Relationship & divorce studies: Are the results actually useful?

It feels as though dozens of studies are published each year attempting to draw definitive conclusions about relationships, marriage and divorce. While these studies are interesting, the results definitely need to be understood in context. Moreover, readers need to remember that such studies cannot predict the fate of a given couple or the outcomes of a particular action.

One recent study seems to be an example of research that should be taken with a grain of salt. After analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data on over 49,000 individuals, the study’s authors concluded that children whose parents got a divorce were more likely to attempt suicide when they became adults.

We won’t delve too deeply into the methodology, but participants were essentially asked questions about their parents’ alcohol use and their parents’ marital status. They were subsequently screened for depression and asked about suicide attempts. After controlling for other factors, researchers said that children of divorce were 14 percent more likely to attempt suicide as an adult.

A much more likely and more apparent risk factor for a suicide attempt is whether a person grew up in a home with parental alcohol abuse. Researchers found that children who grew up around parental alcohol abuse were 85 percent more likely to attempt suicide.

Even if parental divorce does put children at risk for mental, emotional or psychological problems in some way, this does not mean that staying together “for the kids” is a healthy alternative. It is arguably much more difficult on a child to grow up in a high-conflict household than to witness a relatively amicable divorce.

If you are currently going through a divorce and worry about how it may impact your kids, help is available. Mental health professionals are a good resource for helping the whole family stay healthy and resilient in the midst of a difficult transition.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Adult Children Of Divorce Show Greater Risk For Suicide: Study,” Taryn Hillin, May 20, 2014

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