Children and non-resident parents
The Ministry of Justice has published a new research paper looking into child wellbeing, and how this is affected by the relationship they have with non-resident parents.
The report was put together from an analysis of a long-term study known as the Millennium Cohort Study (MLS) which has been following the lives of 19,000 children born between 2000 and 2002.
The study followed a particular group of these children who had been living with both of their parents at nine months old but whose parents had separated by the time they were seven years old.
The study focused on an area that hasn’t been studied much in the UK, looking at levels of court involvement in parental separation, and then the frequency and quality of the contact between the children and the non-resident parents.
Researchers then looked at outcomes for children when they were aged eleven, paying particular attention to:
- subjective wellbeing (children’s moods and emotions)
- antisocial behaviours, such as drinking alcohol, smoking, being rowdy in public, doing graffiti, or stealing from shops
- social and behavioural problems
- how good they were at making decisions around risky behaviour.
According to the report’s key findings, the level of contact between children and their non-resident parents - that’s frequency and quality - tends to decline over time.
The findings also suggested that parents found it harder to make sure children had access to both parents if they weren’t financially well off and hadn’t previously been married. Among children of separated parents, the ones that had the best outcomes at age eleven were those who had had the most contact with their non-resident parents.
Even after a separation, you and your ex-partner continue to have a relationship as co-parents, so it’s really important to maintain this relationship in as supportive a way as possible. Put your children first and, wherever safe, try to ensure they have regular quality time with both parents.
You may not love your child’s other parent anymore – you may even resent them or be angry with them – but maintaining contact can protect your child against the negative effects of separation, so you may have to set your own feelings aside, at least in the beginning.