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The dangers of the unattached male

By James Cunningham

Unattached males account for 62% of male suicides. Divorced men are 8 times more likely to take their lives than divorced women.
Generally men take less care of themselves after a divorce, they eat less fruit and vegetables, skip going to the doctors, they take more risks and are more likely to self-medicate through alcohol and drugs.

Social interaction is known to help lower depression but the social isolation brought on by the loss of their children, family life and changes in their whole lifestyle, for example, loss of income, moving into a new home isolated away from their family, and the impact of divorce alone can lead to suicide. They have a smaller network of friends to deal with their depression and anxiety, this is due to losing mutual friendships after the divorce. Men’s sole support is usually their wife and children, this can be due to working long hours to provide for their family and sacrificing their social lives. In short, after divorce it is the man who loses it all.

The unattached male can be a risk to themselves and others, if they feel that they have nothing to lose, they take risks and can act out of desperation.

Society is dependent on men being attached to a strong moral order centered in families, not only to help raise children but to discipline their own sexual behaviour and to reduce their competitive aggression.

The attached male will reduce risk taking due to the love and devotion to their families. It is common to hear men say, they will give up certain deviant behaviours only when they have children.

So, is it better for our community as a whole to encourage father involvement? The evidence is clear, both men and children do unbelievably better while involved with each other.

Ref: Samaritans / David Popnoe (Life Without Father)

THE IMPACT OF FAMILY SEPARATION ON CHILDREN

Research suggests that family separation has immediate and long-term negative impacts on children’s health. There are a few rare instances when family separation is beneficial to the child, such as cases of extreme abuse in which it would be physically unsafe for the child to remain in the household with their parent. There are other instances when family separation is unavoidable, such as during a natural disaster, as we see with tsunamis, earthquakes, or large fires. Barring such crises, it is paramount to avoid family separation whenever possible.

How does family separation impact children’s health?

In some regards, the impact of family separation depends on the circumstances and mechanism of the separation. However, there also seems to be underlying aspects of family separation that are universal. These aspects span circumstance, culture, geography, and even children’s age.

When children become separated from their families, the parent-child bond is disrupted. The disruption in the parent-child bond, as understood through Bowlby and Ainsworth’s attachment theory, can harm children’s psychological health. Children can become less flexible, open, and adaptable to the world around them.

In physiologic terms, the impact of family separation can be understood as creating a toxic stress. We all face challenges in our day-to-day lives. For some individuals, adversity is extreme and repeated. For children facing situations that create repeated adversity in childhood, we call these factors adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Family separation due to ACEs (for example parental incarceration, parent divorce, or parent death) are strong ACEs that create a toxic stress response in a child’s body. Without loving, trusted caregivers, the toxic stress intensifies, leaving a child’s body in a continual state of “fight or flight” stress response. The impact is upregulation of stress hormones, which worsens emotional health and can increase risk of physical illness, such as autoimmune disease or even heart attack later in life.

In terms of diagnoses, family separation creates a profound trauma on children’s lives. Many children develop depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Given the mechanism of toxic stress described above, family separation may impact children’s risk of medical conditions into adulthood as well, such as by increasing the risk of stress-related illnesses including heart disease or heart attacks.

The best way to mitigate the impacts of family separation is to avoid family separation whenever possible. When family separation does occur, children should be reunited with their families as quickly as possible (when safe to do so). When reunion does occur, the reunion and long-term reunification process needs to be supported. Also, during separation, when children are suffering the stress of the separation, the setting the child is in should be developmentally appropriate. Children should be allowed to communicate with their parents and receive frequent updates and clear expectations regarding reunion. That is because UNCERTAINTY around reunion—children wondering if, when, or ever they will reunite with their parents—can be gruelling. The ambiguity of children not knowing whether or when they will reunite with their families intensifies the separation. The impact of the separation is worse when children have less understanding or control over what is happening.

Data suggests that the impacts of family separation on children’s health have universal features, are intense, and are likely life-long. To promote a healthy society and healthy children (and future adults), family separation should be prevented when possible. Children’s health and well-being are at stake.

Liz Barnert, MD, MPH, and MS; Pediatrician & Assistant Professor at UCLA