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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.