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 Friday, 24 January, 2003, 11:18 GMT
'Suicide risk' for lone parent kids
Many people bring up children by themselves
Children who grow up with just one parent are twice as likely to have psychological problems compared to those with two parents, a study suggests.

Researchers in Sweden have also found that they are more likely to commit suicide. Boys appear most at risk.

However, the researchers acknowledged that other factors, including socio-economic status and relationship with the parent, may also play an important role.

The purpose of the study is not to stigmatise lone parents

Dr Gunilla Ringback Weitoft
UK experts suggested the findings could not be applied to children growing up in one parent families in other countries.

Dr Gunilla Ringback Weitoft and colleagues at the National Board of Health and Welfare in Stockholm, examined the medical records of 65,000 children living in single-parent families who had been admitted to hospital or had died.

Medical records

They compared these to the records of 920,000 youngsters residing with both parents who had also been admitted to hospital or died.

They found that children raised by one parent had more than double the risk of suicide attempt and alcohol-related disease.

Dr Weitoft said: "Our findings...showed increased risk of psychiatric disease, suicide or suicide attempt, injury and addiction in children in single-parent households, compared with those in two-parent households."

She added: "These results are important because they consistently show there are risks related to lone parenthood."

Dr Weitoft stressed that other factors could be involved. The researchers did not interview any of the children and therefore could not assess the relationship with their parents.

She also stressed that the research, published in The Lancet, was not aimed at stigmatising children growing up in one parent families.

"The purpose of the study is not to stigmatise lone parents, but rather to find the causes behind these elevations in risk among the children."

In a commentary in The Lancet, Margaret Whitehead and Paula Holland of the University in Liverpool said further research is needed.

They highlighted the need for a deeper understanding of the factors that contribute to the problem.

"The search continues for what it is about the economic and social experiences of lone parents in Sweden that is ultimately damaging to their own health and that of their children," they said.

A spokeswoman for the National Council for One Parent Families suggested poverty was an important factor.

"There is evidence in the UK that poverty is linked to poorer health. One parent families are among the poorest families in the country."

See also:

10 Nov 00 | Scotland
07 Apr 00 | Health
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