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Why Children Of Divorced Parents Are More Likely To Abuse Drugs

The statistics are clear: Children of divorced parents are more likely to engage in criminal behavior than children whose parents remain married. In particular, they are at higher risk of abusing (and leading others to abuse) illicit substances.

This is important to keep in mind as the new school year begins. As students head off to college, they enter minimally supervised settings that, in many cases, offer easy access to drugs and alcohol. Likewise, research indicates that high school students from divorced homes use drugs at a much higher rate than their counterparts. 

What are the factors that contribute to risky behavior?

There are many factors that contribute to such behavior. First and foremost, high school and college students are simply at a developmental stage where the perceived rewards for taking risks far outweigh the perceived negative consequences. And, moreover, drugs have become somewhat easier to obtain. Marijuana may not be legal in every state, but many officials note that it is more prevalent than ever before. And the pharmaceutical revolution has meant that many students in Virginia have unfettered access to prescription “study drugs” – even if they don’t have a prescription themselves.

A recent study conducted by researchers in the Netherlands details further risk factors. For instance, they note that the stress divorce induces can be destabilizing, leading children to become emotionally volatile, and thereby increasing the likelihood of negative behavior. Additionally, the researchers point out that, after a divorce, parents often have less money to spend on frills for their children; this, too, can lead them to seek their pleasures elsewhere.

But it’s not always best to stay together

Nevertheless, the Dutch researchers – and many others in the field – are quick to point out that their findings do not mean that it’s always best to stay together. The stresses imposed on children by an unhappy home can be even more severe than those imposed by divorce itself.

What’s most important, they note, is to remain open and communicative with children, make them feel cared-for, and remain aware of the risks and temptations they face. 

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