The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Distressed by Divorce

Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson

The evidence that adolescents pay a high price when their parents divorce continues to accumulate—across academic disciplines and across national boundaries. Adding to that already considerable mountain of evidence is a study by a team of sociologists, psychologists, and epidemiologists from four Greek universities.

Together, this diverse team of scholars scrutinizes data collected from a cross-sectional survey of 5,614 adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18 enrolled in twenty-five Greek high schools. These data reveal a disturbingly high incidence of psychological illness among the students surveyed: “one out of three Greek adolescents reported that their recent psychological state was not good.”

Further probing establishes family history as a predictor of psychological trouble. The researchers point out that “adolescents with divorced or separated parents reported worse psychological health.” In the single-variable statistical model, teens with divorced parents appeared more than half again as likely to suffer from poor psychological health than were their peers from intact families (Odds Ratio, 1.53; Confidence Interval, 1.24–1.89). But this significant linkage between parental divorce and poor psychological well-being persists even in a statistical model that accounts for differences in economic and social background. In this more sophisticated model, teens with divorced parents were still almost one-third more likely to report psychological difficulties than were peers from intact families (Odds Ratio, 1.29; Confidence Interval, 1.03–1.63).

Just how much parental divorce hurts teens may perhaps be inferred from the fact that although the researchers do detect an elevation of psychological pain among teens in this study who had lost a parent to death, that elevation is smaller than that associated with parental divorce, so much smaller, in fact, that it fails to reach the threshold of statistical significance in either the simple or the multivariate statistical models.

The implications are obvious: whether in Athens or Atlanta, teenagers who have seen their parents divorce are in a world of hurt.

(Konstantina Magklara et al., “Socioeconomic Inequalities in General and Psychological Health among Adolescents: A Cross-sectional Study in Senior High Schools in Greece,” International Journal for Equity in Health 9 [January 23, 2010]: 3.)