Children whose parents are divorced are more likely to get fat than those whose parents stay together, say researchers.
The weight gain is particularly marked in children whose parents divorce before they are six, the study found.
Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science analysed data on 7,574 children born between 2000 and 2002.
The authors say their findings back calls for better health support for families going through a break-up.
The paper suggests a range of reasons why children might put on weight after a divorce, both economic and non-economic.
- less money in separated households for fresh fruit and vegetables
- parents having to work more hours, leaving less time to prepare nutritious food
- less money for extra-curricular activities, including sport
- parents with less time and energy to establish healthy eating habits in their children
- emotional problems leading to parents who overfeed and children who eat too much sugary and fatty food
The information on the children was collected by the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which followed the lives of a representative UK-wide sample of children born at the start of the new millennium.
The children were surveyed at the ages of nine months, three years, five, seven, 11 and 14, although this particular study excluded the data collected at 14, as the researchers wanted to focus on the period before adolescence.
Of the children studied, 1,573 – or about one in five of the total – had seen their parents separate by the time they were 11.
The study also looked at the children’s heights and weights, ages and genders to calculate their body mass index (BMI) – a widely used measure of whether individuals are a healthy weight, overweight or obese.
The results showed that children of separated parents gained more weight during the 24 months after their parents separated, than children whose parents stayed together over the same period.
And children of separated parents were more likely to become overweight or obese within 36 months of the separation, the study found.
The paper says the results underscore the idea that parental separation is “a process with potentially long-lasting consequences”.
The authors suggest that, as the study stopped when the children were 11, the data might underestimate the full extent of the children’s weight gain over time “because the magnitude of this association becomes stronger as the time since separation increases”.
The authors argue that efforts to prevent children at risk from gaining weight should start soon after separation.
“Intervening early could help to prevent, or at least attenuate, the process that leads some children to develop unhealthy obesity,” they write.
The study focused on the consequences of the first separation of children’s biological parents, so children whose parents were later reconciled were not included in the analysis.
The authors also controlled for socio-economic disadvantage.
The article is published in the journal Demography.
Original article available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48664323
Biggest shake up of divorce laws in 50 years aimed at reducing conflict and supporting children and families.
- Cross-party support for landmark government bill as it enters the Commons today
- Ministers want to end unnecessary ‘mudslinging’ and allow divorcing couples to move forward amicably
Divorcing couples will soon no longer have to make allegations about each other’s conduct, after a landmark bill was introduced by Justice Secretary David Gauke today (13 June 2019).
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill aims to make divorce less acrimonious – reforming our 50-year-old divorce laws – to ensure the process better supports couples to move forward as constructively as possible.
The government has acted to make sure that when a relationship regrettably breaks down, the law doesn’t stir-up further antagonism but instead allows couples to look to the future and focus on key practical decisions – such as how best to cooperate in bringing up children.
Today’s news comes after Ministers pledged to bring forward new legislation following significant support for reform from across the family justice sector and from those with personal experience of divorce.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said:
Marriage will always be a vitally important institution in society, but when a relationship breaks down it cannot be right that the law adds fuel to the fire by incentivising couples to blame each other.
By removing the unnecessary mudslinging the current process can needlessly rake up, we’ll make sure the law plays its part in allowing couples to move on as amicably and constructively as possible.
I’m proud to introduce this important legislation which will make a genuine difference to many children and families.
Margaret Heathcote, Chair of Resolution, the family justice professionals group, said:
We’re delighted that the government is introducing legislation which will help reduce conflict between divorcing couples.
Every day, our members are helping people through separation, taking a constructive, non-confrontational approach in line with our Code of Practice. However, because of our outdated divorce laws, they’ve been working effectively with one arm tied behind their backs.
These proposals have the support of the public, politicians, and professionals. We therefore call on MPs and members of the House of Lords to pass this Bill without unnecessary delay, and end the blame game for divorcing couples as soon as possible.
Current law demands proof that a marriage has broken down irretrievably. It forces spouses to evidence this through alleged conduct such as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or face at least two years of separation, even in cases where a couple has made a mutual decision to part ways.
Consultation responses, which included feedback from family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce, highlighted that this requirement can set the scene for acrimony and conflict – damaging any prospect of reconciliation and harming the ongoing relationship between parents in particular.
Therefore the government’s reforms remove conflict flashpoints that exist in the current process and introduce a minimum overall timeframe, encouraging couples to approach arrangements for the future as constructively and cooperatively as possible.
Specifically, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will:
- Replace the current requirement to evidence either a conduct or separation ‘fact’ with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (couples can opt to make this a joint statement).
- Remove the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce, as a statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down.
- Introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order may be made, allowing greater opportunity for reflection and, where couples cannot reconcile and divorce is inevitable, agreeing practical arrangements for the future.
The Bill seeks to align the ethos underlying divorce law with the government’s approach elsewhere in family law – encouraging a forward-looking non-confrontational approach wherever possible, thereby reducing conflict and its damaging effect on children in particular.
Notes to editors
- The government published its response to the public consultation, Reducing Family Conflict: reform of the legal requirements for divorce, on 9 April 2019.
- Current divorce law requires people seeking divorce to give evidence of one or more of five facts to establish the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage; three are based on ‘fault’ and two are based instead on a period of separation.
- The 5 facts are: adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to the divorce) and 5 years’ separation (otherwise). These are summary versions of the facts.
- The behaviour fact, for example, which was an issue in the case of Owens v Owens, is sometimes called ‘unreasonable behaviour’ but is actually ‘that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent’.
- Separation-based facts are effectively unavailable to those who cannot afford to run two households before resolving their financial arrangements on divorce
- At present, where both parties agree, the court can dissolve the marriage after the couple have lived apart for a minimum 2 years. Where one spouse disagrees, the other spouse will either have to wait to be separated for 5 years before a divorce is granted or may instead obtain a divorce if they demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court that their spouse has committed adultery or that they have behaved in such a way that the party cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. Desertion is rarely relied upon. The legal definitions of the facts can be found in section 1(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973
- Data shows that out of every 5 divorce petitions over the last 3 years, close to 3 rely on conduct facts and 2 on separation facts. Between 2016-18, the behaviour fact accounted for nearly half of all petitions (46.4%, or 47.1% when combined with the adultery fact). In 2018, 118,000 people petitioned for divorce in England and Wales.
- The ability to contest a divorce is rarely used (in less than 2% of cases). The Bill removes the possibility to contest a divorce but all divorce applications could still be challenged on the bases of jurisdiction, the legal validity of the marriage, fraud or coercion and procedural compliance.
- The current law does not require any minimum period of time to elapse before granting the decree nisi (conditional order of divorce). Between 2011 and 2018, around one in ten cases reached decree nisi within 8 weeks, and 3 in 10 cases between 9-13 weeks. It is expected that without the introduction of a minimum timeframe, the average time would reduce as online divorce is extended.
- The average period to the final decree is much more varied, as some parties take a long time to make financial arrangements before they apply for the final decree. We will retain the current minimum period of 6 weeks before a final decree can be applied for.
- The divorce will not be automatic at a fixed date at the end of the minimum timeframe, but will require the applicant to continue to affirm their decision to seek a divorce. This keeps the important safeguards of the existing process.
- Parallel changes will be made to the law governing the dissolution of a civil partnership which broadly mirrors the legal process for obtaining a divorce.
- The proposed legislation will not cover other areas of matrimonial law such as financial provision. Financial provision on divorce is handled in separate proceedings and the court has wide discretion to provide for future financial needs.
- For more information please contact MOJ press office.
Original article available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/end-to-divorce-blame-game-moves-closer