Sunday, December 5, 2010

If you get divorced, your kids are 2x as likely to have a stroke...If you got divorced in the 1940s!!!!!

Struggling in your marriage? Here's HealthDay and Babycenter to warn you...
"Children of divorce face twice the risk of stroke as adults

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 (HealthDay News) — Children of divorce appear to have more than double the lifetime risk for experiencing a stroke compared with those whose parents' marriage stays intact during their childhood, new research suggests."
So, you're marriage is in trouble. You're having a rough time. Here comes Babycenter to make it that much easier to decide to stay in a marriage that you probably shouldn't or to feel so much guiltier and worse about what your decision to divorce is going to do to your children.  That's what you need right about now, isn't it?
When you read all the way down, you see that the people with double the occurrence were people of children who were divorced in...WAIT FOR IT..."1930s, 1940s and 1950s."  It's amazing to me that this is newsworthy. The study focused on Canadians in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American GERENTOLOGICAL Association.  This is not for parents who might be divorcing today, this is for doctors of people over 60 who are trying to identify populations with stroke risk.  If we assume that the profile of a child of divorce in 1935 is the same as now, we are making an error. It even has a name! Extending the relevant range.
The best way to illustrate a relevant range is with water. Water, as it cools, becomes more dense.  So from 38 degrees to 4 degrees centigrade, water molecules come closer together. So let's just ASSUME that that relationship continues down to two degrees. We might, since we didn't measure the density of water at two degrees. But we would be wrong. Ever notice how ice floats on top of liquid water? That's because water, unlike other substances is the most dense at 3.98 degrees centigrade <>.  
So if we assume that the children of divorces that occur in the 2010s will have the same increased likelihood for stroke as the children of divorce from the 1930s, 40s and 50s, we are looking outside of the relevant range. We can make NO assumptions about the likelihood of these children having a stroke over the course of their lifetime.

Long story short, Divorce is really difficult for everyone involved. It is a decision that I have anecdotal evidence telling me that most people don't make lightly.  If you are considering the effects of getting divorced on your children, PLEASE focus on things other than their risk of stroke in their sixties.  It's too far off and we don't know if it's correlated (don't get me started on causal). 


  1. I think it is really difficult to say anything about this news snippet at all - to be fair to Babycenter, a lot of news outlets picked this one up. The MAIN problem with the "news" is that they are based on a conference presentation:

    SOURCES: Esme Fuller-Thomson, M.D., professor and Sandra Rotman Chair, faculties of social work, medicine and nursing, University of Toronto; Kirk Garratt, M.D., clinical director, interventional cardiovascular research, Lenox Hill Hospital, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Systems, New York City; Nov. 22, 2010, presentation, Gerontological Society of America's annual meeting, New Orleans

    So this is NOT a peer reviewed paper - we have no way of controlling for the quality of the data, we do not know how strong the effect is they measure. Therefore, it should not have been reported by the media.

    Let's wait for the paper, shall we?

  2. Catherina,
    Excellent point. Without the rigors of peer review, conclusions can't be drawn. I still think that so many conditions were different for children of the Depression and WWII, that we, as consumers, should not concern themselves with this headline at all.