Research reviews

Enduring Families? Children’s long-term reflections on
post-divorce family life

Centre for Research on Family, Kinship and Childhood, School of
Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT

Parental separation and divorce are not necessarily critical
factors in deciding the life chances of children and young people,
according to a new study.

More important are the relationships children have with their
parents, how well prepared they are for changes that take place in
their lives and how well supported they are through the

The ESRC-funded study by researchers at the University of Leeds
found that when parents share responsibility for looking after a
child, relationships with both parents can be attentive and
supportive even if the young person spends relatively little time
with one of the parents.

“Shared residence” – when children move regularly between the homes
of parents – works best if the arrangement is flexible and children
have a high level of control. Rigid shared residence arrangements
can be stressful for young people, and over a long period the
disadvantages of shared residence may outweigh any advantages for
young people themselves.

The researchers interviewed 60 children and young people with
separated or divorced parents over several years. The young people
talked about their family lives, their relationships with parents
over time, and compared the significance of the divorce with the
other pressing issues.

Many of the young people faced a range of challenges after their
parents separated, but not necessarily because of the separation.
These included lack of money, school issues, issues of sexuality,
friendship problems, bereavement and long-term illness.

Dr Bren Neale, who led the research, said the findings went against
views that parents’ divorce is the key experience that defines
young people and determines their chances through life.

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts: addressing antisocial
behaviour in the London Borough of Islington

Karen Bullock and Bethan Jones. Home Office, 2004

A study of the impact on acceptable behaviour contracts in one
local authority has shown encouraging results. Young people placed
on acceptable behaviour contracts (ABCs) in Islington, north
London, committed half as many acts of antisocial behaviour as they
had done in the previous six months.

Ninety-five children were placed on ABCs between 1999 and 2001.
They had all previously come to the attention of the police for
antisocial behaviour including threatening and intimidating other
residents, graffiti and criminal damage. They were also reported to
be involved in a wide range of criminal behaviour including
burglary and car theft.

Most lived with their families in council accommodation where they
had been for at least 10 years. They had a range of family and
social problems and were already known to various welfare services.
Many had been excluded from school at least once and regularly
missed school. Parents, practitioners and the young people
themselves who were involved in the scheme said their antisocial
behaviour was the result either of peer pressure or boredom.

Practitioners favoured ABCs over anti-social behaviour orders
because they believed interviewing young people about their
antisocial behaviour to be a constructive way of dealing with the
problem. The provision of diversion schemes and other facilities to
the young people was seen as important in reducing antisocial

The study includes a number of recommendations about implementing
ABCs more effectively including careful selection of children to
include in the scheme, publicising the scheme among young people
and communities, and harnessing the active support and involvement
of education, youth offending teams and youth services for the

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.