Parental separation from an adolescent perspective: What do they say?

Parental separation from an adolescent perspective: What do they say?

Jodie Lodge

CFCA Paper No. 5 — June 2012
Parental separation from an adolescent perspective: What do they say?

Key messages

Parental separation is a stressful period for adolescents and involves a lot of adjustment.

Parents are the most important and valued source of support for adolescents at the time of separation and can help them to understand what is happening without involving them in any disputes.

Older adolescents may be more capable of understanding the reasons behind parental separation than younger adolescents.

Parents need to remain sensitive and responsive to their children’s needs, including having flexible arrangements around adolescents’ schedules.

Parents being there to listen and non-intrusive monitoring of their children’s activities is important.
Where re-partnering occurs, supporting and developing quality step-parent–child relationships is important.

For adolescents experiencing parental separation, a strong relationship with at least one parent is likely to have an integral role in their adjustment.

This paper is based on Views of Adolescents in Separated Families: A Study of Adolescents' Experiences After the 2006 Reforms to the Family Law System (Lodge & Alexander, 2010). It highlights findings from interviews with adolescents from separated families.

At a general level, the study emphasised the importance of listening to the perspectives of young people on their experiences of parental separation, including what is important to them in adjusting to their changing families. Adolescents make considerable adjustments when parents separate, and the findings illustrate adolescents' differing developmental capacities to understand and accept family changes.

The findings indicate the need for varied forms of service provision that can meet a range of needs within the family, including adolescents' developmental needs. Promoting open and ongoing communication within families about the organisation and re-organisation of family life is important, particularly as the needs of adolescents change. Giving adolescents a role in decisions about practical aspects of family life was especially empowering for some adolescents - but importantly, not for all. The findings of the study also highlight the adolescents' sensitivity to the conflicts and distress of their parents. Finally, the study points to implications for services in supporting parents and their adolescent children to maintain strength and closeness of relationships over time, as a strong relationship with at least one parent is associated with more positive adjustment after parental separation.



Authors and Acknowledgements

Jodie Lodge is a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Publication details

CFCA Paper
No. 5
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, June 2012.
5 pp.

Publication meta

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