Emotional and behavioural problems in young children with divorced parents

Theunissen, M. H. C., Klein Velderman, M., Cloostermans, A. P. G. & Reijneveld, S. A. 2017 In : European Journal of Public Health. 27, 5, p. 840-845 6 p.

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle


  • Emotional and behavioural problems in young children

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Background: This study examines the link between divorce or separation and emotional and behavioural problems (EBP) in children aged 2-4 years.

Methods: We obtained cross-sectional data for a nationally representative Dutch sample of children aged 2-4 years within the setting of the national system of routine visits to well-child clinics. A total of 2600 children participated (response rate: 70%). Before the visit, parents completed the Child Behaviour Checklist and a questionnaire with questions about divorce or separation. We assessed the associations of children's EBP with a divorce either in the previous year or at any time in the past after adjustment for other child and family factors.

Results: Four percent of the children had parents who had divorced before the child reached the age of 2-4 years, and 3.4% of these parents had divorced in the previous year. EBP (and particularly behavioural problems) were more likely in children aged 2-4 years old in cases of lifetime divorce or separation. This association was weaker after adjustment for relevant child and family characteristics: it may be partly due to confounding factors such as paternal education level, ethnicity and family size. A divorce in the previous year was not linked to child EBP.

Conclusions: These findings show the importance of identifying care needs and providing care for pre-school children whose parents have divorced since they suggest that there may be negative effects in the longer term.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)840-845
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2017


  • Journal Article

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