Support our #Respect4SocialWork campaign today and celebrate the social work profession.
Make an Enquiry
Contact Us

Parental conflict damaging to children’s mental health

Study finds conflict between parents is harmful to children’s mental health

Conflict between parents can affect their children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, according to a new study.

A review carried out by the Early Intervention Foundation and Professor Gordon Harold, of the University of Sussex, for the Department for Work and Pensions found that children’s exposure to conflict between their parents – whether parents are together or separated – can put children’s mental health and long-term life chances at risk.

Carey Oppenheim, EIF Chief Executive, said: “Our new research shows that quality inter-parental relationships – regardless of whether the couple is together or not – and the ability to resolve conflict have a huge influence on the long-term life chances of children. Yet, improving the relationships between parents is not taken account of in many children’s, maternity and family services. Children of all ages can be affected by inter-parental conflict.”

The review finds that specifically, unresolved inter-parental conflict can affect children’s long-term mental health. It adds that parents embroiled in hostile and distressed relationships are typically more hostile and aggressive toward their children and are less responsive to their children’s needs.

The review also identifies:
*       Children who witness severe, ongoing and unresolved inter-parental conflict can be aggressive, hostile and violent. Others can develop low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and, in extreme cases, be suicidal. It also reduces their academic performance and limits the development of their social and emotional skills and ability to form positive relationships themselves, all of which will affect the long term life chances of children.

*       Inter-parental conflict can adversely affect both the mother-child and father-child relationships, with evidence suggesting that the association between inter-parental conflict and negative parenting practices may be stronger for the father-child relationship compared to the mother-child relationship.

*       Interventions which seek to improve parenting skills in the presence of frequent, severe and unresolved inter-parental conflict – without addressing that conflict – are unlikely to be successful in improving child outcomes.

The charity warns that improving support aimed at promoting positive inter-parental relationships remains a neglected area for early intervention services with little attention paid to it by maternity, children’s and family services.

Yet evidence from internationally-run programmes suggests that they have the potential to help improve aspects of couple relationships and parenting practices which led to more positive outcomes for children.

The charity is calling for greater national investment in developing and evaluating which services work best to support relationships between parents in different circumstances.

Professor Gordon Harold, from the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex, said: “Accumulating evidence points to a substantive message for parents, practitioners and policy makers – how parents relate to each other, whether parents are separated or together, represents one of the strongest influences on children’s long-term mental health, wellbeing and future life chances.

“This message is highlighted by very recent UK and international research which shows that even when parenting practices are considered, conflict between parents affects an array of negative mental health and poor outcomes for children, including reduced academic attainment.

“Failing to support the inter-parental relationship where the objective is to promote positive child and adolescent outcomes linked to family experiences, may mean a key influence is substantively missed out. This will not only affect today’s generation of children, but tomorrow’s generation of parents.

“This report provides an evidence-based platform aimed at promoting real world opportunities through effective policy making that really can facilitate meaningful impacts on the long-term life chances of children, parents and future families,” he concluded.

 

Knowledge & Resources

Keep abreast of the latest news in the children's services sector.

Adult social workers – What do they do?

22/09/2021

Social workers in adult services carry out work with adults from a range of backgrounds, many of whom are extremely vulnerable, requiring a sensitive, and supportive approach. Adult social workers provide support and assistance to maintain and promote the independence and well-being of adults. Treating adults with dignity and respect is a key core social [...]

Read Full Story

Myth busters – Tackling the misconceptions within social work

22/09/2021

Left wing loony, interfering, judgemental, cardigan wearing child snatchers. This is how all too often social workers are depicted. Slammed in the press when they ‘remove’ children from families for placing a vulnerable child in care yet made out to be a scapegoat when a vulnerable child is let down by the system.

Unfortunately, the [...]

Read Full Story

Social work during the COVID-19 pandemic

22/09/2021

Social work had to face a complete pendulum swing in social work practice during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

Prior to COVID, online assessments or meetings were a complete rarity which had to be adequately justified. Yet overnight, as COVID-19 forced England into lockdown in March 2020, social workers still had vulnerable children and families [...]

Read Full Story
Children First is an online resource for professionals working with children presented by WillisPalmer, providing you with the latest news, features and interviews.
Subscribe Today
Delivering a diverse, reliable range of services to children and their families across the UK
D1, Parkside, Knowledge Gateway, Nesfield Road, Colchester, Essex CO4 3ZL
Contact Us
WP Quality Assured

A Mackman Group collaboration - market research by Mackman Research | website design by Mackman

closechevron-downbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram