NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Single-Parent Homes Factor in Children's Mental Health

January 24, 2003

Children growing up in single-parent homes are at twice the risk of developing serious psychiatric illnesses and addictions later on, according to a comprehensive new Swedish study in the British medical journal Lancet.

Tracking about a million Swedish children for a decade, into their mid-20s, the study found:

  • Children with single parents were twice as likely as the others to develop a psychiatric illness such as severe depression or schizophrenia, to kill themselves or attempt suicide, and to develop an alcohol-related disease.
  • Girls were three times more likely to become drug addicts if they lived with a sole parent, and boys were four times more likely.
  • Financial hardship, which the researchers defined as renting rather than owning a home and as being on welfare, made a big difference.

Other researchers question whether poverty is the cause -- noting that mothers in Sweden are not typically poor compared with those in other countries. In fact, outcomes in Swedish are similiar to outcomes for single-parent households in other countries.

Source: Associated Press, "Children in Single-Parent Homes Found at Rick of Mental Illness," New York Times, January 24, 2003.


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