A new study has revealed that childhood family breakups are harder on girls’ health.
Recent University of Illinois research looks at overall health, depression, and smoking as a health-related behavior and finds that, for girls, all three are worse.
Girls’ health is more sensitive to family structure, says researcher Andrea Beller, adding that they found that, “if you grow up in a non-traditional family structure, single parent or step-parent or a cohabiting relationship, girls are more likely than boys to be depressed and report worse overall health.”
“We find that if the biological father was never present, smoking, physical, and mental health are all worse,” Beller adds. “And if they leave when girls are in very early childhood (0 to 5 years old), we find a significant association with worse physical health, regardless of the presence of other males.”
Because of this finding, the researchers suggest that perhaps public health policy should incorporate family background as a risk factor for lifelong as well as adolescent smoking, recognizing that smoking cessation may be particularly challenging for individuals who experienced family breakups in childhood.
The team also found that if men and women who smoke and lived without their father during childhood may need more help to quit smoking.
The study is published in the Review of Economics of the Household.