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What Children Say

In a divorce or separation children are often caught up in the middle

The following quotes are taken from the report ‘Children’s Views of their Changing Families’

Authors: Judy Dunn and Kirby Deater-Deckard - 12 September 2001

A quarter of the children whose parents had separated said no one talked to them about the separation when it happened. Only 5 per cent said they were given full explanations and the chance to ask questions. Most reported that they were confused and distressed by the separation.

Grandparents and friends were children’s key confidants in the weeks following separation; confiding in fathers and siblings was rare.

Those children who felt they had poor relationships with their parents and that they were more involved in conflict between parents and step-parents tended to have more adjustment problems.

Over half the children who lived in two households because of separated parents were positive about their ‘divided’ lives. Those who had an active role in decisions about these arrangements and those who said they were able to talk to parents about their problems concerning their ‘divided’ lives were more likely to have positive feelings about moving between households.

If children felt that they could not talk about their problems in moving between two households or problems they might be experiencing in their ‘other’ households, they were more negative about their ‘divided’ lives. However, they were very sensitive to criticism of one parent by the other and to conflict between birth parents.

The children saw the role of step-parents in very different ways. Some stressed that the step-parent should be a friend, others said a parent. Many said they found discipline by a step-parent difficult to take. Fifty per cent felt that they took second place to children born to their own parent and step-parent and 30 per cent felt they were displaced by their stepparents’ own children.

The views of children as young as five (obtained using drawings and family ‘maps’) were similar to the verbal accounts given by older children.

The full report is available on-line by following this link:

Courtesy of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation