Summarised by Dr Angharad Rudkin

Child Clinical Psychologist at University of Southhampton

Angharad is an experienced Clinical Psychologist working with children and families. She supports OnlyMums & OnlyDads in delivering accessible summaries of key research around families and the effects of separation and divorce on children and those who care for them.

Exposure To Parental Separation In Childhood & Later Parenting Quality As An Adult.

M.D. Friesen, L.J. Horwood, D.M. Fergusson & L.J. Woodward. (2017) Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 58(1), 30–37.

The New Zealand cohort data is a really useful source of information as it follows children who were born in 1977 all the way through their life. This means researchers can track what happens in each person’s life and how it affects that individual as they grow.

35.3% of this cohort experienced a parental separation of 6 months or more. Most of them experienced just one separation, but some experienced 2 or more separations (e.g. their birth parents separating, then their step parent separating etc).

If your child has already experienced one separation, work hard to protect them from another one.

Adults how had experienced more than one separation as a child found it a little bit harder to be a parent themselves. They showed a bit less parental sensitivity and warmth, were more reactive and used physical punishment more.

If this happens, it’s not a disaster as the researchers also found that temperament and the relationship the individual had with their parents was just also important. But it seems like there’s a cumulative effect which can affect a child as they grow into an adult and a parent themselves.


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