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The impact of childhood parental loss on risk for mood, anxiety and substance use disorders in a population-based sample of male twins
Previous studies have identified the relationship between parental loss and psychopathology later in life. However, this relationship varied depending on the kind of loss, the parent involved, and the type of psychopathology. In the present study, we examined the association between parental loss (any loss, death, and separation) during childhood and lifetime risk for seven common psychiatric and substance use disorders in a sample of 2605 male twins from the Virginia population-based twin registry. Using structural equation modeling (SEM), we also examined the extent to which the influence of parental loss contributes to adult psychopathology. Parental separation was associated with a wide range of adult psychopathology, whereas parental death was specifically associated with phobia and alcohol dependence. Maternal and paternal separation were almost equally associated with most forms of psychopathology. SEM suggested that parental loss accounted for about 10% of the variance of adult psychopathology, of which parental separation had the strongest impacts on risk for depression and drug abuse/dependence (11% of the total variance). Our findings suggest that early parental separation has stronger and wider effects on adult psychopathology than parental death.
Guidance on Parental Alienation Syndrome is not issued to family court judges as the ‘syndrome’ is not recognised as such by many professionals in this country.
The Children Act 1989 contains adequate provisions to protect against the effects of parental alienation or implacable hostility. These include the requirement for the court to ascertain the wishes and feelings of a child who is the subject of a parental dispute, commensurate with that child’s age and level of understanding and the power to request Cafcass to prepare a welfare report into any matters relevant to the child or the family.
Cafcass practitioners are aware of the potential for children to be influenced or alienated by parental views and are alert to this possibility throughout the case.