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Ministry of Justice study shows children "do better" when they see both parents

View profile for Sam Miles
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A study was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) aiming to shed light on how parental separation might affect children’s well-being.

The findings support existing evidence showing that children of separated parents have worse outcomes compared with children of parents who are still together. The findings also suggest that contact with the non-resident parent may mitigate against the negative effects of separation.

As previous evidence has shown, children of continuously married parents tended to have the best outcomes at age 11, followed by children of parents who were cohabiting at the time of birth and remained together. Children of separated parents showed the worst outcomes. Among children of separated parents, the results suggest that more contact with the non-resident parent was associated with better outcomes for children at age 11.

This report analyses results of the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a study of around 19,000 children who were born in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002. The first data was collected when the children were around 9 months old, and more data was collected when children were around 3, 5, 7 and 11 years old. At each point, interviewers collected information about a range of factors including the family’s demographic, socio-economic circumstances, different measures of child outcomes and development and parents’ behaviours. The MCS contains information on parents’ relationship status at each phase, and for children of separated parents it also contains information on the child's level of contact with the non-resident parent and the quality of the relationship between the two parents, as well as some information about court involvement during the separation process.

Further research will be required to assess the true implications of the study, but the outcome shows that in the event of parental separation, trying to establish good quality contact between the child and the non-resident parent is a key ingredient to securing the best outcome for that child as he/she grows up.

When separated families allow pre-existing arguments, or the formation of new relationships, to get in the way of maintaining good quality relationships between the child and both parents, the study has shown this hinders those children educationally, socially and academically. Would any loving parent really want that for their children?

For more information on separation or divorce please contact our family department on 02380 717431 or to visit their section of the website click here.


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.