As if their situations weren’t already difficult enough, parents undergoing divorces now have another concern to worry about: unhealthy weight gain in their children.
That’s according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). In a study of over 7,500 children born between 2000 and 2002, researchers tracked individuals’ body mass index (BMI) at various two-year intervals between nine months and 11 years old. The goal was to analyze “the effects of divorce on physical health as a longer-term process, rather than as comparison at a fixed point in time.”
About one in five of the research subjects experienced parental separation. The researchers found a positive correlation between members of that cohort and higher-than-average BMIs. In other words, children of divorced parents are more likely than their peers to become overweight or obese. The trend becomes statistically significant fairly quickly—approximately three years after a divorce.
On top of all that, the study revealed another alarming pattern: young children are particularly susceptible. High BMIs were even likelier in those who were under six when their parents divorced.
LSE notes that other studies support these conclusions. By and large, research into the effects of divorce indicates an association between parental separation and a decline in “cognitive skills, educational outcomes, and emotional and psychological well-being.”
Why do children of divorce experience negative physical, mental, and emotional effects? The researchers offer several potential explanations. Divorced parents may be strapped for time and money—and thereby lack the means to regularly provide their children with nutritious food, establish healthy habits, and ensure adequate exercise. Plus, the pressures of adjusting to new environments may disrupt children’s routines and energy levels. Consider the fact that stress and weight gain often go hand-in-hand.
Of course, not all children of divorced parents become overweight or experience other negative effects. (the arguable limitations and inaccuracies associated with BMI as a measurement of physical health are also worth mentioning.) That said, this and similar studies should serve as reminders to parents of the various ways children are impacted by divorce.
Whether you’re undergoing a divorce or other legal challenges, the attorneys of Offit Kurman’s Family Law Practice Group are dedicated to guiding you through the situation as quickly, painlessly, and cost-effectively as possible—so you and your children can move on with life. Learn how we can help you protect your and your family’s well-being.
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Cheryl Hepfer is a highly-regarded attorney who has practiced family law for more than 40 years. She has been rated by her peers and is listed in Best Lawyers in America and as a top lawyer in the Washingtonian, Bethesda Magazine, and Super Lawyers. She is past president of both the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers.
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