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Study Finds Link Between Smoking and Children of Divorced Parents

Update Date: Mar 14, 2013 04:02 PM EDT
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In a large-scale study done by researchers from the University of Toronto, men and women who experienced a divorce before turning 18-years-old were more likely to initiate smoking. The study, "The Gender-Specific Association Between Childhood Adversities and Smoking In Adulthood: Findings from a Population Based Study" found that a link between the factor of divorce and smoking exists even after other contributing factors for smoking were taken out. This finding suggests that there might be other side effects of divorce that parents do not recognize.

The head author, Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Chair at University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and colleagues looked at 19,000 Americans, 7,850 were men and 11,506 were women all over the age of 18. The data was attained from the Center for Disease Control's 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. 1,551 men and 2,382 women reported to have divorced parents before turning 18. The researchers found that 4,216 sons and 5,072 daughters stated that they have had at least 100 cigarettes within their lifetime. They found that boys who experienced a divorce before turning 18 had a 48 percent higher chance of initiating smoking. The percentage for girls was 39.

"Finding this link between parental divorce and smoking is very disturbing," says Fuller-Thomson, "We had anticipated that the association between parental divorce and smoking would have been explained by one or more of three plausible factors, such as lower levels of education or adult income among the children of divorce... However, even when we took all these factors into account, a strong and significant association between parental divorce and smoking remained."

Although there is no direct explanation between divorces and smoking, experts believe that divorces that occur in younger children might lead them to turn to smoking as a coping mechanism. However, smoking initiated in the adult years of the divorced children remains unclear.  This study suggests that divorce may have even more detrimental effects on children than previously thought. If these children might have a higher risk for smoking, divorced parents might be able to help prevent that by communicating and educating their children about the dangers behind cigarettes.

The study was published in Public Health

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