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Mental Health Problems More Common in Unmarried Parents

Unwed parents report more mental and behavioral health problems

MONDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- New parents who are unmarried have an increased rate of mental health and behavioral problems compared to married parents, and that may have an impact on their children's development, according to a report in the Oct. 1 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Michelle DeKlyen, Ph.D., of Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., and colleagues analyzed data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, including 4,900 births to married and unmarried parents in large U.S. studies. They used the Composite International Diagnostic Interview Short Form to determine depression and anxiety and relied on self-report to measure heavy alcohol and illicit drug use, imprisonment, and partner abuse.

More mental health and behavioral problems were reported for unwed parents than for married parents. Compared with married fathers, the rates for incarceration, violence and illicit drug use were significantly higher for cohabiting fathers and fathers who were not romantically involved with their children's mothers.

"A substantial number of children are born to unmarried parents and are at risk for poor parenting and poor developmental outcomes. Government initiatives aimed at increasing marriage rates among low-income couples need to consider the mental health status of unmarried parents," the authors conclude.

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