Toronto: Adult children of divorced parents are more likely to think about committing suicide at some point in their lives than their peers from the families where parents share a firm bonding.
The University of Toronto study, which examined gender specific differences among 6,647 adults in Canada, found that men belonging to divorced families had more than three times the odds of suicidal ideation than those whose parents had not divorced.
The study, published online in the journal Psychiatry Research, also found that adult daughters of divorce had 83 per cent higher odds of suicidal ideation than their female peers who had not experienced parental divorce.
According to the researchers, the link between divorce and suicidal ideation was particularly strong in families where childhood stressors like parental addiction, physical abuse, and parental unemployment also occurred.
For women, who had not experienced such adverse childhood experiences, the link between parental divorce and suicidal ideation appeared to be very insignificant.
However, even in the absence of those childhood stressors, men who had experienced parental divorce had twice the odds of having seriously considered suicide at some point in their life compared to men from intact families.
"This study suggests that the pathways linking parental divorce to suicidal ideation are different for men and women," said lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson from the Department of Family and Community Medicine in the university.
"The association between parental divorce and suicidal thoughts in men was unexpectedly strong, even when we adjusted for other childhood and adult stressors, socioeconomic status, depression and anxiety.
"Females whose parents had divorced were not particularly vulnerable to suicidal ideation if they were not also exposed to childhood physical abuse and/or parental addictions."
Explanations for why men might be more negatively impacted by parental divorce are varied. However, researchers believe it could be due to the absence of close contact with a father which may occur post-divorce.
Previous studies have linked the loss of father-figures with adverse developmental outcomes in boys.
"It may be that the link between parental divorce and suicidal ideation in men is mediated through factors we cannot control for in our analyses such as childhood poverty or depression, both of which are more prevalent in
divorced families," said study co-author Angela Dalton.
The researchers, however, cautioned that their findings are not meant to panic divorced parents. "Our data in no way suggest that children of divorce are destined to become suicidal," said Fuller-Thomson.
The researchers also stressed that their findings need to be confirmed by others using prospective data before any public health recommendations can be made.