Divorce has a major effect on every facet of a child’s later life
Relaxation of divorce laws have seen number of broken homes increase
Children who encounter family break-up are far more likely to be violent, unhappy and feel unfulfilled throughout their lives, according to an NHS study.
Researchers found that the turmoil endured by youngsters has a crucial influence on nearly every facet of their later life.
A cross-section of 1,500 people were asked if they had faced a range of 11 circumstances, known as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), covering abuse, family break-up, being raised with domestic violence and drink or drug addiction.
Coupled with details of their current lives, the research revealed the legacy of broken homes appears to weigh more heavily than any other factor, as among the worst affected group – those with four or more ACEs – two thirds had seen their parents go their separate ways, compared with an average of 24 per cent.
The chances of suffering a difficult childhood leapt for those born after 1971, when the law changed to make divorce easier. This generation was found to be significantly more likely to smoke, drink heavily, take drugs, fight, be mentally ill and have sex underage.
Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust, a campaign group which researches the causes and consequences of family breakdown, said: ‘Casting aside traditional patterns of family life carries a high price tag in terms of the health, education and employment prospects of the next generation.
‘The relaxation of divorce laws – along with the increasing proportion of births outside marriage – has resulted in a growing number of children lacking the benefit of being raised by both their natural parents in a stable unit.’
The report – a joint venture between Liverpool John Moores University and the NHS – found that 47 per cent of those questioned had been on the end of at least one bad childhood experience, and that adult life became tougher with each one added.
It revealed that those with four or more ACEs were – compared to someone with none – twice as likely to have had sex underage, eat next to no fruit and vegetables, have no qualifications, break a bone or have an extended stay in hospital.
They were also three times as likely to have poor mental health, no job and be morbidly obese; four times as likely to be involved in a teenage pregnancy, smoke or drink heavily; five times as likely to be dissatisfied with their life, use cannabis or have been assaulted in the past year.
For those with four or more ACEs, the odds increased markedly for facing recent violence (eight times greater); spending time in custody (nine times); using heroin or crack cocaine (ten times) and contracting a sexually transmitted disease (30 times).
Professor Mark Bellis, the report’s lead author, said: ‘We were surprised at just how pervasive the effects of early years experiences really are. These results underline the critical importance of a person’s start in life.
“If we, as a society, can get the early years right for children then we can have a positive effect on practically every aspect of their later lives.
‘If we can understand why problems occur, we stand a better chance of preventing them happening in the first place.’
Professor Bellis added: ‘Our figures also point strongly towards there being vicious cycles in lifestyles and behaviour. Individuals born into problematic situations are growing up perpetrating the same problems as adults because they, too, find it difficult to cope with being a parent.
‘But you only have to break that cycle once and the family can then maintain itself.’
The Divorce Reform Act 1969 – which came into force in 1971 – allowed couples to end a marriage simply because they were no longer on good terms. Previously, one of the parties had to prove the other half had been at fault.
The annual number of divorces more than doubled between 1970 and 1972 from 58,000 to 119,000 and the figure peaked at 165,000 in 1993.
Last night, the Government refused to comment on the report. A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We are spending over £50million to make more psychological therapies available to children so they don’t suffer in silence.’
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BANKS ‘FAIL WOMEN AFTER MARRIAGE ENDS’
Women are getting into debt because banks refuse to stop ex-husbands raiding their joint accounts.
The Financial Ombudsman Service receives over 1,000 complaints a year from women pushed into the red by their former partners.
Although men can also be at risk, the problem is more acute for women because they tend to stay at the address of the joint bank account.
Banks are supposed to freeze joint accounts if they are told a relationship has broken down.
However in many cases, branch staff fail to do so because they are poorly trained and unaware of the rules. Instead women are told they must get their former partner’s written permission to close the account – often leaving them powerless if their ex refuses.
Sarah Pennells of the SavvyWoman website said: ‘Women are also more likely to be pursued for the debt after a break-up because they tend to stay in the family home if they have children, which is the contact address the bank will have.’
A Financial Ombudsman Service spokesman said banks could be ordered to pay compensation if they refuse a request to freeze an account and money is then snatched by an angry ex-partner.
SOURCE: Daily Mail