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Stress from divorce may follow sons for rest of their lives

No one will argue that divorce is difficult for children. A study scheduled for publication in the International Journal of Stroke raises some interesting questions about the differences between boys' and girls' reactions to divorce. The researchers were careful to say, however, that the results are not predictive of every child in every family, either in Libertyville or across the globe.

The study shows that, compared to males whose parents stay together, males whose parents divorce have three times the risk of suffering a stroke when they're older. The researchers analyzed existing data from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health risk survey and added one question: Did your parents divorce before you turned 18?

There were almost 4,100 male respondents and about 5,900 females. The researchers then stripped the data of respondents who came from what they characterized as "dysfunctional families" -- that is, families with domestic violence in their histories, and families with parents who were addicted to drugs, alcohol, etc.

Respondents who had other risk factors for stroke were also removed from the study. Risk factors include depression, anxiety, age, race, social support, lower socioeconomic status and higher-risk behaviors like smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity and lack of exercise.

When all was said and done, they found that divorce had no effect on females' susceptibility to stroke but a significant effect on males' chances of stroke. The question then became, Why?

One possible explanation is that, when stressed, men tend to have higher levels of the hormone cortisol than women. When that hormone is triggered in youth, it may follow men for the rest of their lives. The scientific term is biological embedding.

The results show that the subject needs more research. It does not mean that any men whose parents divorced when they were kids are headed for strokes.

Source: Toronto Star, "Stroke rate triple for men with divorced parents, Toronto study finds," Theresa Boyle, Sept. 13, 2012

We help families find less stressful ways through divorce, perhaps helping to avoid the health risk for children discussed above. Please go to our Libertyville divorce mediation page for more information about our practice.

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