CDC Study: Kids Experience Fewer Traumatic Events When Raised by Their Mom and Dad

Children who are not raised by both of their biological mother and father are more likely to have experienced traumatic events, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children in foster care had, by far, the worst outcomes. Those raised by one biological family member and those living with relatives fell between those with two biological parents and no biological parents. Adopted children were not included in the sample.

The study looked at nine adverse experiences: 1) divorce or separation of parents or guardians, 2) death of a parent or guardian, 3) incarceration of a parent or guardian, 4) lived with someone who was mentally ill, suicidal or severely depressed, 5) lived with someone who had an alcohol or drug problem, 6) witnessed violence in the household, 7) was the victim of violence or witnessed violence in the neighborhood, 8) suffered racial discrimination, and 9) caregiver had often found it hard to get by on the family's income.

Percentage of children aged 0–17 years with selected types of adverse family experiences, by number of biological parents living in the household: United States, 2011–2012. NOTE: Children living with step or adoptive parents were excluded. SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey, National Survey of Children's Health, 2011–2012. National Health Statistics Reports, May 7, 2014. | (Figure: National Health Statistics Reports)

Seventy percent of children raised by their biological mother and father had no adverse family experiences compared to only 21.7 percent of those raised by one biological parent and 18.7 percent of those raised by no biological parents.

While the differences between one biological parent or no biological parent were small when comparing any number of adverse experiences, the differences between one biological parent or no biological parent became much greater when comparing multiple adverse experiences. Nearly 30 percent of those with no biological parent had four or more adverse experiences compared to only 13.6 percent of those with one biological parent.

The report estimates that 3.1 percent of all children, or 2.25 million kids, are raised by neither of their biological parents. Of those, 15 percent are in foster care, 25 percent live with one or both grandparents and 38 percent live with at least one grandparent and other relatives. Of those groups, children in foster care had the worst outcomes.

Nearly half, 48 percent, of children in foster care had four or more adverse family experiences, compared to 30 percent of those raised by non-grandparent relatives, 26 percent of those raised only by grandparents, and 25 percent of those raised by a grandparent and other relatives.

The data comes from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health, a nationally representative phone survey of households with children. 95,677 interviews were conducted for the survey.

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