Catching a cold in the crossfire: the long-term impact on children of divorce

Results of a study published today show that experiencing the hostile divorce of their parents may have a long lasting impact on their immune system.

The study, by Carnegie Mellon University, made a clear finding that it is not parental divorce itself that is a predictor of future poor health, but a hostile, or ‘silent’ divorce ie one in which the parents were no longer on speaking terms.

I’m not sure this can come as much of a surprise to those who practise in the family law field: experiencing parental divorce is tough enough for any child, but the stress of witnessing years of conflict between the two people that child loves most, is always going to be harrowing. It does seem pretty shocking to see that the impact on health can last as long as 40 years though.

Yet another reason for fault-based divorce to be abandoned once and for all in this country?

Children whose parents have a messy divorce are three times more likely to endure a lifetime of colds as adults, a scientific study suggests.

Trials on more than 200 adults who were exposed to the cold virus found that early stresses in life appear to affect the immune system, increasing the chance of inflammation.

Family stress during childhood may influence a child's susceptibility to disease later. Researchers said anxiety in childhood may influence their susceptibility to disease up to 40 years later.

Those whose parents separated and were not on speaking terms were found to be more than three times as likely to develop a cold compared to those whose parents stayed together or split up amicably.

The increased risk was due, in part, to heightened inflammation in response to a viral infection, the study by Carnegie Mellon University found.