By Stephen Matthews Health Editor For Mailonline
Published: 15:50 BST, 12 June 2019 | Updated: 15:53 BST, 12 June 2019
Children of divorced or separated parents are more likely to become overweight, according to research.
Scientists tracked the body mass index (BMI) of 7,500 youngsters from before their first birthday to when they turned 11.
They discovered the average BMI of children whose mothers and fathers were still together by the end of the study was 19.
In contrast, it was 19.5 for children of divorced or separated parents, the London School of Economics team found.
Experts suggested children of broken homes are more likely to eat unhealthily as their parents have less time to prepare healthy meals.
The average BMI of children whose mothers and fathers were still together by the end of the study was 19. In contrast, it was 19.5 for children of divorced or separated parents, the London School of Economics team found
Data was taken from the Millennium Cohort Study, which follows the lives of some children born between 2000 and 2002.
The first BMI was recorded when the children were around nine months old. It was then repeated at ages three, five, seven, 11 and 14.
At the same time, researchers also analysed the family environment of each child, such as the marital status of their parents.
Around a fifth of the children experienced parental separation, according to the findings published in the journal Demography.
When comparing the BMIs of the children, they found it 'significantly deviated' among those whose parents had broken-up.
And they discovered the link was especially strong for children who saw their parents separate or divorce before they turned six.
A healthy person's BMI - calculated by dividing weight in kg by height in metres, and the answer by the height again - is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile. Percentiles compare youngsters to others their same age.
'There may also be less money in the household to pay for extracurricular activities (e.g., sports),' they added.
'Compared with married parents, divorced parents may have less time to establish and observe routines and eating schedules.