Adolescents' mental health problems increase after parental divorce, not before, and persist until adulthood: a longitudinal TRAILS study

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Abstract

Parental divorce is one of the most stressful life events for youth and is often associated with (long-lasting) emotional and behavioral problems (EBP). However, not much is known about the timing of the emergence of these EBP in adolescents relative to the moment of parental divorce, and its longitudinal effects. We therefore assessed this timing of EBP in adolescents of divorce and its longitudinal effects. We used the first four waves of the TRacking Adolescent's Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS) cohort, which included 2230 10-12 years olds at baseline. EBP were measured through the Youth Self-Report (YSR), as internalizing and externalizing problems. We applied multilevel analysis to assess the effect of divorce on EBP. The levels of both internalizing and externalizing problems were significantly higher in the period after parental divorce (β = 0.03, and 0.03, respectively; p < 0.05), but not in the period before divorce, with a persistent and increasing effect over the follow-up periods compared to adolescents not experiencing divorce. Adolescents tend to develop more EBP in the period after parental divorce, not before. These effects are long-lasting and underline the need for better care for children with divorcing parents.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10-Feb-2021

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