The heartbreaking effects of divorce on children have been highlighted by a new book, which gives them a platform to share their experiences.
‘Splitting Up: A Child’s Guide to a Grown Up Problem’, produced by leading family law firm Mishcon de Reya, includes testimonies from children and teenagers whose parents have divorced.
Family breakdown has long been known to negatively affect the social, educational and health outcomes of children.
Speaking ahead of the book’s launch later this week Sandra Davis, head of Mishcon de Reya’s family department, said she had become increasingly frustrated that children’s voices were not being heard during divorce proceedings.
She said: “It doesn’t surprise me seeing the children’s quotes, or how depressing or miserable they are – I have been a family lawyer for more than 30 years”.
An article in The Times contains extracts from a range of children, some as young as eight.
Some days I would randomly break into tears…
Eight-year-old Hannah described her parents “shouting and fighting” at one another and said she gets dropped off at a corner shop when one parent is taking her to see the other: “Mam doesn’t like Dad in her street and Mam is not allowed in Dad’s street”.
Anneliese, who is nine, said that she used to keep a photograph of her Dad but her mum was uncomfortable with it: “I don’t know where it is. I think maybe my mum threw it away. I wish I still had it.”
Another eight-year-old child, Lindsay, remarked: “It would be better if my parents sometimes saw each other or if we could go out for a meal or something so we could all be together”.
The stress of relationship breakdown was also evident in an extract from 15-year-old Tyla, who tried to ignore it: “Some days I would randomly break into tears and other days I’d get angry and pretend not to know why. I have been struggling with behaviour at school.”
As far back as 1994, research has indicated that divorce has a seriously negative effect on the lives of children.
The Exeter Family Study looked at children with different experiences of family life and compared them to those living with both natural parents.
It would be better if my parents sometimes saw each other…
The research, summarised in a Panorama programme called ‘For the Sake of the Children’, concluded that the “experience of most children whose parents have divorced is of increased conflict over an extended period”.
Children whose parents split up and chose new partners were more likely to experience social, educational and health problems than those whose families remained intact, even when there was conflict between the parents.
Dr Sharon James, a social policy analyst and highly respected commentator on marriage, said: “Despite well-evidenced research providing a compelling argument for limiting divorce, successive Governments have failed to implement policy change.
“It’s tragic that politicians have such a relaxed attitude towards divorce, particularly given the damage being done in the lives of children.”