Post-separation parenting - Effects on children

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Post-separation parenting in the AIFS library catalogue

Supporting children's wellbeing when working with separating parents.

Stevens E, Nathan R and Kime F
13 October 2021.
This webinar is aimed at professionals working in parenting, relationship and family support services, who may work with separating parents. Separation can cause high levels of stress for families and significantly impact upon children's wellbeing. However, using child-centred approaches can support parents to connect with and understand their child's needs, strengthen the parent-child relationship, and promote children's social and emotional wellbeing. This webinar will explore the impacts of separation on children and discuss how to work with separating parents in child-centred ways and how to work with distressed parents and navigate disagreements.

Parental separation during childhood and adult children's wealth.

Lersch P and Baxter J
Social Forces v. 99 no. 3 Mar 2021: 1176-1208
This articles investigates whether the children of separated parents are poorer in adulthood. Using data from the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, it compares parental separation in childhood and economic wealth in adulthood. It also examines whether the timing of separation plays a role, and explores the possible causal factors, such as the impact on education and development. The study finds that parental separation is associated with about 46% less net wealth for adult children, but only for those who experienced divorce before the age of 15. The findings suggest that the likely mechanisms for this impact are reduced education and earning capacities, unstable family structures, and less future-oriented time preferences in these adults.

Adverse childhood experiences: building consensus on what should happen next

Asmussen K and McBride T
London : Early Intervention Foundation, 2021.
This paper presents a consensus from key stakeholders in Great Britain on the research evidence on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and how it can be developed to inform policy and practice. Seventy practitioners, policymakers, academics and children's charities took part, achieving consensus on 41 statements regarding the quality of the ACEs evidence and how it might best be used to help vulnerable children. This project follows on from a 2020 report on the state of the evidence on ACEs. It found that while ACEs pose a clear threat to children's wellbeing at all points of their development, many popular claims about ACEs are not supported by the best evidence, and many ACE-related practices have yet to be rigorously evaluated. This new paper highlights the areas where consensus was achieved and how this consensus aligns with the research evidence: more detailed findings are available in the technical annex.

'A damn sight more sensitivity' : gender and parent-school engagement during post-separation family transitions.

Saltmarsh S, Tualaulelei E and Ayre K
Gender and Education 29 Mar 2021: Advance online publication
This article highlights the importance of schools' engagement with parents following family breakdown, and how assumptions about family structures and gendered norms can contribute to stress and exclusion during this time. It draws on interview with four separated parents, taken from a broader study on the relationships between parents and schools. Though many families would consider parental separation a private matter, the link between home and school can be a critical aspect of maintaining community connections and supporting children during this transition and upheaval. It calls for more training for educators on the impacts of separation, trauma, and family violence on children, as well as school policies that ensure all parents and multiple households receive all communications.

Children in dual-residence arrangements : a literature review.

Berman R and Daneback K
Journal of Family Studies 30 Oct 2020: Advance online publication
An increasing number of children are living in shared care arrangements after the separation of their parents, where they spend up to 50% of their time in each parent's household. This article provides an overview of the state of the field of research on this issue from across the last 35 years, and highlights current knowledge and knowledge gaps. Six major areas of inquiry have been investigated over this time: the impact on adjustment and wellbeing, the impact of parental conflict on children's outcomes and adjustment, the impact of parent-child relationships and communication on children's outcomes, the characteristics of families that use these arrangements, children's views and experiences, and debates on policy and legislation. Since the first studies were published more than 30 years ago, the knowledge base about children in dual-residence arrangements has grown considerably. In general, children living in nuclear families are better off in a number of health-related aspects, but, if parents separate, children appear to do well in dual-residence arrangements if parents are cooperative, communicative, low-conflict and non-violent type and the children are above the age of four. Note, there is too little evidence on younger children to make any conclusions yet. There is also little longitudinal evidence or research with specific types of families. More work is also needed on the policy environment in which the study took place: are findings from one context valid for other countries or following further policy changes?

Child wellbeing after parental separation: research summary

Australian Institute of Family Studies
Southbank, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2020.
The paper highlights findings from the Australian Institute of Family Studies on how well children fare in separated families. Their research work from 2009 to 2018 shows that most children are faring well after separation, according to their parents, though children in families affected by family violence are less likely to be doing as well. The studies also reveal that children and young people want their views to be considered and taken seriously by parents and family law professionals, especially when safety concerns are raised.

Adverse childhood experiences: what we know, what we don't know, and what should happen next

Asmussen K, Fischer F, Drayton E and McBride T
London : Early Intervention Foundation, 2020.
Research into adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) consistently shows that a set of 10 adverse experiences in childhood are associated with an increased risk of poor health and other problems in later life. This report examines the ACEs evidence base - in terms of its quality and the conclusions which have followed - and considers the strength of evidence underpinning common responses to ACEs, such as routine ACE screening and trauma-informed care. It identifies what is known about adverse childhood experiences, their relationship with negative outcomes in adulthood, and the effectiveness of current interventions. Based on these findings, the report calls for increasing access to interventions with proven evidence of preventing and reducing ACEs. This report serves as a response to the 2018 House of Commons inquiry on evidence-based early intervention, which held that though there was a strong consensus that ACEs are harmful and associated with a range of negative adult outcomes, there was doubt about the strength of this relationship and the extent to which current practice responses are effective or appropriate.

Separation, inter-parental conflict, and family and domestic violence: impact and support needs

Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety Limited, Australian Institute of Family Studies
Sydney NSW : ANROWS, 2017.
A research study has been conducted into the impact of domestic and family violence on parenting capacity and parent-child relationships in Australia. This paper highlights findings from the study on the prevalence of inter-parental conflict and family violence before and after separation and its impact on children, parent-child relationships, parenting capacity, and finances. Data is taken from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, the Longitudinal Study of Separated Families, and the Survey of Recently Separated Parents. The findings highlight how family violence may be ongoing even after separation, with implications for how support is provided.

Supporting vulnerable babies and young children : interventions for working with trauma, mental health, illness and other complex challenges

Bunston W and Jones S
London : Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019, c2020.
This book is written for health professionals, social workers and child protection practitioners working with babies and young children facing a range of complex issues. Authors from Australia and overseas discuss good practice and highlight the importance of this developmental period. Chapters include: introducing the infant: and how to support vulnerable babies and young children; reflective supervision's essential place in thoughtful practice; restoring ruptured bonds: the young child and complex trauma in families; developing an intervention for infants and young children in foster care; keeping the child in mind when thinking about violence in families; 'murder in their family': making space for the experience of the infant impacted by familial murder; homelessness in infancy: finding 'home' for babies in crisis accommodation after family violence; self-determining support for Indigenous children in Australia: the Bubup Wilam case study; the 'international infant': examining the experiences and clinical needs of separated and reunited transnational infant-parent dyads; 'invisible children': how attachment theory and evidenced-based procedures can bring to light the hidden experience of children at risk from their parents; infants and young children living within high-conflict parental disputes: 'keep me safe and organise my emotional world'; playing behind the barbed-wire fence: asylum-seeking infants and their parents; infants with cancer: the oncology unit as their second home; high-risk infant mental health outreach: creating a professional community of caregivers using a collaborative mental health and nursing approach; and the art of finding authentic discourses for parents about and with their donor-conceived children.

The influences of social connectedness on behaviour in young children: a longitudinal investigation using GUiNZ data

Jose P, Stuart J, Pryor J and Ja N
Wellington N.Z. : Ministry of Social Development, 2019.
This report investigates the relationship between family/whanau vulnerability and preschool children's behavioural and developmental outcomes, and whether social connectedness might act as a protective factor for vulnerable children. Data is taken from the Growing up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) longitudinal study. It found that higher levels of vulnerability in the antenatal period - including maternal education, maternal depression, household overcrowding, household income, household deprivation, and financial stress - were found to predict higher levels of externalising and internalising behaviour, higher levels of illness and developmental problems, and lower levels of prosocial behaviour in children at 4 and half years of age. Children raised in families that had experienced relationship transitions also reported higher externalising and internalising behaviour, and lower prosocial behaviour. Although neither family connectedness nor community connectedness appeared to reduce the impact of risk factors on externalising or internalising behaviour, family connectedness did enhance prosocial behaviour under conditions of low vulnerability. The report also investigated temporal pathways, comparing vulnerability in pregnancy, 9 months, 2 years, and 4.5 years of age. Over time, family connectedness was shown to predict reduced family stress and increased perceived support, both of which, in turn, predicted better behavioural outcomes. Overall, the findings indicate that social connectedness could be a useful protective factor.

Children's and parents' well-being in joint physical custody : a literature review.

Steinbach A
Family Process v. 58 no. 2 Jun 2019: 353-369
There is a growing move towards shared parenting, but debates still continue on its impact on children's and parents' wellbeing. This article reviews the literature from Australia and overseas and describes the findings of 40 studies. Overall, the studies indicate that children in shared custody fare the same if not better than children in sole custody arrangements. However, the studies themselves vary so much conceptually, methodologically, and contextually that further research is required.

When couples part: understanding the consequences for adults and children : executive summary

Coleman L and Glenn F
London : ONE Plus ONE, 2009
This paper summarises the key findings and implications from a review of the literature on the impact of separation on adults and children. The resounding conclusion from this review is that the association between couple relationship breakdown and disadvantage is evident through a wide range of health and socio-economic indicators, and the findings support the case for more investment to help strengthen family relationships and to minimise the burden when relationship breakdown does occur. This paper also includes the foreword by Professor Michael Rutter and the reference list.

Less house, more home : adolescent and young adults' experiences of home following parental separation.

Francia L and Millear P
Family Law Review v. 8 no. 1 2019: 3-15
This article explores young people's sense of home following parental separation. It draws on interviews with 17 young people aged from 16 to 27 years old, regarding shared care and living arrangements, ongoing parental conflict, difficulties in parents sharing care and financial resources, parent repartnering, and differences in mother-child and father-child relationships. The findings highlighting the role of sense of belonging and relationship quality in defining a home, and the fluid and ambiguous concept of home for these young people.

Child wellbeing after parental separation: a position statement prepared for the Australian Psychological Society

Australian Psychological Society
Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Psychological Society, 2018.
Though separation is a common relationship event today but it still represents a major life stressor for the individuals involved. The Australian Psychological Society takes this issue seriously and sees it as a significant public health concern. This position statement discusses the factors that promote child wellbeing after parental separation and highlights how psychologists can support families through prevention approaches to separation, mediation of conflict, and social and practical supports during transition. It summarises current research relating to parenting in the context of separation and divorce, and considers some of the services, policies and community-based interventions that might be supportive of positive parenting and child wellbeing during and after such major life changes. This position statement is based on an extensive literature review commissioned by the Society and undertaken by Ann Sanson and Jennifer McIntosh in 2018: the full list of references cited in the review are included.

Psychosocial profiles of adolescents from dissolved families : differences in depressive symptoms in emerging adulthood.

Di Manno L, Macdonald J, Youssef G, Little K and Olsson C
Journal of Affective Disorders v. 241 Dec 2018: 325-337
This article explores why some children from separated families develop depression and others do not. Using data from the Australian Temperament Project (ATP) from Victoria, this article investigates the different inter-related risk and protective factors that may explain variations in susceptibility to depressive symptoms in adolescence and young adulthood. The study found that most of the young people from dissolved families were well-adjusted in adolescence and at age 19/20, and highlights the need for targeted interventions for at risk groups.

Does shared parenting help or hurt children in high-conflict divorced families?

Mahrer N, O'Hara K, Sandler I and Wolchik S
Journal of Divorce and Remarriage v. 59 no. 4 2018: 324-347
Research indicates that shared parenting is generally associated with better child adjustment following divorce, but there is disagreement about whether this holds true in cases of high parental conflict. This article attempts to untangle the evidence to help inform policy recommendations. It evaluates the different analytic approaches used in assessing whether the benefits of time or quality of parenting persist even when there is a high level of conflict between the parents following the divorce. It then reviews 11 Australian and overseas studies on the joint effects of conflict, parenting time, and parenting quality on children's postdivorce adjustment. It also considers the impact of the different methodologies used by these studies. Despite the limited number and heterogeneity of the studies, some tentative conclusions can be made, highlighting the impact of parenting quality, gender, and time since the divorce. The available evidence does not support a policy against shared parenting, but does provide some guidance on the factors that should be considered when making decisions about parenting time in high-conflict cases.

Family law property settlements : an exploratory quantitative analysis.

Turnbull C
Family Law Review v. 7 no. 3 2018: 215-230
This article adds to the research on the financial impact of separation. It presents findings from an exploratory study of the outcomes and reasoning processes behind a sample of 200 first-instance property settlement decisions involving families with children. It considers overall transfer of wealth, approaches to assessing contributions, value and ownership of property, superannuation, and dependent and independent children.

Supporting children's well-being : outcomes of a rural child-focused education program for separating or divorced parents.

Dunstan D, Talbot C and Pozo de Bolger A
Australian Journal of Rural Health v. 25 no. 2 Apr 2017: 132-133
This brief article highlights findings from a child-focused Post Separation Cooperative Parenting program for separating or divorced parents in rural New South Wales. The program was developed by developed by Centacare New England North West Family Relationship Centre and aimed to improve parent education and skills and so lower inter-parental acrimony, improve parent-child relationships, and support child adjustment. Forty-two parents took part. The findings are positive.

Family structure and childhood mental disorders : new findings from Australia.

Perales F, Johnson S, Baxter J, Lawrence D and Zubrick S
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology v. 52 no. 4 Apr 2017: 423-433
This article investigates whether family structure is associated with mental disorders in childhood. Using data from Young Minds Matter, the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Well-being, it compares a range of mental disorders in children aged from 4 to 17 and the children's family arrangements, as well as time since any family separation. The findings indicate that children in one-parent, blended, and step families experience a higher prevalence of mental disorders than children living with two biological parents. Differences in anxiety disorders, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and conduct disorders are noted.

Using family court data to explore links between adverse family experiences and proven youth offending

Forty R and Sturrock R
London : Ministry of Justice, 2017.
This paper explores whether there is a link between adverse family experiences and youth offending between the ages of 10 and 17. It matches British data in the Police National Computer (PNC) system and the family justice case management database (FamilyMan), which contains administrative information on public law cases, private law cases, domestic violence orders, adoption and divorce - the majority of public law cases involve an application for a care order, supervision order, or emergency protection order. The findings indicate an association between contact with the family courts as a child or young person and an increased likelihood of proven offending. A review of the literature suggests that this link may be explained largely by shared risk factors, including family poverty and maltreatment.

Young, anchored and free? Examining the dynamics of early housing pathways in Australia.

Tomaszewski W, Smith J, Parsell C, Tranter B, Laughland-Booy J and Skrbis Z
Journal of Youth Studies v. 20 no. 7 Sep 2017: 904-926
This article investigates the factors that influence young people's housing pathways in Australia, using data from the 'Our Lives' longitudinal study. It examines family and demographic characteristics, individual factors, and leaving and returning home for 2,082 young people followed from 12/13 years old to 21/22 years old. The study finds that early residential pathways reflect a mix of stable and dynamic influences, not all of which are in young people's control. It finds that events such as partnership formation or parental union dissolution encouraged leaving home, whereas close, supportive relationships with family and friends served to 'anchor' respondents at home for longer. Being employed at a younger age and having grown up rurally predicted both leaving and remaining out of home, and parental socioeconomic resources enabled young people to leave home and return if needed.

Young children in divorce and separation : pilot study of a mediation-based co-parenting intervention.

McIntosh J and Tan E
Family Court Review v. 55 no. 3 Jul 2017: 329-344
Though developmental concerns for young children involved in parental divorce have long been recognised, there are few tailored education and intervention supports available for separating parents. This article reports on the pilot study of Young Children in Divorce and Separation (YCIDS), a mediation-based intervention that aims to assist separated parents of very young children to better understand and manage complex developmental and relationship challenges within family separation. The pilot study involved 6 mediation services in urban New South Wales, with 33 participating families assigned to either the intervention or a 'mediation as usual plus a booklet' control group. Outcomes include attrition, subsequent parenting agreements and arrangements, parent stress and acrimony, child behaviours and distress, parent satisfaction with agreements and the impact on children, and parent satisfaction with the intervention. Though this is a small scale study, the findings suggests the usefulness and cost benefits of this form of early education.

Domestic and family violence and parenting: mixed method insights into impact and support needs : key findings and future directions

Kaspiew R, Horsfall B, Qu L, Nicholson J, Humphreys C, Diemer K, Nguyen C, Buchanan F, Hooker L, Taft A, Westrupp E, Cooklin A, Carson R and Dunstan J
N.S.W. : ANROWS, 2017.
This paper presents key findings for policy and practice from a study into the impact of domestic and family violence on parenting capacity and parent-child relationships in Australia. Drawing on a mixed method approach involving analysis of three longitudinal data sets, a review of the literature, and interviews with service users, the study investigated parental conflict in families and impacts on the emotional health and parenting behaviours of mothers and fathers and child functioning; how DFV experienced before separation, after separation, or both affects parents' emotional health and parent-child relationships; and mothers' experiences of engagement with services in the domestic and family violence, child protection, and family law systems. The findings add to the evidence base on the impact of this violence and the issues that are shared or differ across gender and family structure.

Domestic and family violence and parenting: mixed method insights into impact and support needs : final report

Kaspiew R, Horsfall B, Qu L, Nicholson J, Humphreys C, Diemer K, Nguyen C, Buchanan F, Hooker L, Taft A, Westrupp E, Cooklin A, Carson R and Dunstan J
N.S.W. : ANROWS, 2017.
This report collates the findings of a research study into the impact of domestic and family violence on parenting capacity and parent-child relationships in Australia. The study focused on three main issues: parental conflict in families and impacts on the emotional health and parenting behaviours of mothers and fathers and child functioning; how DFV experienced before separation, after separation, or both affects parents' emotional health and parent-child relationships; and mothers' experiences of engagement with services in the domestic and family violence, child protection, and family law systems. A mixed method approach involving four separate components was employed, involving a review of the literature (also published separately), an analysis of data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, an analysis of data from the Longitudinal Study of Separated Families (LSSF) and the Survey of Recently Separated Parents (SRSP), and interviews with 50 women in contact with DFV services. The findings add to the evidence base by bringing together evidence on a diversity of Australian populations and capturing the experiences and impacts on fathers, mothers, and children at varying ages and stages, enabling the identification of important issues across gender and family structure.

Children's views on contact with non-resident fathers in the context of domestic abuse

Morrison F
Edinburgh : Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, 2016.
This briefing paper presents findings from a study from Scotland into the factors that influence children's views about contact with non-resident fathers in the context of domestic abuse. Interviews were conducted with 18 children and 16 mothers recruited from domestic abuse support services. The children held diverse views about contact, shaped by their own circumstances, relationships and personalities, and their fathers' previous and continued abuse, and the impact this abuse had on the children themselves and their mothers. Exposure to domestic abuse did not neatly predict whether children wanted contact with their fathers: for many of the children, contact held significance beyond the relationship they had with their fathers: such as an opportunity to reconnect with their old lives, siblings and wider family members following separation. Repartnering by fathers was generally viewed negatively.

Divorce - for richer, for poorer

Brown L
Sydney : AMP Limited, 2016.
This report explores the financial impact of divorce in Australia - highlighting how the economic costs can be considerable in both the short and long term. It uses new analysis of data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey to look at the financial impact of divorce on home ownership, employment status, income, household assets and debt, superannuation, and retirement prospects, for people with or without children. It also examines spending on children, including household spending, child care, financial stress, and education outcomes. While most families start to recover economically five years after the divorce, there remains a significant gap in the financial well-being of people who are divorced from those who are married even five years later. Though the impacts are most significant for divorced mothers, it is clear that no one wins from divorce financially.

Child outcomes after parental separation: variations by contact and court involvement

Goisis A, Ozcan B and Sigle W
London : Ministry of Justice, 2016.
This report adds to the research on the nature and consequences of post-separation contact. It investigates whether contact between a child and a non-resident parent is associated with child well-being at age 11, and whether this varies by parental marital status, the level of post-separation contact, and whether separation issues were resolved with court involvement or not. Data is taken from the Millennium Cohort Study from the United Kingdom, for the subset of children who had experienced parental separation at some point between the ages of 9 months and 7 years. Outcomes included subjective well-being, engagement in antisocial behaviours and risk taking, and social-behavioural problems. The report also investigates patterns in the nature and frequency of contact, whether the provision of financial support varies by family characteristics, and whether court use during the separation process varies by family characteristics. Consistent with previous studies, the report finds that children who experienced parental separation by age 7 tended to have worse outcomes at age 11 than those whose parents were married at the time of birth and remained married: these differences were small, however. The results also tentatively suggest that court involvement during the separation process might be negatively associated with child outcomes and that more contact with the non-resident parent was associated with better outcomes for children. Further research is required.

What do the children have to say?: children's perceptions of the children of divorce intervention program

Senko L
"Few of the child-focused interventions that have been developed to address the negative effects of divorce have been extensively evaluated to validate their positive outcomes. One school-based preventive program that has undergone in-depth evaluations with multiple treatment and control groups to document its efficacy among children of different backgrounds is the Children of Divorce Intervention Program (CODIP) (Pedro-Carroll, 2005). While many studies have documented the durability and generalizability of its positive outcomes, there is insufficient qualitative research exploring children's perceptions of the program ... Therefore, through a process evaluation study, involving approximately forty children of divorce who attend two elementary schools in a public school district in New Jersey, this study investigated children's perceptions of CODIP. The following research questions guided my study: (1) how do students describe their experiences in CODIP? (2) in what ways have students benefitted from their involvement in CODIP? (3) which components of CODIP contributed to students' positive outcomes? (4) which features of the program did students like the most/least? (5) how did participants' perceptions of the program vary across developmental age groups? My data analysis revealed three main findings: (1) children benefitted by learning how to express their feelings, solve divorce-related problems, and be part of a peer support system; (2) the positive group dynamics, strong relationships with facilitators, and experiential aspects of the program contributed to these benefits; and (3) participants offered constructive feedback about environmental conditions and their desire for more hands-on activities. The implications of these findings are considered for program developers and school counselors, and recommendations for modifications to the program and considerations for implementation are offered."--Author abstract.

Relocation, research, and child custody disputes.

Parkinson P, Taylor N, Cashmore J and Austin W
Drozd, Leslie, ed. Saini, Michael, ed. Olesen, Nancy, ed. Parenting plan evaluations : applied research for the family court. 2nd ed. New York : Oxford University Press, 2016. 9780199396580: chapter 14
This chapter provides an overview of the legal issues involved in relocation cases and the approaches adopted in different international jurisdictions. A particular issue is the impact on children in these cases, who are often exposed to not only parental separation or divorce but parental conflict and physical distance from at least one parent. It reviews research from Australia, New Zealand, and overseas on the impact on families as well as the three research paradigms that underpin such studies. The court system needs to assist parents to review their options and to develop risk-management and harm-mitigation strategies.

Dissolution, conflict and children's developmental outcomes.

Ribar D, Sanders S and Thibout C
Family Functioning and Children's Educational Outcomes : Public Economics Forum, Canberra June 23, 2016. Melbourne : Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, 2016: 24p
Though research has found that, on average, children have better developmental outcomes when they grow up with both biological parents, these averages mask differences within family structure. Though many children appear to suffer if their parents' relationship dissolves, other children do better over the medium and long run. This presentation explores whether conflict plays a mediating - or perhaps a causal - role in family dissolution and children's development. This document provides the slides presented on the day, which feature charts and some text. Data is taken from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC).
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