Young people’s futures at stake as 19% don’t get the
exam results they were hoping for; 15% move schools; 32% say parents tried
turning them against one another; 14% turn to alcohol.
Young people feel their exam results are suffering as a
direct result of parental break-up according to a major new survey of teens and
young adults published today. The survey of 14-22 year
olds also finds that parental separation is leading young people to turn to
alcohol and skipping lessons, while some admit to experimenting, or thinking
about experimenting, with drugs.
Jo Edwards, Chair of Resolution – the body representing
6,500 family law professionals in England
which commissioned the research – said:
'These new findings show the
wide-ranging impact of divorce and separation on young people. It underlines
just how important it is that parents going through a split manage their
separation in a way that minimises the stress and impact on the entire family,
especially children, otherwise their exam results could suffer. Divorce and
separation is always traumatic, but there is a better way to deal with it.'
Exam results suffering: The survey of 14-22 year olds asked how a parental break-up
had directly affected them. The survey found that one in five (19%) say they
didn’t get the exam results they were hoping for. The majority (65%) say that
their GCSE exam results were affected while 44% say A-levels (44%) suffered. What’s
more, 15% said they had to move schools, which may have had a knock-on effect
on exam results.
The poorer-than-expected exam results might partly be
explained by changes in behaviour, as a direct result of parental separation,
that the survey uncovered: Almost a quarter (24%) said that they struggled to
complete homework, essays or assignments. And more than one in 10 (11%) said
they found themselves 'getting into more trouble at school, college or
university,' with 12% confessing to skipping lessons.
Turning to alcohol and changing eating habits: The survey finds that parental break-up can impact on young
people’s health. 14% of the young people surveyed said they started drinking
alcohol, or drinking more alcohol than previously,while almost three in ten
(28%) said that they started eating more or less than previously. Arguably most
concerning of all, 13% admitted to experimenting, or thinking about
experimenting with drugs as a result of their parents’ break-up.
Pressure from parents: The survey also finds that many teens and young adults felt
that their parents placed additional stresses on them during the process of
break up. 32% of respondents said one parent tried to turn them against the
other. And more than 1 in 4 (27%) said their parents tried to involve them in
Impact of social media – pictures of new partners can be
upsetting: The survey also finds that the stress of their parents’
break-up for young people can be made worse by the impact of social media.
Almost a quarter (23%) said that they found out on social media that one of
their parents had a new partner. One in five (20%) said that their parents have
upset or embarrassed them on social media, by posting something about their
separation or divorce.
Other findings include almost 1 in 5 (19%) saying that they
completely lost contact with one or more grandparents – a crucial issue in the
context of the Government’s recently-launched “Family Test,” designed to ensure
that policies support children’s relationships with their grandparents after
Speaking on the first day of 2014’s Family Dispute
Resolution Week, Jo Edwards said:
'Each year around 100,000 children under 16
see their parents divorce. Almost half of all break-ups (48%) occur when there
is at least one child in the relationship, and with 230,000 people in England and Wales
going through a divorce each year (and many more separating), this is an issue
that affects hundreds of thousands of families in Britain every year.
Therefore it is crucial that couples do everything possible
to resolve disagreements in an amicable way that minimises stress on all family
members – particularly any children they may have.
It’s clear from our survey that children are
suffering as a result of parental separation and that in some cases it’s
exacerbated when parents place additional stresses on their children during
their break-up. But there is a better way to manage your separation. That’s why
we would encourage all separating couples to explore their options for an
amicable divorce. There’s a free guide at
www.resolution.org.uk/separatingtogether about the options available. Speak to
a Resolution member, who will help you to find the right way forward for you,
your family, and your children.'
Molly Baker, a 16 year old from Sheffield,
was 7 when her parents decided to split up, although their divorce wasn’t
finalised until three years ago. She said:
'Having to live between two houses during the week means
that often it can be difficult and stressful to remember all of my books and
homework, for example, two days in advance. The divorce also affected my
primary education because I would get taken out of lessons to talk to teachers
about how I was feeling or about what was happening now in the proceedings,
which meant I missed out on time in class. As I got older, it became easier to
focus just on school work and receive the correct support and understanding in
Emma Austin, Home School Support Worker at Frederick Bremer
School who recently appeared on
Channel 4's Educating the East End, said:
'As someone who works with children every day, I witness the implications
of family breakdown which can often have a devastating impact on children
including on their school life.'
Separation: what options are available for separating
There are many options available to couples to manage their
separation, including mediation, collaborative practice and arbitration,
together with solicitor negotiation.
These processes support couples to work together to decide
what happens to their children after their separation, and how money and assets
such as the family home will be divided. This can be quick and cost effective,
giving people more control and enabling them to resolve their dispute and move
on with their lives.
Resolution’s research in 2013 found that 50% of UK adults agree
that methods of divorce and separation such as mediation, negotiation and
family arbitration are good for the wellbeing of children.
- Mediation helps couples work things out together. It is not
a form of relationship counselling, or a way to help a couple get back
together. Instead it helps couples who are separating decide how to end their
relationship. During mediation the couple, helped by a trained mediator, talk
through the issues (such as money, children or any other consequences of the
separation) that they need to solve, and work out what is best for them and
- The collaborative process helps people work through the
issues they need to resolve, with each partner having a specially trained
lawyer by their side at each meeting and often a family therapist and financial
advisor also. This process is a private way to solve problems without having to
go to court, and offers each party support and legal advice as they go.
- Family arbitration is a way of reaching a decision about
finances or property for separating couples. Instead of going to court, both
parties agree on the appointment of a family arbitrator to rule on specific
issues of dispute. At the start of the process the couple agree to be bound by
the arbitrator’s decision.
- Solicitor negotiation - if mediation, arbitration or the
collaborative process are not right, each party’s solicitors can negotiate an
agreement, without the need for a lengthy court process. Issues between
separating couples are often successfully resolved with the support and
expertise of a Resolution member – in fact it is one of the most common ways of
- Negotiating your own agreement can be the cheapest and
easiest way to reach a settlement following separation. This option isn’t
suitable for everybody, but it can work if the couple have mutually agreed to
separate, remain on good terms and generally agree on issues relating to their
property and any children they have. It is still important to take legal advice
to ensure the implications of the agreement are fully understood, and to ensure
it is legally binding.
- Going to court will be the right option for some people,
because agreement can’t be reached or there is a particularly difficult or
unique aspect to the case. There is usually a legal requirement for couples to
attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before the court
process begins, to see whether mediation or another process is right for them.
Even if one or both parties decides to go to court, an agreement can be reached
before a Final Hearing, and Resolution members will try to ensure this happens,
and keep the stress and conflict to a minimum. If the couple cannot reach a
final agreement, the judge will make a binding decision on what he or she
thinks is fair.