What are the consequences of family break-up on the mental health of children? It is reported in The Guardian that parental separation is more likely to harm the mental health of children aged seven to 14 than younger children.

The article outlines the findings of research published by the UCL Institute of Education. This British Study of 6,245 children and young people in the UK found that family splits occurring in late, but not early, childhood were detrimental to adolescent mental health. According to the study there was a 16% increase in emotional problems like anxiety and depressive illness and an 8% rise in behavioural disorders.

In my experience, children are often scared and confused when they discover that their parents are splitting up and feel that they are caught in the middle. As such I find it is surprising that the negative impact on mental health appears to be confined to those aged seven to 14 at the time of the family split.

Whatever the age of your children, if you are considering separating from your spouse or partner, care should be taken to decide what, when and how to tell them about the situation. Parenting Apart sessions can help parents focus on the needs of the children and to identify when they may need emotional support. The Collaborative Process and Family Law Mediation are dispute resolution methods which are child centred and lend themselves to making joint decisions and prioritising the emotional needs of children who may otherwise find themselves caught in the middle.


Lydia McLachlan

Senior Associate