The best thing parents can do for their children is work hard at staying together, a new study shows.
The report says that children are, on average, less likely to get aggressive and depressed if the relationship between their parents is good.
The findings, which come from The Good Childhood Inquiry run by The Children’s Society, show that family breakdown and absent fathers cause misery for many children.
It blames the welfare state and emphasises socio-economic changes as contributing factors enabling mothers to phase out fathers if their relationships begin to break down.
As a result of their parents splitting up a third of British 16-year-olds now live apart from their biological father and the report warns that this figure is set to continue rising.
Children whose parents separate are shown to be “50 per cent more likely to suffer from lower academic achievement, poor self-esteem, unpopularity with other children, behavioural difficulties and depression.”
Its main conclusions underline how important it is for children to have lifelong commitment from the adults responsible for their care. And if the parents do break up, the report says every effort should be made to ensure that the child maintains contact with the father and the rest of the family.
Over a quarter (28 per cent) of children who experienced parental separation had no contact with their fathers three years after the split. And a majority of these children did not speak to anyone about their concerns.
In December a Government evidence paper, Families in Britain, showed that children whose parents are married have fewer behavioural and emotional problems. But the Government refused to admit that marriage itself is the cause of the good outcomes.
A survey released in the same month by Luton First revealed that if children ruled the world the first thing they would do is ban divorce.
Earlier last year results from the National Child Development Study were released showing the significant impact of divorce and family disruption on children’s lives.
A researcher involved with the study, Kathleen Kiernan, said: “Children from disrupted families tend to do less well in school and subsequent careers than their peers. They are also more likely to experience the break-up of their own partnerships.”
In April last year another report from The Good Childhood Inquiry released a report which warned that family breakdown is a major cause of harm to children’s mental health.
One of the authors of the report, Stephen Scott, Professor of Child Health and Behaviour at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, drew attention to the harmful impact of family breakdown for children.
He said: “It is as much about the problems arising from family breakdown as the event itself. Young people don’t like being in different homes on different days of the week and get upset by strife between their parents.”