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Smoking, Drinking in Children Linked to Parents’ Divorce

Researchers in a variety of studies have linked parents’ neglect, absence or divorce to bad behavior in their children, including smoking and drinking. Children who have lost a mother or father early in life (defined as before the age of seven) are far more likely to drink and smoke before or during their teen years, whether that loss was due to divorce, death or separation.

One study found that preteens who had lost a parent in some way were more than twice as likely to drink and smoke compared to children who had not had this experience. Many experts say that these behaviors are a coping mechanism and, in some cases, a form of self-medication.

The study involved an analysis of data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which tracked health information for children born between 2000 and 2002. Researchers collected information on the involvement of the father in each child’s care and development. A survey of children at age 11 asked whether they had smoked or drank before. Those who drank also were asked if they had ever felt drunk. Of the 11,000 children who responded, about 25 percent had lost a parent in some way before age seven.

Preteens who experienced the absence of a parent before age seven were more than twice as likely to begin smoking and approximately 46 percent more likely to begin drinking.

Parents should pay close attention to kids’ behavior

This is not to say that all children whose parents divorce early in lives will start abusing substances in their teenage years. What it does indicate is that parents must make a big effort to stay involved in their kids’ lives, especially if they have experienced a major life change at an early age.

For more information and guidance on navigating the divorce process when you have children, speak with a skilled and experienced Long Island attorney at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates.

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