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Adult Troubles Can't Be Blamed on Single-Parent Childhood

Other social and economic conditions more strongly associated with development

MONDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Children who grow up in single-parent households develop more problems as adults than those who do not, but those problems are associated with factors other than single parenthood, according to the results of a 25-year longitudinal study published in the September issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

David M. Fergusson, Ph.D., of the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Christchurch, New Zealand, and colleagues examined data on 971 participants in the Christchurch Health and Development Study, which followed children from birth through 25 years. At the age of 25, participants were assessed for psychological, educational, economic and criminal outcomes. These results were then adjusted for covariant factors, including levels of parental education and socioeconomic status, quality of child-rearing, and presence of drug or sexual abuse.

Spending an increasing number of childhood years in a single-parent home was significantly associated with more anxiety disorders and criminal arrests, and with lower levels of educational achievement and income. After adjustment for confounding factors, the duration of childhood exposure to single parenthood was found largely unrelated to those outcomes.

"All of this evidence points in the direction of policies that focus on the functioning of families rather than on a count of the number of parents in the home," the authors conclude.

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