• adult children;
  • adverse childhood experiences;
  • childhood stressors;
  • gender;
  • parental divorce;
  • stroke


Although there is a substantial literature examining the mental health consequences of parental divorce, less attention has been paid to possible long-term physical health outcomes.


The aim of this study was to examine the gender-specific association between childhood parental divorce and later incidence of stroke, while controlling for age, race ethnicity, socioeconomic status, health behaviors, diabetes, social support, marital status, mental health, and health care utilization.


Secondary analysis of the population-based Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey; logistic regression analyses were conducted. The final sample included 4074 males and 5886 females. Respondents were excluded if they had experienced parental addictions to drugs or alcohol, any form of childhood abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional), or witnessed domestic violence.


A threefold risk of stroke was found for males who had experienced parental divorce before the age of 18 in comparison with males whose parents had not divorced [age- and race ethnicity-adjusted model odds ratio (OR) = 2·99, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1·79, 4·98; fully adjusted model OR = 3·01, 95% CI = 1·68, 5·39]. Parental divorce was not significantly associated with stroke among women (fully adjusted OR = 1·64, 95% CI = 0·89, 3·02).


There is a robust association between parental divorce and stroke among males, even after adjustment for many known risk factors and the exclusion of respondents who had experienced parental addictions or family violence. Further research is needed to investigate plausible pathways linking parental divorce and stroke in males.