Divorce: couple back to back

Study suggests parents hugely underestimate the effect of divorce on children

Children are three times more likely to witness rows and arguments between divorcing parents than their mothers and fathers realise, a new study suggests. Parenting website Netmums carried out separate surveys of parents and children on their experiences of divorce. This survey was widely reported in the press on 31st December 2013. Just ten per cent of parents said they thought their children had seen them fighting while 31 per cent of the children had actually done so. Netmums surveyed 1,000 parents and 100 children and found that the trauma of their parents’ separation and divorce was so bad for some youngsters that one in 9 (or 11%) had self-harmed, while 5% drank and 3% took drugs to cope. Also worryingly, over a third of children also claimed that one of their parents had tried to turn them against their other parent. Further information on this survey is available at www.netmums.com

Direct consultation with children and young people nationally also highlights their need for strong, secure family relationships. Childline in 2012 stated that family conflict was the single biggest concern for children and young people in the UK. Over 40,000 calls related to family conflict, a rise of 18%from 2011. “The Big Blether” (Scotland’s Commissioner for Children, 2011) consulted with 74,059 children and young people and found that “being safe and secure in our home” was considered the most important way to improve life at home, favoured by 53% of all respondents.