Reporter 419, 27 April 1998

Children to give verdict on parental split

Breaking up may be hard to do, but it doesn’t all have to be bad news for children whose parents live apart, according to researchers at the University.

Dr Amanda Wade, from the Centre for the Study of Family, Kinship and Childhood, believes there has been undue concentration on the negative impact on children of their parents living apart. A new research project at the centre is designed to counter-balance this attitude by listening to what the children have to say.

“We recognise that children can be distressed when their parents part, and may need time to adjust to new family arrangements,” says Dr Wade. “However, we also know that children are robust and adaptable. The stigma they may once have felt at having divorced or separated parents is now much less evident, and having parents who live in different places is becoming an unexceptional part of childhood.”

Dr Wade and colleagues from the centre – part of the Department of Sociology and Social Policy – are now looking for volunteer families willing to answer questions on how ‘cross-household parenting’ works in practice. Dr Wade will personally interview around 80 children between the ages of six and 16.

The study will examine how parents and children negotiate the time spent in each household, how birthdays and holidays are handled, and how agreements are reached on major decisions such as a change of school. It is hoped the findings will be useful to parents and children as well as giving professionals a better understanding of the life of a co-parented child. Dr Wade adds: “We hope to learn not only how parents reach decisions with or for their children, but how the children influence what happens, and what this means for their growing independence.”

The research team can be reached on ext 4451.

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