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Open Access Research article

Parental divorce in late adolescence does not seem to increase mental health problems: a population study from Norway

Henok Zeratsion1*, Madeleine Dalsklev2, Espen Bjertness16, Lars Lien3, Ole R Haavet4, Jon A Halvorsen5, Cecilie B Bjertness1 and Bjørgulf Claussen1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo, Box 1130, Blindern, Oslo 0318, Norway

2 Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo, Box 1130, Blindern, Oslo 0318, Norway

3 National Center for Dual Diagnoses, Innlandet Hospital Trust HF 2312, Ottestad, Norway

4 Department of General Practice, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo, Blindern, Norway

5 Department of Dermatology, Oslo University Hospital Rikshospitalet, Faculty of Medicin, Blindern, Norway

6 Tibet University Medical College, Lhasa, Tibet, China

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:413  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-413

Published: 30 April 2013

Abstract

Background

Former studies have shown increased mental health problems in adolescents after parental divorce all over the Western world. We wanted to see if that still is the case in Norway today when divorce turns to be more and more common.

Methods

In a prospective study design, two samples were constituted, adolescents at a baseline survey in 2001/02 (n = 2422) and those at follow-up in 2003/04 (n = 1861), when the adolescents were 15/16 and 18/19 years-old, respectively. They answered self-administered questionnaires in both surveys of Young-HUBRO in Oslo. Early parental divorce was defined as that which occured before age 15/16 years, and late divorce occured between age 15/16 and 18/19. Internalized and externalized mental health problems were measured by the Hopkin’s Symptom Check List (HSCL-10) and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).

Results

After linear regression models were adjusted for gender, ethnicity, family economy, social support, and mental health problem symptoms measured at baseline before parental divorce occured, late parental divorce did not lead to significant increase in mental health problems among adolescents in the city of Oslo. Early parental divorce was associated with internal mental health problems among young adolescents when adjusted only for the first four possible confounders.

Conclusions

It seems that parental divorce in late adolescence does not lead to mental health problems in Norway any more, as has been shown before, while such problems may prevail among young adolescents. This does not mean that parental divorce create less problems in late adolescence than before but these youths might have developed adjustment abilities against health effects as divorce have turned to be more common.

Keywords:
HSCL; SDQ; Adolescents; Internalized and externalized mental health problems; Mental distress; Parental divorce