachers' recommendations and high IQ scores, I think almost always over 140. Psychologist Lewis Terman ran the study which has gone on for decades. The results may not be generalizable to a larger population (I don't know). An IQ of 140 is considered genius level by many people.

edited to add: I started a thread once about child prodigy/giftedness and a lot of people on CAF said they had been considered in one of those categories growing up, so this population may be more like what was studied. Also I know some people have gifted children and they often discover that comes from the parents ;) from what I hear.

Terman was at Stanford and worked on the development of the Stanford-Binet IQ test:

online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703529004576160601149946420.html

There are no magic potions on offer here, but many of the findings are provocative. The best childhood predictor of longevity, it turns out, is a quality best defined as conscientiousness: "the often complex pattern of persistence, prudence, hard work, close involvement with friends and communities" that produces a well-organized person who is "somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree."

The study was initiated in 1921 by Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman, who asked San Francisco teachers to pick out their brightest students—most were about 10 years old—to help him try to identify early glimmers of high potential. Terman was most interested in intellectual achievement (his revision of Alfred Binet's intelligence scale produced the Stanford-Binet IQ test), but his interviews were so detailed that the results could be used as a basis for studying the respondents' lives in follow-up interviews across the years. Terman himself died in 1956, just shy of 80; after his death his work was picked up by others, with Mr. Friedman and Ms. Martin launching their portion of the project in 1990.

The study's participants, dubbed Terman's Termites, were bright students, but having a high IQ didn't seem to play a direct role in longevity. Neither did going on to an advanced degree. The authors suggest that persistence and the ability to navigate life's challenges were better predictors of longevity.

Some of the findings in "The Longevity Project" are surprising, others are troubling. Cheerful children, alas, turned out to be shorter-lived than their more sober classmates. The early death of a parent had no measurable effect on children's life spans or mortality risk, but the long-term health effects of broken families were often devastating. Parental divorce during childhood emerged as the single strongest predictor of early death in adulthood. The grown children of divorced parents died almost five years earlier, on average, than children from intact families. The causes of death ranged from accidents and violence to cancer, heart attack and stroke. Parental break-ups remain, the authors say, among the most traumatic and harmful events for children.

Terman was into eugenics like too many of the other early intelligence test developers, but he was not as bad as most of them and this study has resulted in a lot of interesting data. There is a book, Terman's Kids, about the study itself and reading that with the Longevity Project might be interesting.

My sympathies to people whose parents broke up when they were young. That can be very difficult to deal with emotionally.


#6

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