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How much is attributable to poorer mental health of lone parents following a parental separation?How much is attributable to the conflict between parents which often accompanies a parental separation?
How much is attributable to the absence of a parent figure?2001), physical health (Dawson 1991), mental and emotional health (Chase-Lansdale et al. Yet the picture is not as bleak as this litany of problems might suggest.1995), social conduct and behaviour (Morrison and Coiro 1999), peer relations (Demo and Acock 1988), criminal offending (Hanson 1999), cigarette smoking (Ermisch and Francesconi 2001), substance use (Fergusson, Horwood and Lynskey 1994), early departure from home (Mitchell et al. In most cases the size of the reported effects is small; a minority of children are negatively affected, generally only in the presence of other exacerbating factors; and in many cases the existence of a causal connection is contested and other competing explanations for these associations have been put forward.Furthermore, there is a considerable range of functioning within both groups of children from divorced and intact families.Among children whose parents have divorced are many who are functioning quite well, while among children from intact families are many with major adjustment problems.The paper provides a brief overview of the research literature on the impacts of family structure and family change on child outcomes, with a particular focus on parental separation.
It takes as a starting point the existence of pervasive associations between family change and child outcomes and addresses a range of issues that are examined in the research literature.
It takes as a starting point the existence of pervasive associations between family change and child outcomes and considers a range of questions that follow from this: Do family changes such as parental separation primarily have short-term impacts on children, or do they also have more enduring impacts? What impacts do frequent changes of family structure have on child outcomes?
Are there causal connections between family change and child outcomes or are there other reasons for these associations?
In particular, children raised in lone-parent families have been found, on average, to do less well across a range of measures of wellbeing than their peers in two-parent families, while parental separation has been found to be associated with an array of adverse outcomes for children.
Behind these patterns of associations between family contexts and child outcomes, however, lies a complex web of overlapping and interacting influences, which means that interpreting these results is far from straightforward.
The majority of children whose parents have divorced function within normal or average limits in the years after divorce (Kelly 1993).