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Study shows children of divorce are more likely to smoke

On behalf of Joe Lucas at Lucas Law

Divorce is especially emotional and traumatizing for children as well as adults. A surprising new study reports that children of divorced parents are more likely to take up bad habits such as smoking.

Smoking is more likely in both male and female children

The study, published in the journal Public Health, was conducted by the University of Toronto. The study analyzed approximately 19,000 male and female adults, some of whom were children of divorce. The results showed that the children of divorce were more likely to be smokers.

Specifically, males whose parents divorced before they turned 18 show a 48 percent greater likelihood of smoking 100 or more cigarettes over their entire lifespan than males with married parents.

The results are consistent for females. Female children of divorce have a 39 percent greater chance of becoming smokers.

The study's authors do provide an explanation for the connection between smoking and divorce. However, they acknowledge that other factors could have contributed to the results, such as:

  • Mental disorders
  • Income and education levels
  • Parents who smoke

The authors also note that other traumatic childhood events, such as abuse or neglect, could play a role. They theorize that the calming effect nicotine produces may help children deal with emotional issues within their families.

Children of divorce commonly feel guilt or abandonment

The study's results imply that divorce has a lasting emotional effect on children, who often feel that the divorce is somehow their fault. Guilt is also a common emotion in children, who frequently feel that they could have done more to help their family stay together.

Divorce also causes strong feelings of abandonment and fear in children, who worry about what their life will be like without a single family unit. Events such as changing schools or moving into a new house are often frightening, so it is not surprising that children turn to activities such as smoking to help cope.

Parents can help minimize the emotional toll divorce takes on their children by shielding them from any arguing between adults. It is also important to not ask children to take sides or "choose" one parent over another, which can increase feelings of guilt over perceived disloyalty to one parent.

Children may also worry about how parents will coordinate spending time with them or being there for special events in their lives. Although it may initially be difficult for parents to spend time around each other, it is essential to try to compromise or find a temporary solution. This helps children avoid a sense of loss from the absence of one parent, which may cause them to turn to smoking or other bad habits.

Seeing a therapist or counselor can benefit all family members. Although it may be awkward or difficult at first for children to open up to a stranger, it may help them to talk to someone who can listen and perhaps provide connections to other children going through similar issues.

A family going through a divorce also needs a compassionate and experienced family law attorney. An attorney can provide dependable guidance and help the family and children work through the divorce process with minimal stress and anxiety.

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