Special to msnbc.com
updated 7/3/2007 4:36:51 PM ET 2007-07-03T20:36:51

Is it nature or nurture that causes depression in kids of divorced parents? A recent MSNBC.com story explored a study that blames genetics for the parents' divorce and the kids' depression. But in both e-mails and in a vote related to the story , readers resoundingly said genes and environment share equal responsibility when it comes to depression.

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"My parents separated when I was 14. It was an awful, very painful time for everyone, and the problems had only just begun," writes Christian of Tacoma, Wash. "Recently I have begun to believe that it is a mixture of genetics (and) nurture that has caused my battle with depression."

Other readers believe that we spend too much time thinking and instead should focus on moving on. "Life is not supposed to be easy," wrote one man. "… It is time we stop blaming all of our weaknesses on poor parenting, poor environmental factors, and all the other social defects that modern psychology can come up with."

Read on for more responses:

My parents split up 20 years ago. My life has never been the same. I have suffered from depression ever since the split. … My parents have never been treated for depression. However, in our family, all siblings and cousins who also had divorced parents, all of us have depression on both sides of the families. I was sitting around a table and it turns out all but two of my female cousins are being treated for depression or anxiety disorders. We are all in our 30s and it took us all until our late 20s to finally get help. It could be that we all have inherited it but we all come from "broken homes." … In my opinion, divorce in the childhood years is more dangerous for the child to develop depression than in adulthood.
— Susan, Maui, Hawaii

I'm 15 now and my parents got divorced when I was in second grade; I was about 7. At first I didn't really know what was going on, but it really affects me now. … I think that I'm generally a happy person, but sometimes I can get really depressed or angry. When I'm in a really bad mood, I usually go into my room, slam my door, throw something and then listen to fast rock music. Sometimes I get so angry I really want to break something, or curse out my mom, but I don't usually, although I did slam my cell phone into the ground and broke it a little while ago.
— Rebecca, Oceanside, N.Y.

My mom divorced my father when I was a toddler, I grew up with a stepfather who divorced my mother when I was 13. My own results are battling my depression and lack of self confidence with the constant urge to pack up and run when things get frustrating. I want something solid more than anything, but ultimately I've seen how bad it can get and won't settle for a mostly-OK relationship.
— Dani, Las Vegas

My kids, who never saw (my divorce) coming and were between the ages of 10 and 17, did not show any apparent effects in the beginning, but after several years passed, I could see that the divorce did affect them. They have a very difficult time with trust and have high anxiety. While anxiety and depression do run in both family lines, the effects I have seen were definitely exacerbated by our divorce. My oldest will be 40 this fall and though he has always dated a lot, he is still single. He is my only son and has issues with his dad and the divorce that play into his inability to trust in making a commitment. All my daughters delayed marriage until they were in their early 30s. They were very careful and cautious about marriage. My two youngest daughters, particularly, felt abandoned by their dad, even though they have maintained contact with him. … Though the genes for anxiety and depression are there, I am certain the divorce situation played a huge role in the decisions they have made in life and continue to make. I now believe that unless there is abuse (any kind) involved, parents should try extraordinarily hard to work things out rather than divorce.
— Carolyn

My parents divorced when I was 14 and I was the oldest child of three. … My little brother has tried to kill himself twice and my sister remains depressed, though I'm actually getting better myself nowadays.
— Anonymous

My parents divorced when I was only 3 years old and now I'm 21. I missed not seeing my dad all the time … but it really wasn't a horrible experience. Once my parents were divorced and away from each other, they got along quite well and do so to this day. Unfortunately, it was the people they remarried that caused many problems and issues in my life. Oddly enough both of my parents are unhappy with the decisions they've made and both are contemplating divorce once again. I guess it's a family tradition. My parents and grandparents are all divorced. I just hope I don't follow in the same footsteps.
— Amie, Cincinnati

My mother left home when I was 18 months old, leaving my father with three of us to raise. Two of us turned out just fine; my brother was born to be a criminal. My first wife and I were divorced when my daughters were 9 and 10. Nobody turned out bad or "depressed" and nobody needed Ritalin or any other drugs to cope. Too many people today want to take the easy way out with drugs or analysis, when all they need to do is face their problems head on and get on with life. Life is not supposed to be easy. It is the mistakes and hard times that you learn from, and hopefully know how to deal with the second time around. … It is time we stop blaming all of our weaknesses on poor parenting, poor environmental factors, and all the other social defects that modern psychology can come up with.
— Rich

My parents divorced in 1997 when I was 11 years old. I look back and I believe I took it well, but I know I have some suppressed memories. … I had some problems in school and got into some trouble. I was suspended and had numerous detentions. My grades slipped. I don't believe anyone could blame that on the divorce though. My parents to this day still do not speak to each other and I think my life would have been easier if they had better communication skills. … Not all divorce has to end badly, but I would recommend high communication with your children. For the children suffering, let your parents know how you feel in a healthy way. Parents, try and get along with each other after you split because you are only hurting the children if you become petty and immature.
— Rebecca, Philadelphia

When my parents divorced, my father did everything wrong from using the kids as bait to calling my mother horrible, sexist names. It affected my brothers and me immensely and not for the good. I struggle with depression and anxiety. One of my brothers also struggles with depression, anxiety and off and on drug abuse. The other brother suffers from anxiety and sexist behavior toward women. I think it's more from the other affects of divorce (separation from my mother, father's multiple attempts at remarriage, inequality of step families, etc.) than having a predisposition toward those things.
— Tracey, New Jersey

The old adage that kids are flexible and it's better after the divorce is a lie. My parents were divorced when I was 11 years old. … I still deal with the feelings of sadness and anxiety that I did back then. … Today I live four states away from my parents. They are both remarried for the second time. I get along with my stepparents pretty well. But, I still can't get over the knot that forms in the pit of my stomach when there are occasions that both of my parents are to be in the same room, such as my daughter’s recent graduation. You'd think that after 30-something years, I'd be over that, but it triggered a flood of depression and anxiety attacks all over again. I have dealt with panic attacks and depression since my second daughter was born. I now know I was dealing with depression even during high school, but no one noticed it and I didn't get treatment till a bad postpartum depression hit. If I was to allow myself to wallow, I could still go back and feel the immense pain that is indescribable in my heart when I think of those lost childhood years after my parents’ divorce. Unless you've been through it, there is no way to describe the pain and problems of having divorced parents. One thing people need to think about it is this: a divorce isn't the end to your problems, it's just the beginning.
— Gretchen, Williams Bay, Wis.

After my ex-husband left, my son shut down. He did not go to school for the better part of a year. He received in-home schooling. He has never been the same. He is angry and destructive. This has been going on since 1998; my son was 10 at the time.
— Vicky, Wilson, N.C.

My parents divorced in 1977 when I was 10 years old. It didn't affect me, I believe, until I was in my mid-teens. We had no explanation of why (my dad) left, really, my siblings and me. I married at 29 and divorced at 33. The stage was thus set for it to happen, just like my parents. My divorce was 5 and a half years ago and I suffer from depression myself. I think that I made the right decision to divorce and could not have allowed my children to witness the constant fighting, both emotionally and physically. My youngest son (7 years old) is now suffering in school and emotionally because of this, I believe.
— Eileen, Crown Point, Ind.

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