A recent study has revealed that children who are exposed to negative conflict during parental relationship breakdown may suffer detrimentally in terms of cognitive development.
Research from the University of York examined data from 19,000 UK children born in 2000 to study the development of ‘non-cognitive’ skills, such as social interaction, emotional development and behaviour. The study found that children of divorced couples are 30% more likely to suffer from emotional or behavioural issues, and perform 20% lower than their peers in cognitive tests. Notably, however, the study revealed that the negative effects of separation on children occur before divorce, suggesting that it is the conflict leading up to break-up – such as arguing in front of children, or badmouthing the other parent – that is most harmful from a child’s perspective.
Dr Gloria Moroni from the Department of Economics and Related Studies at University of York suggests that making parents aware of the negative effects of conflict and raising awareness of options for more cooperative approaches to separation could help to improve outcomes for children of divorced parents, both cognitively and emotionally:
“The main result of my research is that the fact that children of divorced parents have on average lower cognitive and non-cognitive skills compared with children of intact families is not necessarily due to divorce itself.
“Most of the damage is given by pre-divorce circumstances and characteristics of the family.”
“[T]he non-cognitive gaps are mostly driven by the fact that parents who divorce have more conflictual relationships.”
According to a 2016 survey conducted by Resolution, over 30% of children wished their parents hadn’t badmouthed each other during divorce, and 82% stated they preferred that their parents were separated and happy than stayed together unhappily ‘for the sake of the children’. Conflict in the home can have an enormous effect on the well-being of everyone involved, and when there are children to consider, separating as amicably and cooperatively as possible is vitally important.
To avoid animosity during divorce, there are several out-of-court approaches that are particularly suited to couples with children. Mediation and collaborative family law both allow you to sit down with a trained legal professional to resolve your relationship disputes and come to a productive agreement on future children’s arrangements.
Mediation has been proved to work effectively for divorcing parents, and child-based mediation offers better outcomes for both children and their parents since its focus is on cooperation rather than conflict. Similarly, collaborative family law provides a positive, child-centred approach to separation, placing the well-being of children at the heart of negotiations to ensure positive co-parenting in the future.
To discuss these options, or any other issue regarding separation and children’s issues, speak to one of our friendly family law solicitors at Frances Lindsay & Co.
Tags: collaborative family law, family law, family law solicitor, mediation