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Suicidal Thoughts and Divorce: Boys Affected More Negatively by Divorce Than Girls

By HERWriter Guide
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Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

A new study from the University of Toronto reported that male children of divorce suffer more consequences, particularly on the subject of suicidal thoughts. Men whose parents divorced before they turned 18 are two to three times more likely to consider suicide than women who faced similar parental divorce circumstances.

Some experts have expressed surprise at these findings because depression is seen in women more often than in men. However, more men successfully commit suicide than women and others are less surprised, including one of the authors of the study. Dr. Esme Fuller-Thomson stated that more women retain custody of their children than men and fathers often see far less of their children than mothers. Boys are heavily dependent on their fathers for emotional support and guidance as they grow older. When this connection is weakened (or disappears in some cases), boys grow up with fewer coping skills and can turn to suicidal thoughts as a result.

Boys are also socially conditioned to talk less about their feelings and more about their actions (schoolwork, sports, and hobbies) while girls are expected to freely express their emotions. These expectations can lead to repressed feelings in young men that may lead to dangerous thoughts or actions. Experts advised that even if these societal expectations remain, mothers and fathers need to ensure that their children are free to talk openly about their feelings at home.

Ways to circumvent this include ensuring that divorced fathers spend a lot of time with their children and that father-son-only time is given. Boys need to be encouraged to talk about the impact of divorce on them and their emotional states in general. No boy should have to “man up” as a result of his parent's divorce. Mothers need to be careful not to refer to their young sons as "the man of the house now"; these boys are children and do not need the pressure of having to substitute for their own fathers.

Thomson was also careful to assure parents that suicidal thoughts in boys due to divorce and less connection with their fathers is not by any means a common occurrence.

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EmpowHER Guest

This is horrible, but I would also say that it's a good reason why parents really need to look into divorce mediation -- a study shows that going through this kind of divorce (rather than litigated) can help both parents have better relationships with their kids -- http://www.weinbergerlawgroup.com/blog/newjersey-divorce-mediation/seven-myths-about-divorce-mediation/ This is just so sad!

September 23, 2012 - 5:19pm

Divorce can be extremely traumatic to families, especially children. My children's picture book, Living With Mom, Spending Time With Dad takes us through a myriad of emotions that two children, Stephen and Alex experience through this tumultuous period. The children, especially Alex gives an extremely candid and honest account of the day to day trauma, the hostility and at times the many poignant memories that he has. Living with Mom, Spending Time with Dad also addresses the concerns and anguish of being torn between two parents. Throughout the story there is that underlying hope that everything will turn out alright and everyone will be back in their original comfort zone.

January 27, 2011 - 7:11pm
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